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ZZ Top

Rare Grooves

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Lord, they're awfully young in those photos. Just look at ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons in the Tres Hombres booklet -- baby-faced and with only a beginning trace of the famous beard that would one day reach halfway to his knees and be as iconic as Ringo's rings, Elton's glasses and Flavor's clock.

The music, though, was already as old as the hills, even back in 1973 and '75, when ZZ Top's third and fourth albums originally came out. When most folks think of the trio nowadays, they think of those uber-stylized '80s MTV videos -- beards, broads, hot rods and cheap sunglasses. But once upon a time, ZZ Top was the best little band in Texas, no image required.

Tres Hombres is unquestionably the superior reissued platter, bursting at the tortilla seams with future classic rock staples. There's the album-opening, twinned-blues salvo "Waiting For the Bus/Jesus Just Left Chicago," quintessential party anthem "Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers" and, of course, monstrous boogie "La Grange," which depending on your Pavlovian response will have you reaching for your John Lee Hooker and Slim Harpo albums or trawling for drunk hookers.

The fresh remastering job is nothing short of astounding, too. Recorded at Memphis' Ardent Studios, Hombres always sounded great, but now it literally detonates. For additional demolition you get three bonus live tracks, including a smokin' "La Grange."

Fandango! is no letdown either, although in hindsight the half live/half studio album concept seems quaint. (The CD now has bonus tracks, too.) And as powerful as the concert material is, the studio tracks' haphazard sequencing makes the record lag somewhat. Still -- godawmighty, there's "Tush," the timeless, tumescent, Top Twenty hit that sent ZZ Top hurtling towards superstardom. Everybody's gotta start somewhere, and since most bands start out questing for poontang anyway, well, "Tush" seems just about perfect.

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