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My Five Favorite ZZ Top Albums

What are yours?

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ZZ Top didn't become famous overnight with their first album. Although ZZ Top's First Album clearly established their musical style (hard rock/Southern rock) and lyrical themes (fun, upbeat, in your face) it didn't crack the Billboard 200 album chart, peaking at #201. The only single from the album, "(Somebody Else Been) Shakin' Your Tree" (A-side) / "Neighbor, Neighbor" (B-side) never made to the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.

But they kept plugging, and today, 14 albums (and 40+ years) later, they are in the company of only a few other artists who have U.S. album sales of more than 25-million.

Picking anything less than 15 of their 15 albums as favorites isn't easy, but it is kind of fun. Here are my Top 5 picks, and an invitation to give us your picks, too!

'Tres Hombres'

ZZ Top - 'Tres Hombres'
Rhino

Release date: July 26, 1973
Chart peak: #8
Best known tracks: "La Grange" / "Waitin' for the Bus" / "Jesus Just Left Chicago"

It was their third studio album release that put ZZ Top in what was to become a familiar position, near the top of the album charts. The album's success was driven by the success of "La Grange," the only single from the album, and the song for which the band is best known. Album-oriented radio stations also gave "Jesus Just Left Chicago" and "Waitin' for the Bus" airplay that they didn't get on mainstream Top 40 stations. In giving Tres Hombres 4.5 stars, Allmusic called it "the record that bought ZZ Top their first top ten record, making them stars in the process. It couldn't have happened to a better record."

Original LP Track List:

Side 1
1. "Waitin' for the Bus"
2. "Jesus Just Left Chicago"
3. "Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers"
4. "Master of Sparks"
5. "Hot, Blue & Righteous"

Side 2
1. "Move Me on Down the Line"
2. "Precious and Grace"
3. "La Grange"
4. "Shiek"
5. "Have You Heard?"

'Fandango!'

ZZ Top - 'Fandango'
Rhino

Release date: April 18, 1975
Chart peak: #10
Best known tracks: "Tush" / "Jailhouse Rock" (live)

ZZ Top followed up their first chart hit with Fandango, notable by being part studio recordings, and part live perofrmance, showcasing the band's considerable skill as a live band. The album also gave us "Tush," the band's first Top 40 single, peaking at #20. Bsssist Dusty Hill's lead vocals are featured on four tracks: "Tush," "Balinese," "Jailhouse Rock" and "Heard it on the X."

Original LP Track List

Side 1
1. "Thunderbird" (Live)
2. "Jailhouse Rock" (Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller) (Live)
3. "Backdoor Medley" (Live)
4. "Backdoor Love Affair"
5. "Mellow Down Easy"
6. "Backdoor Love Affair No. 2"
7. "Long Distance Boogie"

Side 2
1. "Nasty Dogs and Funky Kings" 2. "Blue Jean Blues" 3. "Balinese" 4. "Mexican Blackbird" 5. "Heard it on the X" 6. "Tush"

'Eliminator'

ZZ Top - 'Eliminator'
Warner Bros/WEA

Release date: March 23, 1983
Chart peak: #9
Best known tracks: "Sharp Dressed Man" / "Legs" / "Gimme All Your Lovin'"

The popularity ZZ Top earned in the '70s didn't stop in the '80s, as evidenced by Eliminator, another Top 10 US hit and an even bigger hit in the UK. It is the band's best selling album. Two years before the album's release, MTV launched, and by the time Eliminator was released, it was considered a must for successful album sales. Three music videos, Legs," "Gimme All Your Lovin'" and "Sharp Dressed Man" were influential in driving the album's huge sales success.

Original LP Release Track Listing

Side 1
1. "Gimme All Your Lovin'"
2. "Got Me Under Pressure"
3. "Sharp Dressed Man"
4. "I Need You Tonight"
5. "I Got the Six"

Side 2
1. "Legs"
2. "Thug"
3. "TV Dinners"
4. "Dirty Dog"
5. "If I Could Only Flag Her Down"
6. "Bad Girl"

'Afterburner'

ZZ Top - Afterburner
Warner Bros / WEA

Release date: October 28, 1985
Chart peak: #4
Best known tracks: "Can't Stop Rockin'" / "Velcro Fly" / "Sleeping Bag"

Afterburner was a hit on the strength of the success of "Sleeping Bag" (a #1 single) and the fact that two more tracks were featured prominently: "Velcro Fly" in Stephen King's book, The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands and "Can't Stop Rockin'" in the feature film, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III. Although the prominent addition of synthesizers to their trademark power trio (guitar-bass-drums) sound drew some criticism, it drew an equal amount of praise for keeping ZZ Top's music current in the mid-80s mainstream.

Original LP Release Track List

Side 1
1. "Sleeping Bag"
2. "Stages"
3. "Woke Up with Wood"
4. "Rough Boy"
5. "Can't Stop Rockin'"

Side 2
1. "Planet of Women"
2. "I Got the Message"
3. "Velcro Fly"
4. "Dipping Low (In the Lap of Luxury)"
5. "Delirious"

'Recycler'

ZZ Top - 'Antenna'
RCA

Release date: March 23, 1990
Chart peak: #6
Best known tracks: "Concrete and Steel" / "Doubleback" / "My Head's in Mississippi"

Just as the '80s didn't stop the train, neither did the '90s. Their first release of that decade, Recycler was yet another Top 10 hit. The album's success was aided by the appearance of the band (and the song, "Doubleback") in the movie Back to the Future III. The continued presence of synthesizers drew continued barbs fro critics, but the album's commercial success once again validated the wisdom of reinventing their sound.

Original CD Release Track Listing

Side 1
1. "Concrete and Steel"
2. "Lovething"
3. "Penthouse Eyes"
4. "Tell It"
5. "My Head's in Mississippi"
6. "Decision or Collision"
7. "Give it Up"
8. "2000 Blues"
9. "Burger Man"
1p. "Doubleback"

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