Friday, August 14, 2009

ZZ Top - Blues-Rock Trio

by Brent Warnken

Over the years, one of ZZ Top's greatest strengths has been their consistently high-standard live presentation and performances on several tours in the United States. Get ZZ Top tickets and see a great band.

The band features Billy Gibbons (guitar/vocals), Dusty Hill (bass/vocals), and Frank Beard (drums). They have retained their eccentric, colorful image, dark sunglasses, and Stetson hats. The group has produced a fine canon of work, and will stay in the record books as having the longest beards in musical history (one member, the inappropriately named Frank Beard, is clean-shaven).

Although ZZ Top's first album may not be brilliant, they established their sound and attitude. This blues-rock band filled their first record with fuzzy guitars, barrelhouse rhythms, dirty jokes, and plenty of Texan slang. The young group lacked material, but focused on their sound and pumped some of the best blues with "(Somebody Else Been) Shaking Your Tree," "Backdoor Love Affair," "Brown Sugar," and "Goin' Down to Mexico." Not only do these tracks set the tone for the album, but they also exhibit they're that lil' ol' blues band from Texas.

In their second album, Rio Grande Mud, ZZ Top tweaked their sound. They used heavier and more powerful sounds of the guitars. Another difference in Rio Grande Mud that wasn't present in their first album is the quality of songs. The boastfulness of "Just Got Paid," the pile-driving boogie "Bar-B-Q," the exquisite guitar workout "Apologies to Pearly," and two Dusty Hill-sung hits, "Francine" and "Chevrolet," are the memorable songs of the album. Although there were major differences between the first two albums, some things will never change with ZZ Top. They continued their successful straight-ahead dirty blues production.

Tres Hombres was their fist Top Ten record. While producer Bill Ham discovered how to record the trio so they sounded indestructible, ZZ Top brought their best songs they ever had to the table. There is still plenty of blues-rock straight from the Texas bar feel and the infectious growling guitar combined with Dusty Hill and Frank Beard's rhythm section making this album a classic. The bluesy shuffles and off-beat humor of "Waitin' for the Bus," "Jesus Just Left Chicago," "Move Me on Down the Line," and "La Grange" established ZZ Top's identity.

Fandango divides a side of live tracks and a side of new studio cuts. Songs like "Tush" and "Heard It on the X" made the album very successful and amplified ZZ Top's humor, while live cuts such as "Backdoor Medley" and "Jailhouse Rock" were excellent interpretations. Fandango remains one of their better albums.

This sturdy American blues-rock trio from Texas was formed in 1970 in and around Houston. The first two albums reflected the strong blues roots and Texas humor of the band. Tres Hombres gained them national attention with the hit "La Grange," a signature riff tune to this day, based on John Lee Hooker's "Boogie Chillen." Their success continued to flourish throughout the '70s with their one-and-a-half-year worldwide Texas Tour. No wonder these guys took a three-year break, they were exhausted from the overwhelming work load.

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