The Boxing Lesson

Blues before & after

By Tim Stegall, Fri., Dec. 20, 2013

The Boxing Lesson

ZZ Top

The Complete Studio Albums 1970-1990 (Warner Bros.)

Here's three Texans ram-rodding blues through Marshall amplifiers, then becoming mega-pop stars by wiring their expertise to MTV-era dance floor rhythms. Ten CDs restore and remaster vinyl mixes of the Houstonians' initial run for mini-LP-style discs inside a clamshell box. The sound's solidified by ZZ Top's First Album (1970) and Rio Grande Mud (1972): Billy F. Gibbons' '58 Les Paul riding Dusty Hill's bass and Frank Beard's drums with a vocal tonality to match. Third LP Tres Hombres gives up "La Grange," boogie tale of famed bordello the Chicken Ranch, while follow-up Fandango! remains the trio's best early fuzz buster, live and studio sides including perpetual crowd-pleaser "Tush." Tejas sprouts great songs like "It's Only Love," but mid-Seventies studio orthodoxy gives them the ambience of a mausoleum. The band re-emerged with Degüello and El Loco bearing standards "I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide" and "Tube Snake Boogie," the band catching up to New Wave with chorus box guitar and synthesizer. Come '84's Eliminator, the boogie reanimates via four-on-the-floor beats, throbbing sequencers, and clever videos for huge hits "Gimme All Your Lovin'" and "Sharp Dressed Man." Sadly, Afterburner reaped additional Eighties gloss, but ZZ Top thankfully redresses that abnormality – the title notwithstanding – on final Warner Bros. release Recycler.

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