And now for something completely Texan. Well, largely. And I can't think of anything much more iconic from the Lone Star State than ZZ Top, save for maybe the famed cities of Houston, Dallas, Austin and the state's strong Hispanic connections with its Mexican neighbour. And this brings me nicely onto this fine well learned musician from an amiable rock act with his first solo project since the 'Top was formed over 40 years ago. One word of warning however, expect the familiar blues, boogie rock from Billy Gibbons and you could be disappointed as he feels a slight shift in musical direction is due.
I wasn't too big a ZZ Top aficionado, even with the lavish videos which in the early MTV days Mr Gibbons and Co. perfected. The themes and message conveyed all seemed the same, just having fun and games out in the plains not far from Interstate 10. Music's good in my opinion, even without the videos and his now famed Ford Eliminator. However, before it all got perhaps a little corporate, and before his famous hirsute feature became a regular feature, his casual written observations were very notable. For instance, my favourite 'Top track is La Grange, very suggestive and mischievous until it was revealed that it was a reference to a Texas whorehouse. All fun and games as I said.
Being so close to Mexico, and with a strong Latino minority where he was raised, no doubt Billy G would've been exposed to the Salsa and Cuban Mambo rhythms so prominent in these reaches. And I didn't realise it, Billy Gibbons in his informative years was indeed a student of Latino legend Tito Puente, and Latino is the focal point here. The timbales are the most prominent percussion on just about the whole of Perfectamundo. We're kicking off with Got Love If You Want It. Introduction on his heavy rock six string means he hasn't totally ditched the ZZT craic. Simple three chord format, and seems to follow suit of Santana's take on Black Magic Woman. Maybe an understated entrance.
Next track is a previous two minute Texan opus in Treat Her Right, which on seeing the video brought me here with intrigue and keen ears, the same Latin American rhythm should please a few booty shakers, but far too short. Actually, before the album gets time to settle, we have a slight change in direction with You're What's Happenin' Baby, it's AOR geared before some Latino Rap comes in, it's ok I guess, but doesn't do too much to pep what is potentially a spicy record. Sounds like the Outhere Brothers made a comeback but hopefully not. Track four, Sal Y Pimiento (Salt and Pepper) has a not all too easy going but agreeable little theme running.
What's probably the best track here is Pickin' Up Chicks On Dowling Street, it's a nice little casual observation, and more Tush rock geared, but Hombre Sin Nombre (Man Without a Name) is for me almost as compelling. As a Spanish speaker, the theme's akin to New Kid In Town, and suggests he's as urbanely open as you can get. Following hot on the heels is Quiero Mas Dinero (I Want More Money), the Latino rapper is back, and thankfully is not as embarrassing this time in my opinion, a better narrative than his last outing. Baby Please Don't Go is a blues cover popularised by Van Morrison and Them, for me, it's a reasonable take on a classic, but maybe no more than a propping filler.
Now onto Piedras Negras (Black Stones), I enjoy listening to the introductory watery themed guitaring at the start, sets the song on the best foot, it doesn't sound too gainly, but for the rather lively percussion. Title track and the penultimate, Perfectamundo alternates with a very rocky trait with a return with the embarrassing LatRap in the bridges, and nope, sorry but it doesn't anything for the album. Bit of a letdown. Finally is the largely instrumental Q-Vo, a largely jazz hall filled, and Billy Gibbons' message of "Let's have a party" reigns supreme throughout, and that's how the scene in Perfectamundo has been set.
I did say that ZZ Top fans would probably be disappointed if they were expecting Boogie Rock and Southern influences to rule the roost here, but they've not been ditched completely. And this change in direction probably won't have the shock factor as BFG were to shave off completely his trademark. But it's the Cuban revolution which complements Perfectamundo, which I will confess has been an easy going delight to listen to. Maybe not the best soloist breakout effort I've heard, but enough for me to warrant a high mark. And sometimes, even if we're experiencing a few stressful points in the day, you really need just to get out of the rut, out of the rat race and, well, have a ball.
8 of out ten. Oh, now you have my attention, and maybe my money, time and heart.
Best track : Pickin' Up Chicks On Dowling Street.
Buy Perfectamundo here on Amazon
Listen to the album here on Spotify
Listen to the album here on Deezer
Official Billy Gibbons Facebook page
Official ZZ Top Facebook page here
Official ZZ Top website here