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Album Review: A New Spin On Classic ZZ Top Tunes

Posted by lonnie On October - 13 - 2011 0 Comment

We have self-diagnosed ourselves with music ADD. The “medical” condition involves the urge to change a song right after you just pushed play on it. We don’t blame the artists for failing to hold our attention, we blame our uncontrolled need to soak in as many genres we possibly can. The good news is that we found a cure that does not involve pill popping. The solution is listening to tribute albums. These compilation records have an overall theme that is covered in a variety of ways.

Let’s take a look at the album, “A Tribute From Friends”, to better explain our music ADD remedy. The M.O.B (Mick Fleetwood, Steven Tyler, Jonny Lang and John McVie), Grace Potter and The Nocturnals, Filter, Daughtry, Jamey Johnson, Nickelback, Duff McKagan’s Loaded, Mastodon, Coheed and Cambria, Wolfmother and Wyclef Jean, come together to cover an array of ZZ Top tracks on “A Tribute From Friends”, which drops October 11th via Show Dog-Universal Music. The cover songs keep ZZ Top’s rock n’ roll foundation, but add flares of pop, hip hop, country and folk to spice up the already widely known tunes. This unique styling that each artist brings relieves our cravings to press next. See there is no need for swallowing a capsule; you just need to enhance your playlist with tunes that share a common theme, but are expressed in entirely different ways.

The first technique involves the creation of a powerhouse track, which is ideally done with The M.O.B’s version of “Sharp Dressed Man”. ZZ Top originally released the tune in 1983 off of the album, “Eliminator”. The guitar shredding and general tempo of “Sharp Dressed Man” is similar to The M.O.B’s take, but Steven Tyler’s higher octave vocals contemporize the two decade old song and make the ZZ Top track relatable to a whole new crowd of Aerosmith fans.

Grace Potter and The Nocturnals illuminate another means of how to rework a ZZ Top tune by having the only female vocalist on the entire album. We are well acquainted with the female fronted band so it comes as no surprise that the quintet does not let the gender characteristic be their only defining trait on “A Tribute From Friends”. You should take a listen to the third track to hear the effortless Potter magic. Grace Potter and The Nocturnals cover ZZ Top’s first Top 40 hit, “Tush”, which was off of the band’s 1975 album, “Fandango!”. Potter knocks the “Tush” vocals out of the park, as usual and the band’s instrumental sounds take the track’s energy to an unheard of level. When comparing the 70s tune to the remake, the cover tune’s sound quality is mesmerizing. You can hear just about every pluck of the guitar and bass strings as well as every beat of the drum. The muffled sound of the original is nonexistent on the Grace Potter and The Nocturnals’ version.

Here is a little recap for you Shockya readers because our review will be as extensive as the album. So far, we have a massive collaboration on the first tune and empowering female vocals with clear and crisp instrumentals on the third tune off of “A Tribute From Friends”. The sixth track, Duff McKagan’s take on “Got Me Under Pressure” and the seventh, Coheed and Cambria’s “Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers”, showcase how adaptable ZZ Top tracks can be. Yes, both Duff McKagan’s Loaded and Coheed and Cambria are part of the broad rock genre, but hearing their eccentric sounds side by side keeps the beats of the album unpredictably stimulating. The rock groups keep their poignant sounds visible in the tracks even though they are singing the tune of another band. No one is a poser on “A Tribute From Friends” and that realness is what makes you eager to hear each tune from start to finish.

Stepping far away from the rock genre are Wyclef Jean’s “Rough Boy” and Jamey Johnson’s “La Grange”. Holding on to our belief that “A Tribute From Friends” is authentic to each band’s own sound, Wyclef and Johnson put their individual twist of hip hop and country on the ZZ Top tunes. Normally if we had to rank genres, we would side with hip-hop over country, but Johnson has temporarily converted us to country. Wyclef’s “Rough Boy” is definitely a standout tune off the album, but Johnson’s ability to make “La Grange” work as a country song is captivating. The richness of his vocals placed beside the upbeat and groovy tempo tap into the untouched inner core of the listener. Johnson is in a genre of his own on “A Tribute From Friends” and this “loneliness” allows him to reach emotions the other categories could not.

With country bringing the ZZ Top cover album to a close, we certainly feel we were exposed to music’s finest singers and musicians. Hearing these covers triggered us to revisit the original tracks of Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard. “The Little Ol’ Band From Texas” created timeless music that has given artists of the 21st Century a broad range to experiment with creativity.

By Lonnie Nemiroff

zz top a tribute from friends Album Review: A New Spin On Classic ZZ Top Tunes

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