Tag Archives: Tejas

Rocks In The Attic #587: ZZ Top – ‘ZZ Top’s Worldwide Texas Tour’ (1976)

RITA#587
I saw this record posted in the fabulous Facebook group On The Turntable Right Now last year sometime. And if there’s something I don’t like, it’s finding out that there’s a classic-era ZZ Top album that I don’t own. Laptop. Discogs. Wait. Postman. Open. Needle. Done.

ZZ Top’s Worldwide Texas Tour is a promo-only radio sampler from 1976, designed to promote the band’s world tour in support of 1975’s Fandango! The tour would last through 1976 into 1977, with 1977’s Tejas recorded during breaks in the schedule.

RITA#587aAs a record, it’s the very first ZZ Top compilation and a forerunner to the band’s first official compilation, 1977’s The Best Of ZZ Top. In fact, the tracklisting is virtually identical, with only a couple of changes. Worldwide Texas Tour opts for six songs per side, The Best Of has only five; the extra songs being Precious And Grace and Nasty Dogs And Funky Kings, while The Best Of opts for Francine over Brown Sugar (presumably with the slow blues quota already filled by Blue Jean Blues).

The Worldwide Texas Tour is where ZZ Top’s glitzy image really started. Prior to this tour, the band’s live shows were minimalist operations, concentrating more on the music than anything else. This time around, they wore studded Western suits and toured with a full stage-set including plants, props and a Texan panorama backdrop.

Say what you want about the spectacle of 21st century concert performances, but would you ever see a band like U2 touring with a longhorn steer, a black buffalo, two vultures and two rattlesnakes?

Hit: Tush

Hidden Gem: Heard It On The X

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Rocks In The Attic #316: ZZ Top – ‘ZZ Top’s First Album’ (1971)

RITA#316At some point in the past 12 months, some bright spark at ZZ Top Headquarters (Z.Z.H.Q.?) decided to finally release ZZ Top’s initial run of albums in its original, untouched, format. I’ve complained about this – many, many, many times before – but the wait is finally over: you can now walk into your local record store and purchase The Complete Studio Albums (1970-1990). This CD box set features all their studio albums between those years, with the original mixes of ZZ Top’s First Album, Rio Grande Mud and Tejas all seeing the light of day for the very first time in a digital format.

That might not sound like a big thing, but for a ZZ Top fan, it’s a revelation. Until now, if I’ve ever wanted to listen to one of these albums outside of my house and away from my record player, I’ve had to listen to it on tape. Now five or ten years ago that wasn’t too hard, but it’s been a while since I’ve driven a car with a tape-deck. These days, it’s either CD or my iPod via an AUX lead. So, choices of listening to early ZZ Top on the move have been very limited.

And who would ever want to listen to those horrible 1980s remixes? They just sound wrong. The guitar, bass and vocals have been left pretty much untouched, but the drums have been treated to give it a little more reverb and presence. The end result: early ‘70s rock n’ roll, all viewed through a late ‘80s filter, like the Pet Shop Boys covering AC/DC. For a big band, it must rank as one of the longest waits for a set of albums to be released on CD. Disgusting!

Still, it’s okay now; I can cruise along in my car and listen to ZZ Top’s First Album without needing to install my car with a turntable. I can just flick the album on my iPod and turn my car stereo up. Sweet!

ZZ Top’s First Album is a little gem of an album. It suggests everything that the band were going to do with their classic run of albums in the ‘70s – blues boogie all wrapped up in a tight three-piece: dirty guitar, driving bass and a shuffle beat on the drums. There’s a natural progression across their first three albums, but this first record probably has the most charm of the three.

Hit: (Somebody Else Been) Shakin’ Your Tree

Hidden Gem: Backdoor Love Affair

Rocks In The Attic #157: ZZ Top – ‘Tejas’ (1976)

Of ZZ Top’s first five albums, this one – their fifth – has always been the one I’ve found hardest to get into. It’s not a radical departure from the earlier four albums – production-wise it sounds very similar to their brand of down and dirty blues, but the songwriting and tempo is very laid back. If Tres Hombres was a whiskey album, this one sounds like it was made whilst high on peyote. Possibly, startled by their own success, they thought they’d dial it back slightly for this album. By the last track, the flamenco lullaby of Asleep In The Desert, they almost sound like they’ve passed out.

This is also another one of ZZ Top’s albums that is yet to see a faithful digital transfer of the original mix. The CD version, available since the mid-‘80s, is marred by a horrible remix – as though it’s been remixed by Kraftwerk. Although most of the Tejas tracks have turned up on compilations in their original Terry Manning mix, there are still a couple that are yet to receive this treatment. Even worse, the version of the album available on iTunes mixes tracks with the original mix, with other tracks featuring the ‘80s CD remix. Ugh.

I’m playing this album today because on the first day of daylight savings, with the sun streaming in through the ranch-sliders, it feels good to play a bit of Texas whilst sat in my shorts.

Hit: It’s Only Love

Hidden Gem: El Diablo

Rocks In The Attic #69: ZZ Top – ‘Rio Grande Mud’ (1972)

Rocks In The Attic #69: ZZ Top - ‘Rio Grande Mud’ (1972)Rio Grande Mud is ZZ Top’s second album, and to this day is one of three of their early albums that are yet to be released digitally in their original mix. In the mid-80s when bands were transferring their back catalogues onto CD, somebody at ZZ Top headquarters decided to take the opportunity to tinker with the recordings. The currently available version of this, ZZ Top’s First Album and Tejas feature a very 80s drum sound over the top of the original recordings made back in the day. So if you want to listen to any of those three albums in their original form, you have a choice – vinyl or cassette. They’re probably available on 8-track too. Thankfully I own all their 70s output on vinyl, but it would be nice to be able to listen to this digitally.

You can see Rio Grande Mud as a clear stepping stone for the band between their very bluesy first album, and the all-conquering third album Tres Hombres. This one is still steeped in the blues, but it shows the direction that the band was moving towards – what we would now call classic rock.

Francine may have been the big hit, and attracted listeners of the pop charts to the band, but it’s very throwaway. Just Got Paid is a well-overlooked rock riff, and for me the highlight of this album.

Hit: Francine

Hidden Gem: Just Got Paid