ZZ Top – “Rio Grande Mud” (1972)

November 6, 2008 at 10:47 pm (Reviews & Articles)

John Koegel’s July 20, 1972 Rolling Stone review of the Top’s second album. They were still a year away from becoming a world-famous band, and about 11 years away from becoming superstars…

There are probably thousands of bands across the country like Z Z Top that remain provincial favorites because they rarely play anywhere further than a few hundred miles from home. So far, Z Z Top has confined major tours to its native Texas and neighboring states in the South and Southwest. This in part explains why few listeners outside these regions have heard or heard of Z Z Top, which is a shame, really, because its two records, First Album (London PS584) and Rio Grande Mud are solid works that deserve some attention.
Z Z Top is a blues-rooted powerhouse trio featuring guitarist Billy Gibbons, bass player Dusty Hill, and Frank Beard on drums. All are abnormally talented and resourceful performers, but I would hesitate to single out one member as a “leader” because each of their contributions, whether in composition, arrangement or performance, is vitally important. By nature of the group’s structure, guitarist Gibbons appears at the center of action most frequently. He sings most leads in a dark brown voice reminiscent of ex-Savoy Brown vocalist Chris Youlden and handles all instrumental solos by playing lead and slide guitar and harp. His partners take no extended breaks on either album.
Z Z Top sounds more like a British blues outfit than an American group. The band churns out sizzling electrical blues in a style not far removed from John Mayall’s original Bluesbreakers and early Fleetwood Mac. In Rio Grande Mud‘s lone instrumental, “Apologies to Pearly,” guitarist Gibbons quotes freely from Elmore James’ “Dust My Broom” and Freddie King’s “Stumble” in an arrangement that could easily fit onto A Hard Road. Z Z Top does not, however, limit its material to re-workings of previously recorded blues.
Nine of the record’s ten selections were written by various members of the band and five of those were co-authored with producer Bill Ham. As expected, Z Z Top emphasizes music over lyrics, which function principally as something to accompany instrumental arrangements. In “Just Got Paid,” for example, Gibbons slurs through two short verses in an anomalous Johnny Winter-ish voice to quickly reach the bridge where he cuts loose with a torrid slide guitar solo. Bassist Hill sings lead for “Chevrolet” and “Francene,” the band’s current single, and does a nice job at that. Other especially good tracks include “Ko Ko Blue,” “Bar-B-Q” and “Whiskey ‘n Mama”–spunky little rockers all.
With wider airplay and a little promotion, Z Z Top could, indeed, reach the top. Rio Grande Mud is a good album for people who enjoy uncompromising rock & roll at uncompromising volume. If the shoe fits, wear it.

John Koegel

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R.E.M. – “Until the Day Is Done” (Video – 2008)

November 6, 2008 at 9:39 pm (Music, R.E.M.)

R.E.M.’s new video, from their excellent Accelerate album.

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R.E.M. – “I Believe” (Live – 2008)

November 6, 2008 at 9:27 pm (Music, R.E.M.)

Recorded 2 nights ago on Election Day, in Santiago, Chile.

This is a link to their website…


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The Young Rascals – “Good Lovin'” (TV – 1966)

November 6, 2008 at 9:46 am (Music)

I’m not sure what TV show this was taken from…but here is The Young Rascals (later simply The Rascals) performing a brief version of their first smash hit.

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