ZZ Top

Warner Brothers Records, 1975

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


By 1975, ZZ Top was on a roll. They had just come off their most successful album to date, Tres Hombres, and had nabbed themselves a bonafide hit with "La Grange". So how could they follow this up?

The answer - 1975's Fandango! - was both the right and the wrong answer. Sure, this album includes "Tush," one of the all-time favorite hits from ZZ Top, but it also showed signs that the band was running out of steam creatively. Including a half-assed live effort didn't help things either.

It's tough to translate what a trio can do in the studio onto the concert stage, though ZZ Top - Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard - seem to be willing to give it a try on the first half of my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Fandango!. The problem is not only that they don't touch on songs they had become known for ("Thunderbird" was a new track and "Jailhouse Rock" was a cover), but also that they took a good song like "Backdoor Love Affair" and turned it into a bigger mess than eating barbecue with no napkins. The constant vamping during "Mellow Down Easy" (part of what they called "Backdoor Medley") gets real old, real quick - and it makes it sound like ZZ Top wasn't taking their moment in the spotlight that seriously. This might explain why we've never seen a full-length live album from ZZ Top in their 30-year career.

To be blunt, this pitiful attempt at capturing the live experience left ZZ Top in a hole for the rest of the album. If Fandango! was going to succeed, it needed some killer studio tracks. If only they could have consistently delivered the goods.

Yes, I know that "Tush" is on this album (though the remix I have from the ZZ Top Six Pack sounds atrocious - memo to Bill Ham: why did you take the rough sound off these albums and screw them up?), and "Blue Jean Blues" gives Gibbons the chance to fall into a nice pattern of 12-bar blues like you'd hear in a smoky club. And let's not forget about "Heard It On The X," possibly one of the best "forgotten" hits of ZZ Top's.

But that's only half of the studio material - and the other three songs run the gamut from passable to pathetic. On one extreme, you have "Nasty Dogs And Funky Kings" and "Balinese," neither of which have the power to light the speakers up, but are not bad efforts in and of themselves. On the other, you have "Mexican Blackbird," which is sung in a style that sounds like a Yankee trying to sound Southern. It's tragically comedic... only I'm not laughing.

In fact, ZZ Top was working themselves toward a much-needed hiatus, though they'd put out one more album before taking an extended break. And while I understand they had to be feeling pressure to follow up the success of Tres Hombres, I kind of wish they had taken a break instead of releasing this one. You can find the hits elsewhere; Fandango! is hardly fantastic.

Rating: C-

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© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Warner Brothers Records, and is used for informational purposes only.