Tres Hombres

ZZ Top

Full Moon / Warner Brothers Records, 1973

http://www.zztop.com

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/12/1999

1973 was a banner year for Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard - better known to the world as ZZ Top. After two mildly successful albums and brief flirtations with the charts, they proved the old saying "the third time's the charm" with Tres Hombres. To this day, you'll hear tracks from this one played on the radio, and for good reason: the album, for the most part, was their most solid effort to that point.

One note, before I continue: Back in 1987, this album - along with most of the ZZ Top discography - was remastered for CD... and I think their original sound was terribly butchered. Every time I hear those familiar opening chords for "La Grange" on the radio, I sincerely hope that the next sound I hear isn't a drum with echo on it. If that's the case, I know I'm in for a long, painful ride. I sincerely hope that Bill Ham fixes this, if he hasn't done so already, 'cause the original mix smokes the '87 versions.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Now then. Tres Hombres is best known for "La Grange," a down-and-dirty blues riff that hooks you from moment one and refuses to let go. Gibbons's guitar work on this one is simply incredible, and his riffs on this song are ones which are permanently etched in my brain.

If you're lucky, you'll hear a few other tracks from Tres Hombres on the airwaves. The tandeming of "Waitin' For The Bus" and "Jesus Just Left Chicago" (and didn't take the White Sox with him... no, no, forget I said anything) is enough to make anyone who doesn't particularly like the blues want to run down to Best Buy and get a quick schooling. Hill's bass work is the anchor that holds this together, and deserves to be singled out.

But one shining moment on this disc is one that doesn't nearly get as much attention as it should: "Move Me On Down The Line". If there ever was a track that screamed for attention in ZZ Top's history, this is the one. A killer riff and harmony vocals from Gibbons and Hill make everything on this track scream "winner".

Tres Hombres is made up of many tracks such as these. "Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers," another track that occasionally sneaks its way onto the air, is a decent enough number, but I'll admit it pales in comparison to the others mentioned here. "Master Of Sparks" is one that challenges the listener with a different rhythm pattern from Beard, as well as an A-minor structure. It's not one that easily fits with ZZ Top's previous work - but it stands out on its own.

There are some minor flaws on this one. "Hot, Blue And Righteous" is a little too slow for my tastes, while "Precious And Grace" seems to go back too much to the mistakes of their past. I listen to this track, and I can't help but compare it to "Neighbor, Neighbor" off of ZZ Top's First Album. Hearing this almost makes me question how much the group had grown musically since their debut.

Of course, the magnitude of strong tracks on Tres Hombres quickly cancels out the few minor slips, and ZZ Top proves without a doubt that they had the power and talent to make it into the superstar level. Of course, hitting that plateau was still a decade off - and a strange career move was just ahead of them... but that's another story for another review.

Rating: B+

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© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Full Moon / Warner Brothers Records, and is used for informational purposes only.