Frank Beard

VHS Archives #17: ZZ Top talk to Much (1990)

ZZ Top sat with MuchMusic’s Terry David Mulligan to discuss the making of 1990’s Recycler, and their cameo in Back to the Future III.

These segments were recorded from a Much Spotlight.

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REVIEW: ZZ Top – Eliminator (Collector’s Edition)

Aaron says this is the first cassette he ever bought! He picked a good ‘un.

ZZ TOP – Eliminator (2008 CD+DVD Collector’s Edition, Warner)

Consider all earlier CD releases “eliminated”!

Say what you will about ZZ Top’s foray into 80’s music.  Using sequencers and compression on the drums wasn’t everybody’s cup ‘o java, but it sure made ZZ Top millionaires.  I like this album. Reverend Billy Gibbons’ guitar tone was so sweet on this album. It’s so smooth and creamy, I just love the tone. This might be my favourite album of his, purely for guitar tone. Just listen to that sweet picking on the album version of “Legs”. Man, how does he get that sound?

The original album has been lovingly remastered, with the original album version of “Legs” restored. However, fear not, the single version is still here as a bonus track. Other bonus tracks include live versions, the most exciting of which is a fiery “I Got The Six”. And hey, if you don’t like the techno sounds of the album, the live tunes give you an idea of what they’re like stripped down to the bone…like a juicy rack of ribs, meat falling right off.  It’s cool how Frank Beard is just as metronomic on the live versions. He’s not a flamboyant drummer, but he’s definitely solid. Just like the Beatles wouldn’t have sounded the same without Ringo, or the Stones without Charlie, Frank is essential to that whole ZZ “Je ne sais quoi?”

I like the whole album, with only a few songs I call filler, such as “Thug”. I always enjoy hearing “Sharp Dressed Man”. I don’t know how all these years later I’m not sick of it, but I’m not. “TV Dinners” always makes me smile. Really, will these guys write about anything?

“I Need You Tonight” is one of those smooth ZZ Top blues.  It’s slick, but unquestionably still blues.  “If I Could Only Flag Her Down” is another blues based standout.  This one’s a bit more of a boogie.  Finally, “Bad Girl” (sung by Dusty Hill) is pure rock and roll.

The DVD is cool.  You get the original music videos and some live TV performances.  If you’re a ZZ Top fan (and for your own happiness, I hope that you are) I think you will enjoy the video stuff. Liner notes are also ample.

5/5 stars.  It’s never too late to pick it up!

Click the pic of the Ford to see yesterday’s gallery of the Monogram ZZ Top Eliminator model kit!

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…and here’s your CD gallery.

REVIEW: ZZ Top – La Futura (Best Buy edition, 2 bonus tracks)

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ZZ TOP – La Futura (2012 Best Buy edition, 2 bonus tracks, American Recordings)

Unfortunately I didn’t get this album until January of 2013.  As such, it didn’t make my Top Five of 2012 list.  If I had got it sooner, would it have made the list?  Probably.  It did make lots of lists.  It made Every Record’s top 10 of 2012, and regular LeBrain reader Deke’s list for example.

I love this album.  I’ve played it every day since I got it!  From mournful ZZ blues (“Over You”) to skunky funky ZZ blues (“I Gotsta Get Paid”) to trademark anthemic ZZ rock (“Flyin’ High”), this album has pretty much everything I love from ZZ Top!

I first heard the single, the aforementioned “I Gotsta Get Paid” (a rewrite of a rap song called “25 Lighters” by somebody named DJ DMD) on the Mandy Grant Show, on 107.5 Dave FM.  I fell for it immediately, but I was wary of buying the album at first.  After all, most ZZ discs since Eliminator and even Afterburner didn’t do too much for me, even though they all have tunes worth putting on a road tape.  Maybe the difference is that, on La Futura, ZZ Top are working with Rick Rubin?  Or maybe it’s that they haven’t recorded a studio album in almost a decade?  I don’t know, except to say that ZZ Top absolutely nail it on La Futura.

The overall sound is both slick and dirty at once, a balance that they haven’t always hit in the past.  Frank Beard’s drums sound absolutely perfect, the way you want a real drum kit to sound, no goofy samples here!  Of course, the Reverend Billy F. Gibbons’ guitars are always greasy goodness, and full of dirty soul.  What sets this album apart is a rediscovered ability to write memorable, catchy blues rock songs.  “I Don’t Wanna Lose, Lose, You” is a perfect example of the kind of rock tune that ZZ Top are known for, groovy and instantly memorable.  “Chartreuse” and “Consumption” are the same, just awesomely great Top tunes as memorable as some of their best from the days of yore.  “It’s Too Easy Mañana” is a perfectly bluesy mess of guitars, bass and drums, while “Big Shiny Nine” is another trademark upbeat Top rocker.

My favourite song, that I keep coming back to, and can’t get out of my head, is “Flyin’ High”.  It’s just an awesome song, melodic as hell, and worthy of single status.  That’s my pick for second single right there.  What a riff, what a song!  Back in ’83, this would have been a smash hit.

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I shelled out for the US Best Buy edition, which has two bonus tracks.  Shipping and taxes all-in, I paid $35 for “Threshold of a Breakdown” and “Drive By Lover”.  Both are great tunes, but it’s especially worth having “Drive By Lover” because it’s the only song on which bassist Dusty Hill takes the lead vocal.  I’ve always been a fan of bands that have two lead singers, and I’ve always liked Dusty’s voice.

My only beef is the packaging.  What you see is what you get:  A simple cardboard case, no booklet.  You get liner notes but no lyrics or anything else particularly special for buying a physical edition.  Too bad.

4.5/5 stars

Note:  The first four tracks were previous released on the iTunes only Texicali EP.  But if you prefer physical product, like I do, this is a no-brainer way to go!