THE ONE AFTER THE BIG ONE: ZZ Top, FANDANGO!
We love a good outdoor summer party just as much as any hard-working reissue label crew – pools, cookouts, drinks with little umbrellas, you know the deal. And what summer party is complete without great music blasting forth, shaking tables and scaring away birds? It’s a matter of setting the mood and maintaining it, and there are just certain records that serve those specific purposes well. And if you’re splashing around and having a good time while the music plays, so much the better.
Might we suggest soundtracking your next summer soiree with ZZ Top’s FANDANGO!, the band’s 1975 follow-up to TRES HOMBRES, their first Top 10 album. It’s a record perfectly suited for grilling and chilling – heck, it practically smells of mesquite.
Side One is all live, and it cooks. The breakneck boogie of “Thunderbird” segues into a slower-than-usual take on “Jailhouse Rock.” On the latter, Frank Beard’s drums go off like cannon shots, and Dusty Hill howls like the hungry bearded wolf he was. The band speeds things up for the solo section, where Billy Gibbons does things with his slide that sound positively alien, if said alien had splashed down in the Buffalo Bayou sometime in the ‘50s. Both cuts are positively tame compared to the medley that fits “Backdoor Love Affair” (from 1971’s ZZ TOP’S FIRST ALBUM), with Willie Dixon’s “Mellow Down Easy” and John Lee Hooker’s “Long Distance Boogie.” It’s ten minutes of monster blues that’ll leave you sweaty even if you listen to it sitting next to an air conditioner.
Side Two is a studio affair, and while it lacks the live material’s manic energy, it definitely compensates in swagger. Cue up “Balinese” for a chugging 4/4 stomper, or “Blue Jean Blues” if you want to weep in your drink of choice. And, of course, the side ends with two tracks that helped make ZZ Top a stadium draw – “Heard It on the X” and the immortal “Tush.” Hill and Gibbons trade verses on “X,” paying tribute to the late-night radio that inspired them when they were just beardless kids who loved the “Country Jesus, Hillbilly blues” blasting out over 50,000 watts on some mountain top. “Tush” takes a basic blues chord progression, pushes it out through a Marshall stack, and lets it blare out of every speaker cool enough to play it. It’s probably what attracted that alien we mentioned in the last paragraph.
So next time you and your friends throw down by the pool, whether this summer or some warm-weather days in the future, crank up your speakers and put on FANDANGO! It’s just what the grillmaster ordered.