America's foremost pointers-at-things-that-have-just-gone-past-them, ZZ Top, first rose to prominence in 1885 as documented in the 1989 thriller ‘Back to the Future III'. Since then, they have released 15 studio albums, several live albums and are contracted to be the first band to play in space. They are currently in the midst of re-releasing some of their back catalogue including ‘Antenna’ which was first unleashed in 1994. (Okay, they didn’t really start out in Cowboy times, but I definitely heard one of them mentioning playing in space on TV once.) The mightily bearded (apart from the one actually called Beard, of course,) Texans were formed way back in 1969 by guitarist/singer Billy Gibbons. After a few personnel changes within the first year they settled on a line-up of Billy Gibbons on guitar/vocals/beard, Dusty Hill on bass/vocals/beard and Frank Beard on drums/NO BEARD, and that line-up has remained to this day.

‘Antenna’ was the first ZZ Top album released by RCA, and accordingly, Bob Ludwig was drafted in to mix it, which for the most part, works perfectly with everything being crystal clear, shiny and precise, and listening to it in 2018, I don’t feel like it has dated at all which is testament to the band's style, music, and, of course, the overall production of the album.

ZZ Top are pretty incredible in some ways as they’re a band that for the most part have not deviated that much from what they first started out as. They added some synthesizers for a bit in the 80’s which changed their sound for a bit, but basically what made them good has remained the same. They play kick ass, blues-y rock music that sounds good when drinking beer or driving in an old fashioned car, or whatever it is Americans seem to love doing. Aside from that, they got the hipster look down about 30 years before breakfast cafés were even a thing, so there’s that as well. More pressingly, they perfected the art of simplicity when it comes to timeless rock songs, but what sets them apart is Gibbon's guitar playing which is nothing short of genius. He is "the man" and has been for a long, long time. He is revered by older and newer guitarists alike, and has played with many of them over the years, including the likes of Josh Homme (Queens Of The Stone Age), John Mayall, BB King, Hank Williams III, Jeff Beck, and erm…Nickelback and Kid Rock, but he’s Billy Gibbons so we’ll let those last two fly. Now this would be the point in a review where I pointed out some examples of Gibbons doing his thing…but…well, he does it the entire album in every song, not too much, just the right amount, the consistency is incredible and there isn’t a weak song on the album. Gibbons dips into his guitar virtuosity just the right amount so you neither forget how good he is nor get sick of him shoving it in your face.

While the band have jokingly described themselves in the past as "Same three guys, same three chords," their musicianship is sublime. There is so much soul in it and there is plenty of it on show in ‘Antenna,’-slower songs like ‘Breakaway’ and ‘Take Care Of Your Rig’ have that southern blues swagger, but then songs like ‘Fuzzbox Voodoo’ and ‘Lizard Life’ are funkier than Bootsy Collins and George Clinton bathing in week old fish soup. The rhythm section of Beard and Hill and Hill’s beard, hold things down perfectly to allow Gibbons to fly off when necessary, sit right in the pocket the rest of the time and let the song do the talking. The album veers effortlessly through upbeat, pop-rock numbers like ‘World of Swirl’ and 'Girl in aT-shirt’ to the guitar mastery of ‘PCH’ to the blues, rock, and booze soaked ‘Deal Goin’ Down’ and ‘Antenna Head’. For me, it’s this ability to do just the right amount which shows the band's strength-they know what they’re good at and they stick to it without getting to the point of boring.

With the band due to go out on the road with John Fogerty during 2018, and also due to celebrate their 50th anniversary in 2019, the Texans will no doubt continue to do what they’ve done so well for a long time and this re-release serves as a great reminder.













Related Links:

http://www.zztop.com/
https://twitter.com/zztop
https://www.facebook.com/ZZTop/


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