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Non-Prog CD Reviews

ZZ Top

Live in Germany 1980

Review by Gary Hill

Here’s the audio CD release of a ZZ Top DVD that came out recently. It’s a live album from 1980. The sound quality is good, but not great here. In other words, it’s above bootleg quality, but not the kind of quality one expects from live recordings these days. Of course, as good as live recordings were in 1980, the standards weren’t the same as today.

The concert finds ZZ Top just a little before their whole sound would change with Eliminator. Sure, there are some hints of that kind of exploration, but overall this is a killer show that has plenty of trademark ZZ Top boogie. The performances are great and this is a lot of fun to listen to.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
El Deguello

This introduction is a Mexican music recording.

I Thank You
The Tejas boogie starts in style with this hard rocker. The vocals seem a little high in the mix, but the jams still work very well.
Waitin’ For the Bus
There’s a bit of a muddy sound to this live recording. The vocals seem to more properly placed in the arrangement, though. This is a smoking hot live jam that surpasses the studio rendition. We get some killer guitar soloing.
Jesus Just Left Chicago
Essentially the second part of a musical two-fer, this rocker comes in with a stripped down arrangement. It works out from there into some killer blues rock jamming that’s extremely tasty.
Precious And Grace
This might not have the same recognizable status as the first few cuts, but it’s no less compelling. At times it’s also interesting to note just how much ZZ Top sometimes sounded like Black Sabbath. Sure, it’s less dark and more rooted in Texas boogie, but there are definitely similarities. This is a fast paced and quite dynamic tune that really holds up nicely.
Manic Mechanic
While this is still old school ZZ Top, there’s a bit of an electronic element to the vocal line. It showed signs of the band stretching out a bit, and was sort of a precursor that was destined to dominate their sound in the years to follow. This is a killer Texas boogie number with quite a few changes and alterations built into it. It’s quirky and just a little weird. There are some sounds of cars driving off that almost feel like they were added during the mixing of the disc, rather than live.
Lowdown In The Street
One of the most pure blues cuts on show, this just plain rocks. It’s a lot of BB King meets ZZ Top boogie.
Heard It On The X
Here is another cut that’s a bit more high profile. This is a frantic boogie tune that’s very effective. It’s one of my favorites from ZZ Top, but there are so many great songs from this band it’s hard to pick just a few. Either way, this is a killer live recording of a smoking hot tune.
Fool For Your Stockings
We get a slow blues here that’s pretty faithful to the blues tradition. Yes, it rocks out at times, but is among the most pure blues of the set. It’s got some killer guitar work and is another effective performance. There’s a cool spoken interlude in the middle of this one, part down home preacher, part cool rap.
Cheap Sunglasses
Another of the more well-known pieces, this is a killer slab of bluesy boogie. It’s trademark ZZ Top and one of the highlights of the set.
Arrested For Driving While Blind
While the overall musical scheme hasn’t changed, there’s a lot of electric blues grind in this. It’s very much a trademark ZZ Top sound and done extremely well here. There’s a killer southern rock goes jam band instrumental break later in the piece.
Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers
A fast paced slab of ZZ Top boogie, this is another that’s had a lot of airplay over the years. They put in one of the most energized performances of the set here. It’s a real highlight of the set.
La Grange / Sloppy Drunk / Bar-B-Q
This medley starts off with the “oh so cool” ZZ Top classic jam “La Grange.” It’s a great way to get things moving in style. The second part of the extensive medley is a real down and dirty blues number with some killer slide guitar. That musical concept continues with the sound of the final portion of the medley.
Dust My Broom
Here we get some extremely down home blues. This is old school and very tasty. There’s some killer blues guitar on this beast. At times I’m reminded a bit of the Allman Brothers.
Jailhouse Rock
Here’s a gritty and fiery rendition of this cut best remembered as by Elvis Presley. The ZZ boys make some effort to change that association.
Tush
Here’s another classic ZZ Top song. Before the massive fame of the Eliminator era that was about to hit them, this was probably their best known tune. It’s also one of the best examples of their brand of Texas boogie. It’s a killer tune and this is a great performance.
 
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