Tuesday, August 14, 2012

ZZ Top -Tres Hombres

Tres Hombres
ZZ Top's Tres Hombres is a classic rock album, perhaps one of the all-time best. I consider it ZZ Top's best album, being the finest representation of their sound and containing their highest-quality material as far as both performances and songwriting are concerned. Their second album, Rio Grande Mud is almost as good, however Tres Hombres gets an edge because the songs are more instantly memorable and are all high quality. There is not a single weak moment on Tres Hombres. Every cut is top notch. There's quite a bit of variety too, from the mid-tempo blues of Jesus Just Left Chicago to the hard rock of Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers to the Memphis soul of Hot, Blue and Righteous to the John Lee Hooker boogie of La Grange. Even lesser known album cuts like Precious and Grace, Shiek and Master of Sparks are excellent. Forget the compilations, if you're looking for the absolute best of the Little Old Band from Texas, look no further. Tres Hombres is it. It is an essential album than any fan of blues-oriented rock and roll needs to have.

Finally after many years, the original sound mix is available on CD. This new remastered edition eliminates the horrible 1980s remix which piled on echo and fake drums, completely ruining the raw, bluesy feel of the original album. Finally, that mistake has been corrected to the delight and relief of ZZ Top fans everywhere. It's just too bad that it took over a decade for it to happen. The new CD sounds great and includes very informative liner notes giving background information on the recording of the album, as well as three live bonus tracks.

Now, as for the bonus tracks. They're great and I'm very glad they were included, but as was the case with Fandango they simply left me wanting more. Any live ZZ Top material is much appreciated as this is one thing sadly lacking from the Top catalog. Until now, the live side of Fandango was the only live representation that the band had (except for a couple of live cuts on the XXX album from 1999). The live tracks on Tres Hombres are very good. They are obviously not from the era in which the album was recorded. They sound like they were recorded in the '90s or even 2000s perhaps. That's okay, though. It's still ZZ Top live. Waitin' on the Bus/Jesus Just Left Chicago and La Grange are solid staples of the band's live repertoire and it's great to hear them in concert setting. The only disappointing thing is that there are only three of them. I want much, much more. A whole album of ZZ Top live tracks would be awesome, particularly if it consisted of tracks recorded in the '70s. They're such a great live band, they truly deserve a live album. Hopefully, someday soon Warner will open up the archives and pull out some of those live recordings that are just sitting there gathering dust.

In summary, if you could own only one ZZ Top album, Tres Hombres should be the one. I would also recommend Rio Grande Mud, Fandango, Deguello and Rythmeen. If you're going to buy Tres Hombres make sure that you get the new remastered CD with the original mix restored. Avoid the old one at all costs. Or else just get it on vinyl.

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