First Album, simple name, simple concept. ZZ Top, a band out of Texas, had been playing together for two years before getting the.. beards.. it takes to release an album of new material.
The album starts off innocently enough, (Somebody Else Been) Shaking Your Tree
is a fine blues song, with tasty Gibbons guitar licks, and another classic Hill bassline.. with more of those pseudo-sexual ZZ Top lyrics we all love. That theme comes back in famous tracks such as Tush, Pearl Necklace, and La Grange on later albums(to scrape the barest tip of the iceberg); as well as Bedroom Thang
late in this, their first album experience. Interestingly, out of all of those, Bedroom Thang
is easily as catchy as Tush, as bluesy as La Grange, and as innocently devilish as Pearl Necklace.
, on the other hand, sounds like a much more mature blues song, beginning much like a classic blues song, before an explosion into the heavy blues rock they helped pioneer. This is one of the better, more solid songs on the album, if not the discography. Goin' Down To Mexico
ends up feeling similarly mature, but its got a bit of a pop feel, which takes away from the blues most of ZZ Top based their music on at this point, while hinting at things to come. I would probably classify Neighbor, Neighbor
in this category as well.. this is a hard song to really pinpoint, its ZZ Top, and if you're a fan, you'll enjoy yourself.
The guitar in Squank
manages to come off sounding like an intoxicated Clapton; however, the effect manages to stay clean, and Dusty Hill plays as good on the bass he ever did.. on that note, beardless wonder Frank Beard plays a thoroughly convincing bass drum on this track.
is very different from the other songs on the album, it comes off sounding like a slow Skynyrd song, and they do a bang-up job of it. It drags on a bit, but more interesting than Tuesday's Gone, if you follow me.. a very strange touch of indie in here too. A different kind of track for ZZ Top, but no less fantastic.
is just that, but with the hint of ZZ that blues always needed anyways.. and is more of a blues continuation. More modern than.. Jeff Beck or early Cream blues, but less so than damn near anything after it, it hits just right on that scale measuring your daily blues:rock ratio. Cruising through the LP in a blue hot-rod, Just Got Back From Baby's
comes around and lets its presence known, its a bit heavier on the blues side, but its easily, easily the superior of most heavy blues period. If you like what Gibbons can do with his voice, and you like blues rock, you'll absolutely love this song. On par with anything by a Vaughan or a King at the same time.
Backdoor Love Affair
finishes this album off with promises of the future for ZZ Top, and its indicative of the popular culture matured blues they would release on later albums: raw, heavy, with a dash of sexuality included. This might very well be the
perfect blues album from the near-perfect group of heavy blues musicians.
All in all, this is a great album for a ZZ Top fan who wants to spread their collection around a bit. If you're into the sub-genre of the blues known as 'heavy blues,' then this album comes highly recommended, and is placed, in this author's opinion, right there next to anything by Cream, the Jeff Beck group, the Allman Brothers Band, and Skynyrd as far as talent, showmanship, and quality is concerned in this genre. If I had one major criticism
to make about the album, it would be that the lyrics can feel contrived and are typically weak, in contrast to the love him/hate him vocals of Gibbons, but are very much in the blues tradition.
Tough... between 4 and 4.5, ill give it a 4.5. I want to give it a 4.25, but that would just be me being difficult. 4.5/5 Excellent