CD Reviews

ZZ Top - 'Live: Greatest Hits From Around The World'

Added by Central Electronic Brain     February 26, 2017    
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Whilst their roll call of hits speaks for itself, here's hoping Gibbons & company can emerge from the studio with one final finger lickin' dish worthy of their glory days.

The hirsute hombre's recorded back catalogue can be conveniently broken down into three parts. Their first decade (1971 to 1981) saw ZZ Top mixing the Blues with their own sleazy Swamp Rock sound – the musical equivalent of eating greasy chicken wings with motor oil-ingrained fingers. Then came the synthesized era, spanning 1983 to 1990, which resulted in a musically stylistic reinvention that was as audacious as it was commercially successful and delivered a trio ('Eliminator', 'Afterburner' & 'Recycler') of dazzlingly unique albums. The third segment concerns the years from 1994's 'Antenna' to 2012's 'La Futura'; a period consisting of five albums with barely enough material between them to fill a single disc worthy of the band's name.

'Live: Greatest Hits From Around The World' contains just one ZZT track that's less than thirty years old ('Pincushion', from the aforementioned 'Antenna') which backs up my previous appraisal of their later work, while it remains a mystery as to why the underrated yet superb 'Recycler' continues to go unrepresented.

Nevertheless, ZZ Top remain entertaining and 'Got Me Under Pressure', long their default opener, is delivered with expected panache before 'Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers' (from 'Tres Hombres') injects a heady rawness that sees guitarist Billy Gibbons and bassist Dusty hill sharing vocal duties, with the bourbon-soaked growl of the former contrasting effectively with the latter's higher pitched delivery. 'Cheap Sunglasses' then grasps the greasy baton; its Jazzy lounge band interludes proving that the Top were cutting edge even before embracing technology, while 'Tush' represents the very basic definition of Rock 'n' Roll; uncomplicated in both delivery and subject matter...

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Unlike its storming studio equivalent, 'Legs' comes across as oddly disjointed as the dominant synthesized backing track clashes with the live organic rhythm section of Hill and drummer Frank Beard, though happily 'Sharp Dressed Man' negates such pitfalls.

Perhaps it's down to the fact that each of this album's live tracks are culled from a different show (as the title states '...From Around The World') which makes it less cohesive than 2008's 'Live From Texas', the superior live ZZ Top release.

A plethora of repackaged compilations and live albums is generally indicative of a creative drought, so whilst their (increasingly vintage) roll call of hits speaks for itself, here's hoping Gibbons & company can emerge from the studio with one final finger lickin' dish worthy of their glory days.

Caesar Barton

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