CD Review of Live from Texas by ZZ Top
Recommended if you like
Foghat, Grand Funk Railroad,
Lynyrd Skynyrd
ZZ Top: Live from Texas

Reviewed by R. David Smola


irst, let’s list the negatives of such a record. It isn’t mixed all that well. The bass could be turned up and the percussion could be less focused on the cymbals, while the crowd could be mixed out a bit so the band could be in the forefront. This is a greatest-hits live set which features not one song 25 years or younger. That is the strength of their catalog, yes, but they have produced some relevant material since then. Based on the mix alone and the safety net of the set, one and a half stars come off the top.

However, what you do have is a unique sounding southern boogie band that has produced fabulous riffs that survive in the subconscious forever, well past your simple hit that drifts out of the ear and into the ether. Clearly, the band is having a ball, and the fact that this is a home game adds to the comfort level. Live from Texas celebrates their glory days and delivers without the slightest detection of boredom or disassociation. They sound like they still love these songs, and love to play ‘em.

Billy Gibbons, born with the voice of an elder black bluesman who just gargled with whiskey and dirt, sounds absolutely perfect (the vocals could have been turned up also in the less than stellar mix). His voice is beaten up, but it’s perfect for this kind of classic fried rock. The best reason to listen to the record is the way in which Gibbons tears up his axe. He is one of the most underrated guitar players in the history of genre, and he attacks the material with glee. "La Grange," "Tush," "Blue Jean Blues" all sound absolutely vibrant, even if they are over 30 years old.

This record may be the perfect warm-up for the upcoming Rick Rubin-produced effort. He has a great track record of taking legends and getting solid, if not excellent, work out of them. Johnny Cash’s American Recordings series is among the most vibrant of his career, and the last two Neil Diamond records have been compelling. Metallica’s Death Magnetic, also produced by Rubin, has them back on track after the awful St. Anger. His pairing with ZZ Top is an interesting one, and a record I am looking forward to purchasing. In the meantime, Live from Texas is a nice sorbet ready to wet the palate for the next course.

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