ZZ Top - La Futura
It’s 1985 and ZZ Top are the world biggest rock band. Well into their second decade, the Eliminator album is on its way towards shifting 10 million copies. Capitalising on the explosion of MTV (the videos for ‘Legs’ and ‘Sharp Dressed Man’ on perpetual rotation), the Texan trio find themselves propelled to unexpected superstar status. They headline that summer’s Monsters of Rock festival. The Eliminator car is choppered over the crowd mid-afternoon and gets the biggest cheer of the day – brief respite from the piss-bottle storm. Fast forward nearly 30 years: heaven knows what today’s Donington crowd, used now to the genre-bashing Download extravaganza, would make of them. But on this evidence, it’s tempting to think they’d drop the Strongbow empties and wait to brave the loos because La Futura is a monster.
ZZ Top Awareness = (Eliminator + pre-Eliminator Hits) – (Anything post-Eliminator). If that’s you, too, take a tip and look again. The Top’s fourteenth album is produced by Rick Rubin, a man renowned for sharp re-invention of his charges. CV highlights: Neil Diamond, Dixie Chicks, Johnny Cash. He delivers again here. Born out of what both parties describe as an easy but fulfilling working relationship, he strips them back until he exposes raw, 'classic' Top. The arrangements are solid but spare, the tunes are strong and the playing is immense: it comes roaring out of the speakers. Billy Gibbons’ growl sounds like it’s been aged in oak vats.
The combination of rip-roaring (‘Consumption’) and burnt-out blues (‘Over You’) is a winning one. For those who lost interest when they got giddy with synths, sequencers and stage show spectacle, here’s a reminder of what the world’s finest bar band sound like when it’s just them in a room doing what they do best. Oh, and the beards? Gibbons and bassist Dusty Hill still sport the Robinson Crusoe look. Drummer Frank Beard? Clean-shaven as ever.