Friday, November 1, 2013

VINTAGE VINYL (Pt. 3) - ZZ Top "Fandango!"

ZZ Top

Welcome to the third of my
five-part series in which I
revisit some of the long-lost
vinyl LPs that I uncovered
while rummaging through my
garage last week. ZZ Top's
Fandango! is a bona fide
classic and remains one of 
my all-time favorites.

As they say, "less IS more" — especially when it comes to rock and roll. In 1970, "That Little Ol' Band from Texas" high-tailed outta Houston, cranking out a wall of sonic blues-based boogie woogie clatter that would have required a larger collective of mere mortals to create.

Although their 1971 debut and 1972 sophomore  effort each landed with a resounding thud, guitarist / vocalist Billy Gibbons, bassist / vocalist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard were in it for the long haul. Fueled by their breakout radio single, "La Grange," ZZ Top's third record, Tres Hombres, blasted onto Billboard's Top Ten in 1973 and in the process, transformed the trio into world-class contenders.

With longtime manager / producer Bill Ham at the helm, ZZ Top recreated the Top Ten success of Tres Hombres with 1975's Fandango!  At the time when such up-and-comers as KISS, Peter Frampton and Bob Seger were revving up with epic-length double-live records, ZZ Top once again proved the "less is more" theory by releasing half of a single live album. Side One of Fandango! featured blistering live selections recorded in concert at New Orleans' renowned Warehouse in 1974, while Side Two offered six blazing new studio tracks.

The band cuts to the chase in short order, offering a simple battle cry — "Get high everybody, get high" on the opening track, "Thunderbird." Oozing pure, raw energy, this one combines Hill and Gibbons' early signature blown-cabinet-sound with their skin-tight blended vocals — all wrapped up in one bangin' little package from back in the days when it still sounded like Beard was playing actual drums.

Clocking in at under two minutes (yes, less is more) the raucous remake of "Jailhouse Rock" is leaner, and so much meaner than Elvis' original version. Yeah, I just said that. 


The nine-minute, barn-burning "Backdoor Medley" still gets my blood pumpin'. Bold and beautiful, it teeters on sloppy and serves as the ultimate ZZ Top showcase. In fact, it's "badder than Shaft, Super Fly, James Bond and Kung Fu all put together." Yeah, "Let that boy boogie woogie," indeed.

Side Two features the band's undeniable all-time best work. Each clocking in at just two minutes and change, "Nasty Dogs and Funky Kings" and "Balinese" are both bona fide, get-to-the-hook nut-busters. Simply put, they're SO bad, they're nationwide.

"Mexican Blackbird" introduces us to a gal they call "Puta," 'cuz no one really knows her name. However, we do know that she "works" at the cantina — her mama was Mez'can and her daddy was a ace of spades. And don't forget, "keep yer hand on the wheel there." Simply brilliant!

"Heard it on the X" is THE definite ZZ Top track — EVER. Yeah, I just said that, too. Beard unleashes his all-time tastiest chops and the shared lead vocals between Gibbons and Hill are masterful. This one remains so freaking awesome that it still compels me to take off my pants and dance — every time.

Fandango! comes to a break-neck conclusion with the band's timeless Top 20 treasure, "Tush." Although the original raw beauty and pure badness of this classic was temporarily marred by that gawdawful, bastardized and oft played re-mix, Fandango! recently was re-released, using engineer Terry Manning's original 1975 mix. Yes, less is more. Another true work of art was re- stored — and is still worth checking out!

-Christopher Long
(November 2013)

Check out my entire 
"Vintage Vinyl" series:



C'MON! -

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