Beard, beard, and Frank Beard, to be more specific.
Everyone’s first thought when ZZ Top is mentioned is, Oh yeah, those bearded guys. Which is understandable, considering that ZZ Top was rockin’ epic facial hair way before most of you hipsters were even born. At least any hipsters born after 1979. In fact, despite ZZ Top’s reputation for being well bearded, early in their career Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill were just, well, regular bearded.
When Tres Hombres came out in 1973, the Beards had not yet grown into full bloom (which I now realize might be a weird way to describe it). So what makes this such a Great album if they didn’t even look like ZZ Top yet?
Tres Hombres was the first real success for ZZ Top with “La Grange” (the only single for the album) becoming a Billboard hit, and that riff becoming one of the most iconic guitar riffs in rock and roll (it is listed as number 8 on Guitar Player’s 100 Greatest Riffs of All Time, which has to count for something). Even if you don’t know the name of the song, once you hear the *dehn-duhn duhn duhn duhn duhn duh-deh-do-deh-do dehn-duhn duhn…* you’ll know exactly what song it is. The one with the guy mumbling the whole time and saying, “Uh ha ah ha aeheh” (or is it “uh-hmm hmm hm?”). And if you’ve ever gone to a bar with my friend Tim, then you have definitely heard this on the Jukebox (as well as his other 10-15 standard Jukebox picks).
But “La Grange” isn’t the only thing carrying this album. Even though Tres Hombres only clocks at just over half an hour, it is filled with songs that have great rock riffs-something that ZZ Top really became known for (maybe less so than for the beards) in later years (more on that when I review #398, ZZ Top’s Eliminator). From when “Waitin’ for the Bus” comes in with its catchy guitar work to when the final track, “Have You Heard?” starts its bluesy, mellow pacing, this album is almost entirely filled with some solid classic rock. The only real exception to that is the track “Hot, Blue & Righteous,” which is a sub-par attempt at a slow jam that really doesn’t fit with the rest of the album.
You might be thinking that I have something against slow jams. I assure you that I don’t. The issue arises that sometimes the slow jam really isn’t very good and breaks the mood of the album. Sure, put that slow jam in at track 5 (or in this case, at the end of side 1 on the original vinyl), but make sure it is good. “Have You Heard?,” which comes at the end of side 2, is an example of a quality slow jam. In this case it comes from the latter being more within ZZ Top’s typical wheelhouse. It is a track that sounds more like ZZ Top.
Other than that, this Tres Hombres is pretty solid throughout. I have also had the first two tracks, “Waitin’ for the Bus” and “Jesus Just Left Chicago,” stuck in my head for about a week.
My Solid Gold Picks for Tres Hombres are:
- “Waitin’ for the Bus”
- “Jesus Just Left Chicago” – Which should be listened to immediately after the prior track. Awesome blues/rock track.
- “Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers” – A picture of the type of party rock that ZZ Top would later epitomize.
- “La Grange” – I would be remiss to omit this track from my Solid Gold Picks!
- “Have You Heard?” – Have you heard of Texas Blues/Rock? Now you have.
You can hear these and all of my other Solid Gold Picks on my Spotify Playlist, “The Greatest Songs in the Universe.”