Reviewed by Christopher Gray, Fri., April 7, 2006
Tres Hombres (Warner Bros.)
Fandango! (Warner Bros.)
Tune in to KLBJ-FM right now and there's a 30% chance something from these two albums will boogie down. They're the ne plus ultra of Texas album rock, steeped in roadhouse blues and raunchy honky-tonk soul, as humid and freewheeling as ZZ Top's hometown Houston in the Seventies. 1973's Tres Hombres launched the trio on their "Worldwide Texas" trajectory with Top 10 John Lee Hooker rip/homage "La Grange" and is rightfully celebrated alongside Degüello and Eliminator as ZZ's crown jewels, but '75 follow-up Fandango! is no slouch. Its opening live half is uneven a scattershot version of "Jailhouse Rock" is great fun, but "Backdoor Medley" wanders a bit before its explosive conclusion but the studio half that kicks off with strutter "Nasty Dogs and Funky Kings" is aces. Dusty Hill scores with ode to Galveston vice den "Balinese" and the border-radio paradise of "Heard It on the X." Billy F. Gibbons counters with the deliciously seedy "Mexican Blackbird" and "La Grange" rewrite "Tush." Backing up to Tres Hombres, seamless openers "Waitin' for the Bus" and "Jesus Just Left Chicago" never age, but neither do the lesser-known cuts. "Hot, Blue, and Righteous" is as tender as "Precious and Grace" is bawdy, and hot-rodder "Master of Sparks" trumps them both. Remastered thick and chunky to approximate vintage vinyl, ZZ's greasy licks and boogie-chillun riffs still resonate in the (post)modern squall of Queens of the Stone Age, Black Keys, and White Stripes. Even if Jack White never cops, it's obvious from Gibbons' feverish guitar solos in "Tush," one of six newly appended live tracks (three per reissue), which are as muddy as the Brazos but kick like a rented mule. In our neutered age, it's comforting to have these beer drinkers and hell raisers to fall back on.