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Rock - Released May 14, 2013 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Rock - Released February 24, 2006 | Rhino - Warner Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Exceptional Sound Recording
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Rock - Released October 28, 1985 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Rock - Released January 11, 2011 | Rhino - Warner Records

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With their second album, Rio Grande Mud, ZZ Top uses the sound they sketched out on their debut as a blueprint, yet they tweak it in slight but important ways. The first difference is the heavier, more powerful sound, turning the boogie guitars into a locomotive force. There are slight production flares that date this as a 1972 record, but for the most part, this is a straight-ahead, dirty blues-rock difference. Essentially like the first album, then. That's where the second difference comes in -- they have a much better set of songs this time around, highlighted by the swaggering shuffle "Just Got Paid," the pile-driving boogie "Bar-B-Q," the slide guitar workout "Apologies to Pearly," and two Dusty Hill-sung numbers, "Francine" and "Chevrolet." There are still a couple of tracks that don't quite gel and their fuzz-blues still can sound a little one-dimensional at times, but Rio Grande Mud is the first flowering of ZZ Top as a great, down-n-dirty blooze rock band. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released April 17, 2012 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Rock - Released March 23, 1983 | Rhino - Warner Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Rock - Released August 22, 2008 | Rhino - Warner Records

Booklet + Videos Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Rock - Released March 12, 2013 | Warner Records

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Tres Hombres is the record that brought ZZ Top their first Top Ten record, making them stars in the process. It couldn't have happened to a better record. ZZ Top finally got their low-down, cheerfully sleazy blooze-n-boogie right on this, their third album. As their sound gelled, producer Bill Ham discovered how to record the trio so simply that they sound indestructible, and the group brought the best set of songs they'd ever have to the table. On the surface, there's nothing really special about the record, since it's just a driving blues-rock album from a Texas bar band, but that's what's special about it. It has a filthy groove and an infectious feel, thanks to Billy Gibbons' growling guitars and the steady propulsion of Dusty Hill and Frank Beard's rhythm section. They get the blend of bluesy shuffles, gut-bucket rocking, and off-beat humor just right. ZZ Top's very identity comes from this earthy sound and songs as utterly infectious as "Waitin' for the Bus," "Jesus Just Left Chicago," "Move Me on Down the Line," and the John Lee Hooker boogie "La Grange." In a sense, they kept trying to remake this record from this point on -- what is Eliminator if not Tres Hombres with sequencers and synthesizers? -- but they never got it better than they did here. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo

Rock - Released June 14, 2019 | Rhino - Warner Records

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The very title of Goin' 50 suggests ZZ Top are considering their 50th anniversary as an event to be celebrated with a sense of humor. That's appropriate. Good spirits and lascivious jokes always have been integral to the trio's appeal, and they can be heard in abundance on this triple-CD/five-LP set that tells their story from beginning to end (there is also a single-disc edition that rounds up the highlights). The set breaks down into three easy acts: the band's greasy early years, spanning from "La Grange" to "Pearl Necklace," are on the first disc; the second installment covers their MTV glory days; the third CD traces the aftermath of Afterburner, beginning with "Viva Las Vegas" and ending with the 21st century barnburner "I Gotsta Get Paid" (plus recent live versions of "Waitin' for the Bus" and "Jesus Just Left Chicago," which brings this full circle to the beginning). Other compilations cover similar ground more succinctly -- if you want just the hits, look elsewhere, or grab the single-disc incarnation of this 2019 set -- but Goin' 50 tells ZZ Top's story in detail, proving that the "Lil' Ol' Band from Texas" was one of America's great bands. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released June 7, 2013 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Rock - Released June 8, 2004 | Rhino - Warner Records

Since Rhino released an exhaustive four-disc ZZ Top box in October 2003, some may question the appearance of a double-disc retrospective in June 2004, a mere eight months after the box set. The two may be released awfully close to each other, but they do play to different audiences -- in other words, there are a bunch of fans who want all the hits, but not a full box set, and that's what the 38-track Rancho Texicano: The Very Best of ZZ Top delivers. Not that it gets everything right -- there are a few classic album cuts, like "Leila" and "I Got the Six," that probably should have been included, and ending the set with a live version of "Cheap Sunglasses" and 12" remixes of "Legs" and "Velcro Fly" leaves a bad aftertaste -- but it gets it close enough, containing all of their biggest hits and a great cross-section of album tracks and AOR favorites. And apart from the aforementioned bewildering final three tracks, it's sequenced well, with the down-n-dirty '70s material on the first disc, and the MTV hits from the '80s on the second. There's still a need for a single-disc that has all the biggest hits, but until that comes along, Rancho Texicano is the best and most concise overview of that lil' ol' band from Texas. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released June 7, 2013 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Blessed with their first full-fledged hit album, ZZ Top followed it up with Fandango!, a record split between a side of live tracks and a side of new studio cuts. In a way, this might have made sense, since they were a kick-ass live band, and they do sound good here, but it's hard not to see this as a bit of a wasted opportunity in retrospect. Why? Because the studio side is a worthy successor to the all-fine Tres Hombres, driven by "Tush" and "Heard It on the X," two of their greatest songs that build on that album by consolidating their sound and amplifying their humor. If they had sustained this energy and quality throughout a full studio album, it would have been their greatest, but instead the mood is broken by the live cuts. Now, these are really good live cuts -- and "Backdoor Medley" and "Jailhouse Rock" were fine interpretations, making familiar songs sound utterly comfortable in their signature sound -- and Fandango! remains one of their better albums, but it's hard not to think that it could have been even better. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released April 2, 2013 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Rock - Released September 9, 2016 | Suretone Records

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Assembled from various shows from various tours from around the world, 2016's Live: Greatest Hits from Around the World is billed as ZZ Top's first "full-length live album" -- a matter of dispute considering how Eagle Rock released three CD/DVD/Blu-ray combo sets between 2008 and 2014. There is no visual component to Live: Greatest Hits from Around the World, which may be how it skates around the first live album distinction -- if there's no video, this is a pure album -- but the record mines a similar musical vein, collecting highlights from latter-day ZZ Top tours. During the 2000s and 2010s, ZZ Top released an excellent studio album called La Futura, but that's ignored here in favor for all the songs that are classic rock staples. Older, the Lil' Ol' Band from Texas sounds thicker and heavier -- and Billy Gibbons' growl is so gruff it seems tattered -- but that helps distinguish these versions from the spit and polish of the studio versions; not better, per se, but certainly the work of a band whose members happily settle into their advanced years, not wishing to change a thing about how they do things. Nevertheless, the undeniable highlights are the two tracks featuring cameos from Jeff Beck: he contributes lyrical solos to "Rough Boy" and helps with the heavy-footed boogie of "Sixteen Tons," pushing the trio just far enough out of its comfort zone to provide some crackle. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 2013 | RRE, LLC - Republic

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ZZ Top have long been a prime candidate for a Rick Rubin-led comeback, having long ago settled into an insular digital rut that paid back increasingly small dividends. La Futura is that long-awaited ZZ Top record, their first full-length in nearly a decade (the last was 2003's Mescalero) and, more remarkably, their first-ever album to bear a production credit by somebody who is neither Billy Gibbons nor longtime manager Bill Ham, who left the organization in 2006. Gibbons sits at the mixing board with Rubin and together they revive the Top's dirty '70s boogie, never quite forgetting the coolly propulsive stylized rock of Eliminator. Certainly, La Futura is the best album from ZZ Top since that '80s landmark but it flips Eliminator on its head, using synthesized elements as accents, not as a skeleton. Rubin returns real drums to ZZ Top but doesn't entirely strip away drum machines, giving La Futura just enough of a futuristic shimmer to live up to its name, just enough of the present to make it feel of the moment. And there's no mistaking that this lil' ol' band from Texas is indeed old -- and its age is part of the pleasure of La Futura. ZZ Top have the weathered interplay of vets who've been doing this for almost their entire lives and Billy Gibbons' gravelly growl has now withered into a gnarly, strangled croak, almost primal in its ugliness. Far from hiding his ragged singing, Gibbons and Rubin have it battle the thick blasts of fuzz guitars throughout the whole of the album, noise that even splatters the slow 12-bar form of "Heartache in Blue." It's a thick, tactile sound that's invigorating -- the smack of Frank Beard's snare is infectious -- and that alone would make La Futura a success, but what makes it a triumph is the coolly efficient songwriting. ZZ Top cleverly reference past glories without succumbing to recycling: "I Gotsta Get Paid" could have wallowed in the Rio Grande Mud, "Chartreuse" boogies as relentlessly as "Tush," "Have a Little Mercy" winks at "Waitin' for the Bus," and they revive the arena rock of the '80s with "Flyin' High." What makes these songs really cook is how ZZ Top are celebrating everything that they've taken for granted for decades -- they're embracing the sleazy boogie, the dirty jokes, the locomotive riffs, the saturated blues, the persistent lecherous leer, and by doing so they finally sound like themselves again. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released June 7, 2013 | Rhino - Warner Records

Warner's 2013 box set The Complete Studio Albums 1970-1990 rounds up the ten albums ZZ Top recorded for Warner Bros over the course of 20 years: 1971's ZZ Top's First Album, 1972's Rio Grande Mud, 1973's Tres Hombres, 1975's Fandango!, 1976's Tejas, 1979's Deguello, 1981's El Loco, 1983's Eliminator, 1985's Afterburner, and 1990's Recycler. Each album is packaged as a mini LP containing the original artwork, but the real news is that the original LP mixes for ZZ Top's First Album, Rio Grande Mud, and Tejas are presented on CD for the first time, a move that will please all hardcore fans. That said, the whole package is quite attractive, and not just from a packaging perspective: this is the prime of ZZ Top, available in one place at a very attractive price (a retail of $59.98, which may be discounted to around $40 by some retailers). © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released July 1, 1981 | Warner Records

El Loco follows through on the streamlined, jet-engine boogie rock of Degüello, but kicking all the ingredients up a notch. That means that the grooves are getting a little slicker, while the jokes are getting a little sillier, a little raunchier. The double entendres on "Tube Snake Boogie" and "Pearl Necklace" are barely disguised, while much of the record plays as flat-out goofy party rock. Not necessarily a bad thing, but much of it is a little too obvious to be totally winning. Still, the most telling thing about El Loco may be the rhythm of "Pearl Necklace," its biggest single and best song, which clearly points the way to the new wave blues-rock of Eliminator. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released February 29, 2008 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Rock - Released February 24, 2006 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Rock - Released September 17, 1996 | RCA Records Label

ZZ Top's long-awaited return to the blues finally arrived in 1996, well over a decade after they abandoned their simple three-chord boogie for a synth and drum machine-driven three-chord boogie. Like Antenna before it, Rhythmeen is stripped of all the synthesizers that had characterized the group's albums since Eliminator but the key difference between the two albums is how Rhythmeen goes for the gut, not the gloss. It's a record that is steeped in the blues and garage rock, one that pounds out its riffs with sweat and feeling. Though ZZ Top sounds reinvigorated, playing with a salacious abandon they haven't displayed since the '70s, they simply haven't come up with enough interesting songs and riffs to make it a true return to form. For dedicated fans, it's a welcome return to their classic "La Grange" sound, but anyone with a just a passing interest in the band will wonder where the hooks went. [The CD was also released with a bonus track.] © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo