Thursday, 28 August 2014

"The Complete Studio Albums 1970-1990" by ZZ TOP - A Review Of The 2013 10CD Mini Box Set On Warner Brothers by Mark Barry...


A bit of ZZ History is needed on this one... Back in the mists of early CD reissues and especially 'remasters' - 1987's "Six Pack' by ZZ TOP was considered to be the height of desirability. It contained Discs 1 to 5 and 7 listed below - so it naturally 'looked like' a great remaster deal. That is until you listened to it. In order to cash in on the huge success of 1983's "Eliminator" and its 1985 follow up "Afterburner" - 1980's type percussion was 'remixed' into the first five LPs in the set (excluding "El Loco") and the results were awful. By way of finally placating fans - 2006 saw proper CD remasters of "Tres Hombres" and "Fandango!" that even contained bonus tracks (not included in these reissues unfortunately). "Eliminator" also saw a Deluxe Edition 2CD proper remaster in September 2008 - but the other albums have only seen sporadic tracks crop up in remastered form on Anthologies and the 2003 "Chrome, Smoke & BBQ" 4CD Retro.

Which brings us to this fab little box set - "The Complete Studio Albums 1970-1990" on Warner Brothers 8122796519 released June 2013. It features 10 albums, 100 tracks and all using the original mixes - and for the first time in the case of "ZZ Top's First Album", "Rio Grande Mud" and "Tejas" - proper remasters. And they're in lovely 5" card repro sleeves with "Tres Hombres" and "Tejas" sporting their original gatefolds (a tri for "Tejas"). Here is a disc-by-disc breakdown of the wide-brimmed hats and ladies with lengthy limbs...

Disc 1 (35:37 minutes):
1. (Somebody Else Been) Shaking Your Tree
2. Brown Sugar
3. Squank
4. Goin’ Down To Mexico
5. Old Man
6. Neighbor, Neighbor
7. Certified Blues
8. Bedroom Thang
9. Just Got Back From Baby’s
10. Backdoor Love Affair
Tracks 1 to 10 are their debut LP “ZZ Top's First Album” – released January 1971 in the USA on London PS 584 (no UK release at the time)

Disc 2 (39:01 minutes):
1. Francine
2. Just Got Paid
3. Mushmouth Shoutin’
4. Ko Ko Blue
5. Chevrolet
6. Apologies To Pearly
7. Bar-B-Q
8. Sure Got Cold After The Rain Fell
9. Whiskey’n Mama
10. Down Brownie
Tracks 1 to 10 are the LP “Rio Grande Mud” – released April 1972 LP on London PS 612 in the USA and July 1972 LP on London SH-U 8433 in the UK

Disc 3 (33:30 minutes):
1. Waitin’ For The Bus
2. Jesus Just Left Chicago
3. Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers
4. Master Of Sparks
5. Hot, Blue & Righteous
6. Move Me On Down The Line
7. Precious And Grace
8. La Grange
9. Shiek
10. Have You Heard?
Tracks 1 to 10 are the LP “Tres Hombres” – released August 1973 LP in the USA on London PS 631 and November 1973 LP in the UK on London SH-U 8459

Disc 4 (33:51 minutes):
1. Thunderbird [Live]
2. Jailhouse Rock [Live]
3. Backdoor Medley: Backdoor Love Affair/Mellow Down Easy/Backdoor Love Affair No.2/Long Distance Boogie [Live]
4. Nasty Dogs And Funky Kings [Live]
5. Blue Jean Blues [Side 2]
6. Balinese
7. Mexican Blackbird
8. Heard It On The X
9. Tush
Tracks 1 to 9 are the LP “Fandango!” – released May 1975 in the USA on London PS 656 and June 1975 in the UK on London SH-U 8482 (Side 1 is Live, Side 2 is Studio Tracks)

Disc 5 (34:52 minutes):
1. It’s Only Love
2. Arrested For Driving While Blind
3. El Diablo
4. Snappy Kakkie
5. Enjoy And Get It On
6. Ten Dollar Man
7. Pan Am Highway Blues
8. Avalon Hideaway
9. She’s A Heartbreaker
10. Asleep In the Desert
Tracks 1 to 10 are the LP “Tejas” – released January 1977 in the USA on London PS 680 and February 1977 in the UK on London LDU 1

Disc 6 (34:18 minutes):
1. I Thank You
2. She Loves My Automobile
3. I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide
4. A Fool For Your Stockings
5. Manic Mechanic
6. Dust My Broom
7. Lowdown On The Street
8. Hi Fi Mama
9. Cheap Sunglasses
10. Esther Be The One
Tracks 1 to 10 are the LP “Deguello” – released November 1979 in the USA on Warner Brothers HS 3361 and December 1977 in the UK on Warner Brothers K 56701

Disc 7 (37:23 minutes):
1. Tube Snake Boogie
2. I Wanna Drive You Home
3. Ten Foot Pole
4. Leila
5. Don’t Tease Me
6. It’s So Hard
7. Pearl Necklace
8. Groovy Little Hippie Pad
9. Heaven, Hell Or Houston
10. Party On The Patio
Tracks 1 to 10 are the LP “El Loco” – released July 1981 in the USA on Warner Brothers BSK 3593 and Warner Brothers K 56929 in the UK

Disc 8 (45:28 minutes):
1. Gimme All Your Lovin’
2. Got Me Under Pressure
3. Sharp Dressed Man
4. I Need You Tonight
5. I Got The Six
6. Legs
7. Thug
8. TV Dinners
9. Dirty Dog
10. If I Could Only Flag Her Down
11. Bad Girl
Tracks 1 to 11 are the LP “Eliminator” – released April 1983 in the USA on Warner Brothers 23774-1 and Warner Brothers W 3774 in the UK

Disc 9 (37:34 minutes):
1. Sleeping Bag
2. Stages
3. Woke Up With Wood
4. Rough Boy
5. Can’t Stop Rockin’
6. Planet Of Women
7. I Got The Message
8. Velcro Fly
9. Dipping Low (In The Lap Of Luxury)
10. Delirious
Tracks 1 to 10 are the LP “Afterburner” – released November 1985 in the USA on Warner Brothers 25342-1 and Warner Brothers WX 27 in the UK

Disc 10 (39:55 minutes):
1. Concrete And Steel
2. Lovething
3. Penthouse Eyes
4. Tell It
5. My Head’s In Mississippi
6. Decision Or Collision
7. Give It Up
8. 2000 Blues
9. Burger Man
10. Doubleback
Tracks 1 to 10 are the LP “Recycler” – released October 1990 in the USA on Warner Brothers 26265-1 and Warner Brothers WX 390 in the UK

Bitty bad news first - as it appears to be with all these Warners mini boxes (see reviews for Ry Cooder, Little Feat and Joni Mitchell) - there's no booklet - when such a thing would have been just oh so sweet. That aside what you do get is blindingly great Blues Boogie and ZZ's brand of Swamp Rock that doesn't let up for the duration (even if the later Eighties LP are patchy in places). And the sound is fantastic - clear, warm and full of ballsy clarity - and best of all - untampered.

Musically how good is it to finally hear the "First Album" and especially "Rio Grande Mud" sound this kicking - a few seconds into slinky "Bedroom Thang", the harmonica boogie of "Mushmouth Shoutin'" and the rip of "Ko Ko Blue" and I'm in Rocking Nirvana. The aching seven and half minute Blues "Sure Got Cold After The Rain Fell" is surely one of their great forgotten classics.

All the hits are here "La Grange", "Tush", "Jesus Just Left Chicago" and "Arrested For Driving While Blind" from the Seventies to the Eighties monsters "Gimme All Your Lovin'", "Legs", "TV Dinners", ""Sleeping Bag", "Rough Boy", "2000 Blues" and the stunning boogie slayer - "My Head's In Mississippi". But half the fun is rediscovering those album gems you'd forgotten about - Fandango's "Blue Jean Blues", Tejas's "El Diablo" and Deguello's "A Fool For Your Stockings" and their slide cover of the Elmore James classic “Dust My Broom” - now with the audio clarity they've always deserved. What a blast...and at just over two quid a disc - this is pretty much a no-brainer. 

Buy it, start boogieing across the ceiling and grow that beard long baby...YAR!

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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