ZZ Top – Tres Hombres (1973): Review

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Produced by Bill Ham
Label – London

There’s no doubt that Texan three piece ZZ Top benefited from the groundswell of interest in the Southern rock that had been pioneered by The Allman Brothers band, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the shuffling boogie of Canned Heat. Their tight, power packed dynamic energy would be fully realized on this, their 3rd studio album. The sound they create is wholly derivative, the muscular white man’s twelve bar chug with lyrical clichés, ironic paean’s to Southern life. Guitarist Billy Gibbons’ licks are sharp, precise, and his throaty vocal snarl deliberately mimics delta blues singers from decades before. Bill Ham’s sparse production deliberately reflects the band’s live presence, with few effects and direct mastering that allows little unnecessary echo. Kicking off with the inseparably spliced duo of “Waitin’ For The Bus” and “Jesus Just Left Chicago”, there’s a loose vibe that both highlights, and sets the tone for the remainder of the record.

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For all the distinctive “clap your hands y’all” routines, some of the material on “Tres Hombres” transparently copies many acts from the period. “La Grange” is an almost carbon copy of “Shake Your Hips” from The Rolling Stones “Exile On Main Street”, mixed with John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom and “Boogie Chillen”. “Waitin’ For The Bus” carries a repetitive three chord riff that Canned Heat had been trading in for years, and the slow groove of “Hot, Blue And Righteous” could be mistaken as an Allman Brothers outtake. However, with all the similarities to their musical peers “Tres Hombres” still carries an abundance of Southern charm, simplicity and fluidity. There’s no intention to impress with flashy solo’s, studio tricks, or superfluous lyrical imagery. Indeed the record impresses by its lack of pretension to be anything but down n’ dirty electrified blues.

It’s all no frills, deep fried, hot ass boogie. What’s not to like?

7/10

Track Rating
1 – Waitin’ For The Bus (7)
2 – Jesus Just Left Chicago (7)
3 – Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers (7)
4 – Master Of Sparks (7)
5 – Hot Blue And Righteous (7)
6 – Meet Me On Down The Line (6)
7 – Precious And Grace (7)
8 – La Grange (7)
9 – Sheik (7)
10 – Have You Heard? (6)

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8 responses to “ZZ Top – Tres Hombres (1973): Review

  1. I think I might like this one a bit more than you – this is straight up perfect 10 for me. An album that just changed my opinion of that little band from Texas.

    Prior to hearing this (when a friend suggested a few years ago that it would be something I’d dig), I was of the opinion that ZZ Top were nothing more than a novelty band. Big beards, sparkling matching outfits, and spinning guitars. I was wrong. Dead wrong. This and Fandango! literally turned me onto everything else they’d done… and in turn I was turned on to their peers.

    … my love for Texas Flood was the result of Tres Hombres. My appreciation of Texas Blues was all because of this album.

    I also started hearing their influence in the rock music I dig. And alternative rock. It’s pretty wide reaching. Who knew?

    Not to mention the music videos.

    • Great view J. I completely understand the view that they were relevant during the 70s and maybe the overall view of the band is sadly clouded by their 80s material. Thanks for the comment buddy.

      • The 80s weren’t kind to many bands, unfortunately. Even the best material is hidden under production that hasn’t aged well. But my view of ZZ Top has turned on its head… they’re now one of my favourites!

      • I agree, so many bands that made their names in the 70s, struggled to provide decent material in the 80s and production was largely to blame.

  2. Definitely a different sound from their other 1001 album (Eliminator, as you know Geoff!) – I’d probably be somewhere between you & J with my ranking!

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