Live – Greatest Hits From Around The World
There was that awesome record from five years ago now, a helluva ‘comeback’ from a band that’s never really gone away. Since then though they’ve been stroking their beards around the world playing the hits – first a live DVD from Montreux, 2013 which was okay and now this live greatest hits album; all the songs you’d want to hear from a goddamn-great boogie-blues band. Same line-up since 1969 – same approach, give or take an album or two with some synths and keys – such a rarity.
With tracks from various locales the sound is noticeably different – audience ambience and such – and that’s probably neither here nor there for most fans of the band.
Billy sounds great vocally on Cheap Sunglasses, Waitin For The Bus has a great lurching strut and some tasty harmonica, Jesus Just Left Chicago sound ominous and deep, as good or maybe even better as its original recording.
Then we get the brace of 80s classics – Legs and Sharp Dressed Man. Well, they still light the crowd up it seems. Legs sounds like a KISS song from its intro. That can’t be a good thing. But the vocal still works, if the lyrical sentiment seems downright creepy. Sharp Dressed Man is the better of the two but still a lazy-stomper these days.
There are two tracks from London and both feature Jeff Beck. He adds his unique chops to Rough Boy and the blues-plodder Sixteen Tons. Well, it’s good to hear Beck always in my book.
The two songs I’ll always judge ZZ Top by are La Grange and Tush.
La Grange’s primal riff – a tasty bit of rocker-boy-does-the-blues – never fails; that gruff mumble from Gibbons is a joke he’s well in on, I’m sure. Frank Beard’s playing seems to have weakened over the years, he sounds like he’s got trainer wheels on with this version of La Grange and that beautiful fill from the record – perfect space, perfect placement – sounds muddy, horrid and rushed. But Gibbons saves the day with his showmanship. Dusty Hill’s bass playing is a muddy swill here too, the rhythm section nearly choking the song to death.
And Tush is all but handed over the to the Chicago fans to sing, really nice slide work from Gibbons to fill it out.
Look, I’m sure the shows are still great. And maybe fans get what they want from this piecemeal souvenir. I should think, and I don’t mean this with snark, that a ZZ Top fan in 2017 still appreciates a “Live Album”, still buys and holds onto any and every release. Well, this one is for the fans. It ain’t going to win you over if you were never convinced and there’s just enough of the ole wink and charm here to keep you smiling if you’ve ever head-nodded to the simple strut of Gimme All Your Lovin’ perfect amalgamation of nearly every Aerosmith drumbeat and the sound every bogan air-guitarist thinks they might be making.