ZZ Top

Warner Brothers Records, 1983


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


You can make all sorts of arguments about Eliminator, ZZ Top's eighth studio effort (and, if stories are to be believed, essentially a Billy Gibbons and electronic instruments solo album). The songs are overplayed. There's too much electronic drums on the album. And you'd be right about all the points you make.

But, dammit if this album still doesn't sound good, as if it were recorded yesterday. There's a reason that this was the disc which broke the lil' ol' band from Texas into superstardom – and it wasn't just their videos which did it (though they certainly didn't hurt at the time).

While the core of their blues-rock hearts was still there, albeit hidden under layers of synthesizers, multi-tracked guitars, and a computerized drum beat, Gibbons, bassist/vocalist Dusty Hill, and drummer Frank Beard took the lessons they learned from their previous effort my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 El Loco and refined them. And the end result, no matter who was actually involved in the recordings, is phenomenal.

C'mon, admit it. As overplayed as they are, there are reasons why “Sharp Dressed Man,” “Gimme All Your Lovin',” and “Legs” are still as enjoyable today as they were over three decades ago. (In fact, the only real knock I have on my version of this disc is that the featured version of “Legs” is the single mix, not the original version. (Yes, some versions of the album contain both, and I have the original version on my copy of Greatest Hits…but I personally despise the remix.)

And there's a reason a few other songs, such as “Got Me Under Pressure” and “I Got The Six,” have garnered airplay or become concert staples. The fact is, the overall songwriting for ZZ Top was at a creative peak, and there is nary a bad song to be found on the entire disc. Why, even the songs which normally don't garner any attention from anyone other than the diehard fans or people who actually listen to albums or CDs all the way through – cough, cough – are anything but filler… and that, kids, is a very rare commodity in the music industry today.

Take, for example, tracks such as “TV Dinners,” “Dirty Dog,” or “I Need You Tonight.” Each one of these, taken on its own, stands up very well, and is enjoyable to listen to. There's not a sudden and dramatic lunge for the “skip” button…no, the listener should find themselves sitting down and actually enjoying the disc as a whole.

In fact, the only real “weak” spot is the track “Thug,” which showcases the bass sound a lot more than the others, but it sometimes just feels like a whole rhythm line was never fully completed. Still, it does feature ZZ Top taking a chance, and that is applaudable in and of itself.

Eliminator was the disc which rightfully put ZZ Top into the stratosphere, and it is still a very enjoyable album to listen to today, from front to back. It remains their best album to date.

Rating: A-

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