Tuesday, September 11, 2012

ZZ Top - La Futura: All Is Forgiven, Rick

I came to this one kicking and screaming. Tales of Rick Rubin's cantankerous nature had rung louder than bombs over the last month, and had clouded my view. Turns out, he's made one helluva ZZ Top record, and that's what they paid him for. La Futura is just what you would've wanted out of the band in 2012, if you asked their fans in 1976.

You've all heard it, but wait until you hear I Gotsta Get Paid in all its glory - not some YouTube MP3, but full spectrum. If you would have told me that the firm of Gibbons, Hill, and Beard would have sounded like this when they were in their mid 60s, I'd have smiled from ear to ear - just like I'm doing this minute. The tones are perfect, the beat throbs, and the Reverend Willy G be preachin'. Hallelujah, children - this one smokes.

Chartreuse doesn't add anything new to the ZZ Top story, but it states its case elegantly - the little ole' band out of Tejas can still bring it. Straight up boogaloo that gets you shaking and moving. Gibbons dusts his broom with a slick as minnows slide solo, and when he's through the band slams into Consumption like a spaceman walking his dinosaur - this is the George Jetson meets Jon Lee Hooker trip I wanted to hear Rubin take with these boys. Nobody gets sicker tones to jump out of an plank and stack than Gibbons, and this one reeks - fantastic tones that are just beating the piss out of classic Japanese Radio Shack Custom Shop speakers. Yeah, this is the beast coming to close the deal.

Over You? No, I'll never be over you, not in another million years, but as long as there's blues like this, at least I'll know I'm not alone.
This is as fine a slow blues cooker as the band has ever cooked up, and when Gibbons groans softly and his guitar collapses at the end of his solo, you'll know this man knows the blues better than he's been given credit. This makes me shudder, as the hilly wind keeps blowing, and the sun sets down. Gibbons soulful leaps into a near falsetto at the tunes tail is elemental - you'll get it.

Heartache In Blue is a Hooker infused blues boogie that reveals its Memphis roots with some changes that step beyond John Lee, and James Harman brings some harp blowing that equals the molten licks that Gibbons is laying down - not many players can go toe to toe with Billy, but Harman holds his own for 15 rounds.

Gibbons is in fine voice on this album, and I Don't Wanna Lose, Lose, You is a fine one for figuring out just how effective a vocalist he has always been. Sometimes someone is so dependable, and so on the job every day that we end up taking them for granted. Gibbons might be one of the best blues vocalists ever, let alone of the last fifty years.

Rubin captured it, that's for sure. He did his job - he made ZZ Top sound like a modern, great version of themselves, and I think that's the gig.

Flyin' High is far off the well tread path for the band - it's almost new wavy/power poppy, but dipped in hot sauce. This is the song that NASA sent into space - astronaut Mike Fossum had the first iPod in space, and a new ZZ Top tune on the set list. Back to La Futura!

The future colliding with the past seems to be the theme here, and It's Too Easy Manana leaves me amazed that Gibbons never spent any time locked up - this is some locked down and not gettin' out soon blues. Psychedelic blues at its best, this is so slow and so greasy that you are almost sure you're Gibbons cell mate, and then when the solo comes, it's drenched in enough echo, and tonal molasses that it makes Syd Barrett seem sane. Goddamn, Billy - this is high art of the Nth degree.

Big Shiny Nine is straight up blues innuendo, and of course, nobody does it better - Sharp Dressed Men have always understood that this is the language of the realm, and it was good.

Have mercy, this train rolls out at about the same place it rolled in.  The band didn't let Rubin change them, but they let him make them sweat - this sounds like the most ZZ Top has worked at making an album in too many moons. It may have been four years in the making, but it works. Have A Little Mercy sees the band walk it off into the west, but not before they stop at the stratosphere on the way out - this is the finest slice of rock and roll to come riding out of the lone star state in many, many years, and it gives my pals Lance Lopez and Fabrizio Grossi something to shoot for out in Los Angeles this week - Gibbons set the bar high fellas, let's see what you can do.

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