ZZ Top

Warner Brothers Records, 1979

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Doesn't it seem a bit odd to think that in 1979 ZZ Top was in the process of releasing a "comeback" album?

After five moderately well-received albums and a top 20 hit in "Tush," the Texas trio took a hiatus in 1976 following a year-long world tour. Maybe they wanted to submerge themselves in their roots again, maybe they wanted just to kick back after a grueling tour - truth is, I dunno. But when Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard returned to the studio in 1979, they came back with a vengenace with my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Deguello, their best album to that point.

Their blues roots are very evident here, though ZZ Top always have gloried in the blues. "Dust My Broom" might be more electric than the original version by Robert Johnson, but this version is incredibly close to the bone. The slide guitar of Gibbons clinches it here; his leads are so fluid.

A few of the cuts on Deguello have become standard classic rock radio fare. "Cheap Sunglasses" is probably one of the best-known songs on this disc, and Gibbons's guitar work especially stands out, but it really isn't the best song on the disc. "I Thank You" shows its power in a more minimal arrangement, while "I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide" is just an average ZZ Top song.

The real shining moments on Deguello come from some of the lesser-known songs. "Manic Mechanic" is one of the lightest moments I think I've ever heard in ZZ Top's career, and it's a killer track, right down to the vocal effects. "A Fool For Your Stockings" is a more tender blues in sound, while "She Loves My Automobile" brings back memories of Elvin Bishop.

And while there are one or two moments on Deguello that show signs of rust due to the layoff, ZZ Top were able to top their other five albums hands-down. This is the type of album that you can slap in the CD player and leave on "repeat" without getting tired of it.

And, come to think of it, the break was probably just the thing the boys needed. It's been a while since I listened to their 1976 album Tejas, but I seem to remember it was a step down for Hill and crew. On Deguello, it really sounds like the band was enjoying themselves in the studio - not taking it too seriously, but focusing on the quality of the songs. Even the weakest song, "Esther Be The One," passes quickly due to the more laid-back sound and attitude.

The superstar status was still five years and a cable network away, but it didn't seem to matter with Deguello. The down home blues-rock on this one will keep you kicking up your heels in joy for hours.

Rating: B+

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© 1998 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 Warner Brothers Records, and is used for informational purposes only.