Category: ZZ Top

ZZ Top – Fandango!

ARTIST: ZZ Top                     220px-ZZ_Top_-_Fandango

TITLE: Fandango!

YEAR RELEASED: 1975

CHART ACTION: #10 US, #60 UK

SINGLES: Tush (#20)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Heard It on the X, Nasty Dogs and Funky Kings, Thunderbird

LINEUP: Billy Gibbson, Dusty Hill, Frank Beard

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Half studio, half live, half of a great album.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: I’ve been wondering about this release. The studio side is probably the best, most cohesive side the band had done in their career, with the only true misstep is the subtle racism / sexism in “Mexican Blackbird” that probably didn’t raise any eyebrows in 1974.

The live side starts with the smokin’ hot “Thunderbird” (after about a minute of milling around), but then only has two more tracks, including a ending medley that really didn’t work.

Why didn’t the band release a whole show (or most of it) on three sides, and then side four the new studio tracks? Not having more studio tracks may be burnout or writer’s block – they were on tour for a long time in 1973 and 1974. Still, the brevity of the live side makes this not a great value, no matter how hot the studio tracks were.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Thunderbird” was a track originally done by the Nightcaps, but they never applied for the copyright. Oops.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: More live tracks, but from a much later show, and just three of them.

 GRADE: B: I wish I could score it higher – and it would be if it were a studio EP or a double set with more good live material.

ZZ Top – Tres Hombres

ARTIST: ZZ Top                               220px-ZZ_Top_-_Tres_Hombres

TITLE:  Tres Hombres

YEAR RELEASED: 1973

CHART ACTION: #8

SINGLES: La Grange (#41), Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Waiting for the Bus, Jesus Just Left Chicago

LINEUP: Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, Frank Beard

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Putting it all together, ZZ Top records their commercial breakthrough.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After slowly gaining in popularity (regionally, for the most part), ZZ Top’s blend of blues and boogie found its audience when this stormed out of speakers in 1973.

At first, “La Grange” was the cut of choice, and it still causes a commotion whenever it’s on the radio. Yet, the album is full of glorious blues and rock-and-roll. The opening tracks (“Waiting for the Bus” and “Jesus Just Left Chicago”) have been fan favorites for years, and many of the deep tracks are just as solid as the hits (especially “Precious and Grace” – that one should be cranked up as high as possible).

Gibbons’ guitar work is versatile as usual, with great slide, blues and boogie riffs sprayed all over the place and Frank Beard’s drumming has strengthened and he adds more flair to his work.

There isn’t a track that I’d leave off, but the side closers aren’t as strong as the rest of the tracks (they’re still not that great at slowing down). That’s a quibble – you gotta have this in your rock collection.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Everyone knows that “Waiting for the Bus” and “Jesus Just Left Chicago” blend together on album, but it wasn’t planned. An engineer spliced the songs too close so they went together as they were a medley.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, three live tracks.

GRADE: A:  This may be the pinnacle of ZZ Top, especially early Top.

ZZ Top – Rio Grande Mud

ARTIST: ZZ Top                                    220px-zz_top_-_rio_grande_mud

TITLE:  Rio Grande Mud

YEAR RELEASED: 1972

CHART ACTION: #104

SINGLES: Francine (#69)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Just Got Paid

LINEUP: Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, Frank Beard

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Better riffs, better variety, better songs. This is ZZ Top all the way, just no one really knew it yet.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This is the launching point for the classic 70’s ZZ Top sounds. Compared to the first album, there are more rock-and-roll elements here than in their first album, and a more varied attack of the blues.

“Francine” and “Just Got Paid” roar out from the start with two ripping classics (though “Francine” is really inappropriate) and then record moves toward more of a blues feel, ending with a long, slow blues “Sure Got Cold After the Rain Fell”, the great “Whiskey’n Mama” and “Down Brownie”, a tribute to a girl who takes them out for a good time.

The consistency between tracks is better, and every song has its high points. It’s not perfect, but if you love ZZ Top and don’t want the usual, grab this one.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Steve Perron and Kenny Cordray actually wrote “Francine” (which also is spelled “Francene” at times).

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A-: Air slide guitars to the fore!

ZZ Top – ZZ Top’s First Album

ARTIST: ZZ Top 220px-ZZ_Top_-_ZZ_Top's_First_Album
TITLE: ZZ Top’s First Album
YEAR RELEASED: 1971
CHART ACTION: #201
SINGLES: (Somebody Else Been) Shaking Your Tree
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Backdoor Love Affair (mainly because it was on Fandango!).
LINEUP: Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, Frank Beard (Credited as Rube Beard)
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Underground (at the time) guitar hero’s band records first album that’s mainly unheard.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Before forming ZZ Top, Gibbons was a member of the Moving Sidewalks, and famously Jimi Hendrix name-checked him on the Tonight Show. However, that didn’t result in public awareness of him, and when he formed ZZ Top, the public wasn’t clamoring for him, either.

That’s a shame, because while it’s not earth-shattering, this album is a decent blues-rock trio album that showcases Gibbons’ skill at blues guitar, especially using a slide. Already, the band was exploring risqué territory with double entendre songs.

The material is decent, but spotty at times. There are about six or seven really interesting cuts and a couple that are just there. But the single, “Brown Sugar”, “Goin’ Down to Mexico” and “Just Got Back from Baby’s” are top notch that’d fit on any early ZZ Top album. Don’t ignore this, even if you haven’t heard any of it.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Before this album was released, ZZ Top released a single featuring “Salt Lick” and “Miller’s Farm”. The band is different, it’s a quartet, and uses an organ like the Moving Sidewalks.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. It’s funny, ZZ Top didn’t have many outtakes at all, or non-album B-sides that weren’t just live album tracks.

GRADE: B+: No one really heard it, but it’s a good intro to ZZ Top, much like most of their early stuff.