ZZ Top - ZZ Top's First Album (Warner Bros.) 1970
1. "(Somebody Else
Been) Shaking your Tree" (2:32)
Before ZZ Top, Billy Gibbons was in a band called Moving Sidewalks. This band gave way to ZZ Top when Gibbons recruited fellow Texans Dusty Hill and Frank Beard. ZZ Top's First Album showcases a band that sounds far ahead of their time. Originally released in January 1971, their sound was already developed and featured their signature down n' dirty, Texas, blues and boogie style. The album rocks from beginning to end and is chock full of high energy hard rock 'n roll. From the raunchy and driving "Brown Sugar" to the Stones swagger of "Going Down to Mexico". Certainly the band had even better things to come in the future, but ZZ Top's First Album was a great start. Who could have ever guess that this 70's boogie and blues band from Texas would become one of the top selling pop artists on the 1980's. "ZZ Top's First Album", was originally released on London Records. I have read that Warner Brothers found in necessary to remix all the band's old records before they re-released them on CD, and in some cases the band even re-recorded some parts. As such, I am keeping an eye out for a vinyl copy of this album to add to my collection.
ZZ Top - Rio Grande Mud (Warner Bros.) 1972
Apparently this CD reissue caused a big stink for long time fans. In an effort to capitalize on their success, the record company and/or the band went in an remixed and possibly even re-recorded parts of this classic record. Having done that really tweaked long time fans who enjoyed the band early raw sound. As for myself, despite being a huge fan of 70's rock during that era, I didn't really discover ZZ Top until the 80's. As such, the remixing didn't really bother me as I wasn't all that familiar with their early albums. The CD opens up with a Dusty Hill song that reminds me of the Rolling Stones before breaking into a song that sounds like classic ZZ Top, "Just Got Paid". This is one of the few songs from this album I was familiar with as it's long been a rock radio staple. Great song. However, Rio Grande Mud is not a single with a bunch of filler songs. Rather this album is chock full of boogie guitars, blues licks, swaggering shuffles and those signature 'little 'ol band from Texas' compositions. I look forward to the day that the original mix is released on CD. Until that time, I will have to just kick back and enjoy the down-n-dirty sounds of the remixed version of "Rio Grande Mud".
ZZ Top - Tres Hombres (Warner Bros.) 1973
for the Bus" (2:59)
"Fandango" has always been a black and white album for me, in that I love part of it, but don't really care for the other part. The live side of the record I have never been able to get into. The live set recorded in New Orleans starts off with a decent rocker called "Thunderbird", but I never cared for the Elvis Presley cover or the medley. Since I had only ever owned the vinyl version of this in the past, perhaps I'll give the live version more spins and it will grow on me. The problem with the old vinyl copy was that I tended to plop on side two of the record and once it was finished, off the record came and back into the sleeve.
The second half of "Fandago" consists of some prime ZZ studio recordings, beginning with the excellent riff-rocker "Nasty Dogs and Funky Kings". All six studio cuts are excellent. "Blue Jean Blues" is exactly as the title describes, down and dirty Southern blues. "Balinese" is one of ZZ Top's most underrated songs. "Heard it on the X" is a solid hard rocker. I'm actually surprised this song wasn't a hit, as it has all the elements required including a good hook. "Tush" is, of course, one of the band's most well known hits. This entire side is nothing short of what you would expect from the ZZ Top; raw, bluesy, roadhouse, boogie, rock n roll. Thankfully this 2006 re-issue restores the original mix of the album from the original master tapes. There are no synths, no drum machines, just guitars, drums, bass, vocals and a heaping helping of that Texas attitude.
Added to the original nine songs are three live bonus track, "Heard It On the X", "Jailhouse Rock", and "Tush". This version of "Heard it on the X" is pretty darned heavy, almost giving it a heavy metal edge. "Tush" is excellent and the standout cut of the three bonus songs. It is a slightly longer version than the original studio cut. The live version of "Jailhouse Rock", however, is not much different from the one on the original album. The reissue also comes with a 16-page booklet filled with photos and lots of related reading material.
1. "It's Only Love"
One of the less popular ZZ Top albums, Tejas was originally released in 1976. The album has the disadvantage of being sandwiched between two commercial highs for the band. Preceding Tejas was the popular "Tres Hombres" and "Fandango". A few years later, in the early 80's, ZZ Top would enjoy a huge surge of popularity with "El Loco" and the massive success of "Eliminator". Apparently even the band's label felt that "Tejas" wasn't the band's finest hour since they followed it months later with "The Best of ZZ Top", which contained none of the songs from this album. What's odd about all this is that "Tejas" was a gold album and actually is far better than people give it credit for. What it lacks is the big radio hit. However, this is not a bad thing in my opinion. Frankly, I've never been one who was concerned with hit singles. Rather, "Tejas" is a solid ZZ Top platter offering their signature Texas boogies and blue rock. Gibbons lets loose with some fantastic guitar work and that signature fuzzy guitar tone.
album in it's original mix had a heavy, raw feel, that is unfortunately messed
with on the CD. The Warner Bros. CD releases have mostly been remixed and in
some cases, I am told, re-recorded. This is really a shame. Mastering is one
thing, but messing with the original recording just sucks. This is just an example
of modern technology trying to fix something that really did not need fixing.
Nostalgia is powerful and people tend to enjoy their music as they remember
it, warts and all. Hopefully someday ZZ Top or their label will see fit to re-release
these recordings in their original mixes. Apparently I am not the only fan that
feels this way. Head over to Amazon.com and read some of the customer "reviews"
on this CD and you will see a mob of angry ZZ Top fans demanding the same thing.
ZZ Top's 'Deguello' is one of their best albums ever. Billy Gibbons is in fine shape letting loose with some excellent guitar work. Plenty of blues jams, tons of boogie riffs and those typical, humorous, tongue-in-cheek lyrics. (ie. "Cheap Sunglasses" & "Fool for Your Stockings").
A big commercial success for ZZ Top, "El Loco" features the FM radio staple "Tube Snake Boogie". The local Clear Channel rock station still has this one in regular rotation. "Pearl Necklace" was a big hit single for the band and clearly pointed to the future of the band. However, "El Loco" is not a couple of singles with eight b-sides wrapped around it. As is the case with any ZZ Top album, the music here is mix of Texas boogie, blues, hard rock and some incredible grooves. Each song is as good as the next. "Groovy Little Hippie Dad" was a bit more 80's new wave sounding than the rest of the album as well, but even this song is surprisingly good. As usual, the band's lyrics are satirical, and a bit raunchy to boot. The sexual innuendoes of "Tube Snake Boogie" and "Pearl Necklace" are readily apparent and hardly masked. While "El Loco" was a precursor to the blues and synth pop of the mega-crossover hit "Eliminator", it was the last album of the 80's to feature the bands trademark Texas blues sound.
ZZ Top's ninth studio album is probably their most popular and well know. I often liken it to Def Leppard's "Pyromania" as it marked a definite turn towards pop, studio tricks and production sheen over the raw rock 'n' roll that the bands had created up to this point. (Both were released in 1983 as well.) While the basis is still the same 'ol Texas blues and boogies, the synthesized elements and the pop song structures were a perfect fit for the times. As is the saying, "timing is everything" and the timing was perfect for ZZ Top. "Got Me Under Pressure", "Gimme All Your Loving," "Legs," "TV Dinners" and the satirically dynamic "Sharp Dressed Man" ruled the airwaves and the newly established music video station MTV. Gibbons' and Hill's long beards, trench coats, sunglasses, along with some sexy woman and a sleek retro coupe called "The Eliminator" made them a viable commodity for MTV and Warner Brothers. The world loved it, while long time ZZ Top fans were disappointed. I have to say, I was one who was disappointed at first. This just wasn't the same old band that I had grown to love. There is no doubt that the electronic elements took away some of that dirty grind element that we loved about ZZ Top. Even Gibbons solos are subdued. However, over time I have grown to appreciate this album much more, although I don't play it nearly as much as some of the other albums. Frankly I just think this one has been played to death. Many of these songs are still rock radio staples. With that said, the real gems here are the less popular numbers like the thundering "I've Got the Six" and the rockin' "Bad Girl." "Bad Girl" in particular showcases Dusty Hill's sturdy bass playing and Frank Beard's extraordinary drumming, which is overshadowed on many tracks by the synth sounds. "Thug" is another bad-ass song with some funky bass work from Dusty. All in all, "Eliminator" was a huge breakthrough album for ZZ Top, but if you're looking for that raw, hard rockin' sound, go for some of the band's earlier material.
ZZ Top - Afterburner (Warner Bros.) 1985
1. "Sleeping Bag"
ZZ Top at the height of their commercial success in the 80's releases what is essentially "Eliminator Part 2". Gone are the days of the blues and those Southern boogie-woogie rockers. Instead we have dance beats and slick 80's production, even more so than on "Eliminator". "Sleeping Bag" was a hit from this record. Never was a favorite of mine. I guess I just prefer the more down-to-earth "little 'ol band from Texas" sound than this slick 80's pop rock.
ZZ Top - Recycler (Warner) 1990
1. "Concrete and
A lukewarm album for ZZ Top. This one came five years after the release of "Afterburner", yet it sounds like a tired follow-up to that album. There are some strong points on this disc, like the smokin' boogie of "My Head's in Mississippi" and the synth-pop-rock of "Doubleback," but otherwise, not one the band's best discs. An attempt at "Eliminator" that didn't quite capture that same energy and excitement. Ironic album title, don't ya think?
ZZ Top - Greatest Hits (Warner Bros.) 1992
1. "Gimme All Your
Not a big fan of 'best
of' compilations, but this happens to be an outstanding collection. It's pretty
amazing just how many hits ZZ Top has had over the years. At least half of "Eliminator"
is featured on this disc. Unfortunately their is a crappy single, remix version
of "Legs" included rather than the original. Two non-album tracks,
"Gun Love" a cool boogie rocker, and a terrible cover of "Viva
Las Vegas." Ugh! I suppose this was an attempt at humor, because if it
was serious, then those guys have lost it.
ZZ Top - Antenna (RCA) 1994
Lots of good tunes on this one, from the infectious, radio-ready "Pincushion", to the mean and nasty romp of "Fuzzbox Voodoo" to the slow blues of "Cover Your Ring." This one includes some mean Gibbons guitar solos. Unfortunately, the slick, pop sheen of the band's 80's outputs are still in place, although the drums are less electronic sounding and a bit more natural. Still a good listen from beginning to end.
ZZ Top - Rhythmeen (RCA) 1996
Killer disc! ZZ Top returns to their blues and southern boogie roots and completely abandons the synth/drum machine-driven three-chord pop rock. Pounding riffs, hilarious lyrics and a totally rejuvinated band put this disc at the top of the heap. Rhythemeen is a welcome return to their classic "La Grange" sound. Gotta love that!
ZZ Top - One Foot in the Blues (Warner Bros.) 1994
1. "Brown Sugar"
A collection of some of ZZ Top's bluesy numbers. Being that ZZ Top is mostly blues based, they could have included just about any song from the band's early, pre-pop rock years. Billy Gibbons is a master at his craft, and this compilation points that out very well. I've read various complaints from ZZ Top fans about this collection. Many feel that these versions have been tampered with and don't sound like the original vinyl versions. From what I understand most of the ZZ Top catalog on CD has these 'remixed' and at times 're-recorded' versions. Others complain about the track listing. Of course, as any fan, there are going to be songs you wish were included or were not included. For me, I could have done without "Heaven, Hell, or Houston". It doesn't seem to fit. Regardless, for a single disc compilation, I find "One Foot in the Blues" to be a good listen. Pop it in your car stereo, drive down a long Texas desert highway and enjoy!
ZZ Top - XXX (RCA) 1999
1. "Pork Chop Sandwich"
On "XXX", ZZ Top mix Gibbons' dirty, fuzz guitar and bluesy leads with chugging beats creating songs such as "Crucifixx A Flatt" and "Dreadmonboogaloo" that wouldn't sound out of place at a dance hall yet will probably also appeal to most rock fans. On "Fearless Boogie" the "Lil Ole Band From Texas" returns to their blues roots, as they don on the slow burn of "Made Into A Movie". As usual the band's subject matter is a bit bizarre as is evident by song titles like "Poke Chop Sandwich" and "Crucifixx-A-Flatt". The last quarter of the album is made up of live tracks, including a cover of "Teddy Bear". It's sort of odd to include live tracks on a new studio album, but who ever said that ZZ Top were normal? "Hey Mir. Millionaire" is suppose to feature Jeff Beck guesting on lead guitar. Personally I don't find this to be one of ZZ Top's best, even when compared to more recent releases like "Rythmeen", but I dare say it's still good.
ZZ Top - Mescalero (Warner Bros.) 2003
When ZZ Top came through town on the "Mescalero" tour, I was there. As usual, ZZ Top put on a spectacular performance filled with their classic catalog. However, they also played a few new songs from the album they were supporting. I remember being immediately impressed with the title track and the quirky "Buck Nekkid". I mean, how much fun is a song titled "Buck Nekkid". Despite this, it was a couple years later before I got around to picking up this album and did I miss out. This is one lean, mean, rock and roll machine. Gibbons guitar tone is heavily distorted and fuzzy, almost sounding like it was played through a busted amp cranked to eleven. The bass tone is mean and trashy. As well the vocals are deep, bluesy rasps. ZZ Top return to producing themselves for this album. They also get away from the dance beats and electronic sounding drums and return to a gritty bluesy rock sound. Frankly, upon getting this CD I couldn't get it out of my CD player. I put it into my car deck and left it in there for several weeks. I'm actually surprised that the title track wasn't a hit for the band with it's gritty Texas grind and infectious pop chorus. As well, "Buck Nekkid" is a fun as I remember it being live. However, this album isn't just two songs with a bunch of filler. There is also the latin flavored "Que Lastima", the groovy "Alley-Gator", and the melodic "Goin' So Good", that also should have been a single, if it wasn't. The album finishes with a hidden bonus track, a warm, country-blues rendition of the classic "As Time Goes By". (The song is hidden at the 3:40 mark of track 16.) Overall, I feel this is one of the better ZZ Top albums in a long time. Four decades and Gibbons, Beard and Hill are still going strong.
ZZ Top - La Futura (American) 2012