I've been a fan of ZZ Top since I was 14. Even then Eliminator was 5 years old. It was the highly commercial sound of the band in this 80's era, especially with Afterburner that I loved. I had no interest at all in their back catalogue of 'blues'. I just wanted synthed-up over produced MTV bearded wonderment.
I recall being disappointed with my first listen of Recycler in 1990. As the follow-up to Afterburner I felt seriously let down with the lack of technological sounds.
Then it became my favourite album. The tunes were grittier, bluesier, but great. And you could hear the band play! It wasn't just Billy in a room with a guitar, a drum machine and a producer replacing Frank and Dusty.
A change of label to RCA brought us Antenna in 1994. It was hailed as a 'back to basics' return to form. There was some great stand-tracks like PCH, Breakaway, and Cherry Red. But it certainly lacked great tunes overall, and really wasn't the 'return to form' the critics suggested. That is assuming those critics were referring to the bands early days of Rio Grande Mud and Tres Hombres, which at this point I was going back on my original interest and realising what a fantastic trio these guys were!
And 'were' was the point. Because Rhythmeem in 96 was another turn for the worse in my new found love of bass, guitar, drums and a good melodic lyric. Instead (with the exception of the first single What's up With That) it was tuneless grungey filtered nonesence. And to me sounded more over-produced with crazy effects than Afterburner!
Then we had XXX in '99. Although it's in my collection, I'd rather not even think about it. I can't believe my favourite band would even issue this as an album. More effects, noises, yes there's guitar, but no songs! It was a joke!
Mescalero gave me hope in 2003, with some great tunes. 'Going so Good' is brilliant. Dusty's ''Piece" and 'Two ways to Play' is a great rock tune. Billy's voice is getting more gruff at this point, but it's to the albums credit. The grungry guitar remains, but there's more sing along melodies and real band playing sounds that have been lacking for some time again.
Now we've been waiting for 9 years for La Futura to drop. I was terrified it was going to be a huge dissapointment. But it's not.
I'm hoping it's not just Rick Rubin replacing career length producer Bill Ham that has made ZZ Top record their best album in 22 years, but if it is, thank you Rick! Every track is great. I don't skip a single one. The grungey non-melodic guitar is gone, and we're back to just great rocking blues tunes, with a very blatant 'live' sound of a band playing together. Real drums, real bass, very few studio effects. There's no tracks sung by Dusty, but Billy's raw croaky vocals work brilliantly on this fantastic album that isn't a Tres Hombres reworking, or even Eliminator. It takes all of ZZ Tops strengths over the last 41 years and delivers an album worth waiting for.
I'm a bit drunk writing this, hence the length! Plus it's my first ever review, but felt it had to be done. Although there are a few on here, there just aren't enough for how good it really is!
If you love classic old-school ZZ, Eliminator, or whatever. Just buy it. Get the beers in and love the tunes!