ZZ TOP

"Live in Germany 1980" (Eagle Records; 2011)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

There's no such thing as bad ZZ Top, and this CD featuring the band's 1980 live performance on Rockpalast in Germany is still further proof of that statement.

There are several outstanding things about this live CD. First, it was recorded during the "El Deguello" era and, in fact, contains six of the ten songs from that album. It's a snapshot of ZZ Top history and, as such alone, is a fascinating listening experience.

Second, this album was recorded during a live performance that pre-dates the band's hugely successful "Elminator" album which - as great as it is - marked a departure from the band's bluesier sound. 

The album sounds great, with the band sounding as rough and tumble as ZZ Top's ever likely to sound. It's a crisp, clear recording but the band sounds just a live band should: raw, dynamic and ... well, live. This album has been the subject of many a muddy bootleg out there, and I've heard a few of them. Unlike those, this recording is bright and clean.

Perhaps the only disappointing thing about ZZ Top's "Live in Germany 1980" is that it's yet another vault release from a band that desperately needs to get some music out there. C'mon you Little Ol' Band from Texas, let's got some new ZZ Top recorded and out to your fans!

ZZ Top: Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, Frank Beard.

For more information, check out http://www.zztop.com

"Live From Texas" (Eagle Records; 2008)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

In my review of ZZ Top's live DVD, "Live From Texas," I said that I wished there was a CD of the show so I could take it along with me in my car. Well, my wish has been granted and that CD is now available.

There's not much more I can say about this CD than I said about the DVD (see below) but, having listened to this CD several times now,  I can reiterate how much I enjoy the band's performance here, all these years after they originally wrote and recorded these songs in the studio. The songs are a little different in some ways, of course, but they are very much the same songs we all fell in love with back when they were first released.

The recording here is bright and clean, especially for a live album, and the track-listing is pretty much nothing but a greatest hits collection. Nothing wrong with that.

My only complaint with this CD is that the band's cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Foxey Lady" didn't make it from DVD to CD. Too bad. As I said in my DVD review, it was one of my favorite parts of the live show.

ZZ Top: Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, Frank Beard.

For more information, check out http://www.zztop.com

"Live From Texas" (Eagle Vision; 2008)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

There's a lot that makes this live DVD featuring the good ol' boys from Texas great. First and foremost, there's the performance. Throughout "Live From Texas," the legendary ZZ Top performs seventeen of their biggest hits and they all sound incredible. Instead of the slick, high-tech sound that the band is famous for on their studio albums, their musicianship and attitude here are those of old bluesmen. The songs sound fresh and authentic again, almost stripped down and raw. And the band seems to have fun playing them that way. The stage set is cool and blue and looks great on an HDTV. I'm not a big fan of concert DVDs but this one I watched from beginning to end and I will watch it again soon. I only wish there was a live CD to go along with it so I could take it along with me in my car.

The bonus features are a lot of fun as well, showing some real creativity on the part of whoever conceived them. First up, we have the band discussing the history of ZZ Top while they play a couple of hands of poker - fun and interesting. Then there's the backstage happenings before a show in Dallas, plus a photo shoot session. Finally, the icing on top of this cake is a live performance of Jimi Hendrix's "Foxey Lady," which ZZ Top brings to fiery life; another track I wish was available in audio.

Fans of ZZ Top will love this DVD and those who haven't revisited the band in a long time will find "Live in Texas" to be like spending an evening with old friends. Old friends with cool guitars, awesome cars and long beards, perhaps, but old friends nonetheless.

ZZ Top: Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, Frank Beard.

For more information, check out http://www.zztop.com

"Mescalero" (RCA; 2003)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

That little ol' band from Texas return with a new CD that celebrates a little of their high-tech "Eliminator" sound and a lot of their bluesy, fuzzy guitar signature. 

"Mescalero" is a true ZZ Top classic, with the veteran band delivering sixteen(!) tracks of smoldering blues that smoke their way out of your stereo speakers like the delicious aroma of thick juicy steaks from underneath your closed barbeque lid. 

Sorry. I had to get a barbeque comment in there somewhere.

The best term to describe the sixteen songs on "Mescalero" is "smoldering." The songs never reach the furious pace of such ZZ Top classics as "Legs" or "Sharp Dressed Man," but they move along at an almost leisurely clip, allowing for the unique and instantly identifiable guitar of Billy Gibbons to fill each song to the brim with that bluesy rock'n'roll sound that band has made their won for decades. 

Unlike other more recent ZZ Top records, "Mescalero" doesn't have a bad song on it. That's even more impressive when you consider that there's more songs on this CD than on the previous ones. And each song is a unique (sometimes even somewhat bizarre) and very strong number. To go through every song and describe its individuality would be tedious. Better for you to experience it yourself.

The bottom line is that ZZ Top has returned to the top of their game, not that they ever strayed very far from it. "Mescalero" may very well be their best album in more than a decade.

ZZ Top: Billy F. Gibbons - guitar / vocals; Dusty Hill - bass / vocals; Frank Beard - drums.

For more information, check out http://www.zztop.com

"XXX" (RCA; 1999)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

The five words on the side of this CD tell you all you really need to know about ZZ Top's "XXX" CD. They read, "Drum, bass and fuzzy guitar."

That's it! What more do you need to know about a ZZ Top album? If you love their unique sound, you probably love all of their albums (some less than others, agreed). "XXX" is no exception. It's a ZZ Top album through and through. And, if you're a fan of this band, you can't help but love it.

The CD begins with "Poke Chop Sandwich," a groovy little boogie number with all the trademark ZZ Top sounds: the aforementioned drum, bass and fuzzy guitar plus laid-back vocals and spacey lead riffs. It's cool stuff. Next up is a quasi-industrial number entitled "Crucifixx-A-Flatt." Although the two aren't really similar, it brings to mind the band's hit, "TV Dinners." It should be also noted that its chorus gets about as close as we're likely to see ZZ Top attempt rap. Next up is "Fearless Boogie," a flat-out blues song that makes no bones about being bluesy. "36-22-36" begins with a blues harmonica and is immediately followed by that trademark ZZ Top guitar fuzz-n-blip. It wouldn't be a ZZ Top CD without an ode to women on it and this song accepts that responsibility. "Made Into a Movie" is another blues number, a slow-paced number with Godzilla-stomp guitars that needs to be played at the highest volume your speakers can handle. Next up is "Beatbox," a fast-paced little ditty that starts out like a Blind Melon Chitlin number and then morphs into a ZZ Top chorus. "Trippin" sounds like it was an outtake from the "Eliminator" album that was excised because its guitar was a little too daring to fit the highly commercial (and freaking brilliant) "Eliminator." Dreadmonboogaloo" is the last studio song on the CD and it's a staccato guitar number with lots of spacey ZZ Top effects and vocals. This number should turn into a big dance hit or wind up on a lot of television commercials. It's a hip, almost-instrumental track that's really cool.

The final four tracks on "XXX" are live recordings "collected from around the world." These four songs are incredible live performances from the band whose live shows simply must be seen and heard to be appreciated. The first song is "Sinpusher," a medium-paced number that is reminiscent of many ZZ Top songs. The band's cover of "(Let Me Be) Your Teddy Bear" is blues heavy and stone cold cool. "Hey, Mr. Millionaire" features a guest performance by Jeff Beck on vocals and "Belt Buckle" sews up the entire CD with a plain ol' blues jam.

What makes "XXX" so great is the fact that it represents the best of both worlds of ZZ Top. The bluesy sounds that highlight their early years are here in greater success and quantity than previous releases while the band really seems to have fun with the special effects and tricks that made their later recordings so popular.

That and the fact that it's ZZ Top - what else do you really need?

ZZ TOP is Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard.

For more information, please visit the band's website at http://www.zztop.com.

The band also suggests you visit the Delta Blues Museum online at http://www.deltabluesmuseum.org.

"Antenna" (RCA.; 1994)

Reviewed by Jeff Rogers

“Antenna” was the first ZZ Top album released under the RCA record label and this CD also featured the first time ZZ Top had a song listed that used part of the title from their album (track No. 6  -- “Antenna Head”). They followed that word game by naming their next two discs after songs that appeared on those albums. Just some useless trivia if you ever need to boast at a party.

On "Antenna," ZZ Top continues to stick with the formula of blues-rock and hard rock to churn out a great release. The guitar tone on this CD sounds a lot like the one on “Tres Hombres.” I went back and listened to both CDs and compared them. Even though there’s a twenty-one year difference between the two you can still hear the fire in Billy Gibbons' gut when he plays. The production is superb, and that’s what keeps the original sound strong and keeps it fresh even today as well. 

Since ZZ Top has such a strong fan base it’s hard to disappoint fans who expect them to put out great guitar music. While listening to this disc, I sometimes felt like Joe Satriani was playing guitar. The blues sound is here and, after searching my mental guitar file, I could hear some strong similarities, strange as it seems. If you get the chance, listen to this disc again and compare Satriani’s work before and after this disc. See if you can hear what I’m talking about.

ZZ TOP is Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard.

For more information, please visit the band's website at http://www.zztop.com.

The band also suggests you visit the Delta Blues Museum online at http://www.deltabluesmuseum.org.

"Afterburner" (Warner Bros.; 1985)

Reviewed by Jeff Rogers

When ZZ Top first introduced their brand of music they did so with a style that no one has been able to match. Sure, other bands have tried to sound like the little ol' band from Texas, but nobody has cloned them yet. This is a good thing, and with each and every album, you can expect fuzzy guitar, driving drums and lyrics that will keep you smiling.

"Afterburner" has all the same tones you'd expect with some synth added in on “Rough Boy” and a pop sounding “Stages” (searching for a possible new fan base, perhaps?) being just right for radio. Because you can always expect the same great music from ZZ Top, fans won’t be disappointed. The critics might whine about needing something new and different but they're missing the point. As long as ZZ Top gives the fans what they expect, we will always listen with anticipation and excitement.

"Afterburner" is just as good as the band's previous “Eliminator,” but just different enough to make you sit up and take notice. It belongs in any ZZ Top fan's CD collection.

The best songs here are “Sleeping Bag,” “Stages,” “Rough Boy” and “Velcro Fly.”

ZZ TOP is Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard.

For more information, please visit the band's website at http://www.zztop.com.

The band also suggests you visit the Delta Blues Museum online at http://www.deltabluesmuseum.org.

"Deguello" (Warner Bros.; 1979)

Reviewed by Jeff Rogers

ZZ Top continually crank out the same music style CD after CD, (well, album after album since this one is originally from 1979). Why would they change anything? The sound is gritty and bluesy although the bearded boys slick this album up with a little more shine than before, so that gives it something extra.

The lyrics are in a humorous form. “A Fool For Your Stockings” is evidence enough. Each track offers up the Top's trademark sound and, even though this vinyl Frisbee is 27 years old, it shows that they knew what worked and never forced anything. Hot cars, hot women and good blues are all you need to make this Texas trio pen a great tune.

Those looking to add a little boogie rock to their collection could easily start with this CD.

The best tracks are “I Thank You,” “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide,” and “Cheap Sunglasses.” And you've heard them all.

ZZ TOP is Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard.

For more information, please visit the band's website at http://www.zztop.com.

The band also suggests you visit the Delta Blues Museum online at http://www.deltabluesmuseum.org.

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

 

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Copyright © 2011 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 15 May 2016 12:09:22 -0400.