Yet another sad news today… ZZ TOP bass player Dusty Hill has passed away in his sleep at 72.
The band has issued via their official Facebook Page: “We are saddened by the news today that our Compadre, Dusty Hill, has passed away in his sleep at home in Houston, TX. We, along with legions of ZZ Top fans around the world, will miss your steadfast presence, your good nature and enduring commitment to providing that monumental bottom to the ‘Top’. We will forever be connected to that “Blues Shuffle in C.” You will be missed greatly, amigo. Frank & Billy”
Artist: BILLY GIBBONS AND THE BFG’S Album: “Perfectamundo” Label: Concord Records Release Date: November 6, 2015
01. Got Love If You Want It
02. Treat Her Right
03. You’re What’s Happenin’, Baby
04. Sal Y Pimiento
05. Pickin’ Up Chicks on Dowling Street
06. Hombre Sin Nombre
07. Quiero Mas Dinero
08. Baby Please Don’t Go
09. Piedras Negras
If the road you’re on gets you from Point A to Point B just fine, it seems logical to live by the adage of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. But there’s no challenge in that, is there? Life’s journey, metaphorically or musically, gives us limitless opportunities to get out of a familiar comfort zone and explore, expand, and grow.
Having firmly cemented his status as a guitar legend over the last 46 years in a band with its original lineup still intact, Billy Gibbons has certainly earned his place in music history. Infusing the sounds of his heroes with his own signature sound as one-third of the band ZZ TOP, he lit the fire under countless numbers of us to want to follow suit and to rediscover for ourselves all those who influenced him. And behind the trademark beard and sunglasses, there has always been much more to Billy’s love affair with music than playing the three-chord electrified blues for which we know him best.
Growing up in Houston, Texas in the ’50s and ’60s, he couldn’t help but be wowed by Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, and Lightnin’ Hopkins, but his exposure to music wasn’t limited to rock and blues. A great variety of musical genres, including gospel, country-western, and West African styles made quite an impression as well, and his affinity for percussion led to an opportunity to study with mambo king Tito Puente. No doubt all of that helped shape Billy’s style. The music that delighted him in his youth has evidently stayed with him, waiting to be further explored and expressed.
In 2014, Gibbons was invited to perform at the Havana Jazz Festival. He was unable to attend the event, but nonetheless inspired: the idea of going off on a bit of a tangent must have seemed irresistibly fun. He hand-picked a group of fellow musicians who came to be the BFG’s (his initials) and, combining some of his favorite genres, predominantly those with an Afro-Cuban flair, they put together the music for “Perfectamundo”.
Co-produced with Joe Hardy, they recorded the album in the cities of Houston and Austin, Texas; Los Angeles, California; and Pontevedra, Spain.
Says Billy: “The real challenge, of course, was working with sounds that haven’t shown up on a ZZ TOP record before: timbales, bongo, maracas, conga. Early on in these sessions that started unfolding in the studios…Joe Hardy, G-Mane Moon and I decided, ‘How can we Cubanize what feels natural?’ And that, of course, invited the consideration of covering some songs that are quite familiar…”
On “Perfectamundo”, the blues are liberally seasoned with sounds and nuances from the Caribbean, Central America, and beyond. Opening the album with a wonderful down-and-dirty tone, Gibbons covers ‘Got Love If You Want It’, an old Slim Harpo tune, then eases back as the percussion takes a front seat for most of the remainder. The feel reminds me so much of Muddy Waters’ 1955 hit ‘She’s Into Something’ that I like it right away.
Gibbons and the BFG’s make ‘Treat Her Right’ (a tune that Roy Head made popular back in 1965) sound like their own. The fuzz-box bass and the salsa beat gets things moving and certainly give it more polish and modernization, and the piano really adds to the richness of the music.
An acoustic slide intro with a delta flair on ‘You’re What’s Happenin’ Baby’ fools me at first. The bass kicks in and it’s a 180, joined by a B3 and more cowbell, baby! Fluid and sensual, this tune has me—even with Billy using auto-tune on the vocals—up until the techno and the rapping comes in. A little spice, used selectively, adds emphasis to the spoken word, but it’s overused here, and cheapens what could have been a sexy, classy song.
The idea for ‘Sal & Pimiento’ came from a business card from a new Cuban restaurant with the same name (meaning “salt and pepper”). This one showcases how well the Latin and Afro beats combine with Billy’s trademark blues licks and sound.
‘Picking Up Chicks on Dowling Street’ features the maracas and mucho cencerro y timbales, with Billy’s guitar taking more of an accompaniment role as the B3 is in for the solo. ‘Hombre sin Nombre’ (“Man Without A Name”) reminds me a little of ZZ TOP’s ‘Sleeping Bag’ from “Afterburner”, but less synth-y. ‘Quiero Mas Dinero’ (“I want more money”) would be great without the rapping, in my opinion, but again, back to that earlier comment about die-hards having open minds…and anyway, Billy Gibbons was never one to shy away from trying something new and out-there. This song is more like several little songs in one, switching styles within, and the last few measures are my favorites.
Billy’s take on the old Lightnin’ Hopkins song ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’ stays more true to what we’re familiar with, both on the original song and with Billy’s usual style, but it’s busy with exotic percussion that gives it a nice modern feel. ‘Piedras Negras’ (“black stones”) would be great in a soundtrack to a movie, right at the end as the credits roll. I think of outlaws on the run, stopping long enough on the dusty ride for a ladle or two of water and a quick check of the knapsacks to make sure the loot is all still there, sharing a hearty laugh, and hopping back up on their sweaty horses and riding off into the sunset.
I never tire of hearing Billy play…but the title track, ‘Perfectamundo’, didn’t do much for me. It sounded very contrived rather than inspired.
Considering the lyrical content, I’d imagine it would go over well with a video on VH1, though. The album closes out with ‘Q’Vo’, laid-back and heavy on the B3. I like this one: no frills, just a nice, smooth Chicago blues groove.
When an artist whom we’ve come to know as having mastered a particular genre decides he or she wants to venture out musically on a path less traveled, deviating from the norm is often a Catch-22: it’ll bring in new fans, but not all the die-hards are gonna dig it. As much as it can be risky to dabble (or swim) in another genre, it’s also sometimes hard for fans to wrap their minds around it. You have to sort of stand back and hear the music for what it is—the integrity of the music itself, the musicianship, the strength of the songs—and let that be the main focus, rather than dwelling on the issue of an artist doing something different. Fact is, most of us are in a very comfortable rut and come to expect the same old song and dance from an artist we like; isn’t that why we like them? But many artists have pulled it off well. I do admire Billy Gibbons’ decision to go in a slightly different direction with the BFG’s. He’s endured a bit of criticism before for going way modern with ZZ TOP’s sound at times, but it’s never daunted him. And that’s cool.
It sounds like Billy and the guys had a real good time putting this album together. That’s what it’s all about: making music and having fun. I personally could have done without the rapping and some of the techno enhancements, as I think they took away from the wonderfully pure and passionate feel that the percussion gave to the music. It seemed more emphasis was on modernization than in celebrating the musical genre itself, and at times this somewhat clouded that distinction. They could have gone old-school with it, and I think I’d have liked it a lot more. But If you’ve been one to shake a tail feather to Billy’s magic with ZZ TOP and you like a modern twist, you’ll enjoy “Perfectamundo”.
Billy Gibbons: guitar, bass, B3, piano, vocals
Alx “Guitarzza” Garza: vocals, bass guitar
Mike Flanigin: B3
Martine “G.G.” GuiGui: piano, B3
Greg Morrow: drums
Joe Hardy: guitar, keys, bass guitar, vocals
That little ol’ band from Texas – the legendary ZZ TOP have announced they will return to the UK for a one-off show at London’s SSE Arena, Wembley on Wednesday 24th June, plus very special guests THUNDER.
ZZ Top have been together for over 40 years and never once has their line up changed, they are one of the only bands with a career span of this magnitude to be able to lay claim to this distinction and boy does it show. Not only were they inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, they were ranked number 44 on the VH1 ‘100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock’. Since the 80s they have had a string of massive hits, spawning some of the best and most instantly recognisable singles within the Hard Rock genre – ‘Gimme All Your Lovin’, ‘Sharp Dressed Man’, ‘La Grange’ and ‘Legs’ to name but a few.
Special guests for this one-off show comes from British rock legends Thunder, who over their 25 year career have had 18 Top 40 hit singles in the UK, a stack of gold albums around the world, a host of awards, and a fanbase of unswerving loyalty. These are accomplishments most bands can only dream of, but for Thunder these are merely stepping stones in a twenty-five career built on a brilliant “one dance, all dance” live show and truly epic songs.
ABOUT SSE SSE plc is one of the UK’s leading energy companies and is involved in the generation, distribution and supply of electricity and in the storage, distribution and supply of gas. It is independently recognised as the best energy supplier for customer service and is the UK’s leading generator of electricity from renewable sources. SSE plc supplies over nine million customer accounts through its retail brands: SSE, Southern Electric, SWALEC, Scottish Hydro , Airtricity and Atlantic. SSE plc is title sponsor of The SSE Arena, Wembley, The SSE Hydro (Glasgow) and the SWALEC Stadium (Cardiff).
Metal Shock Finland are proud to announce a Beer Drinkers Competition for the UK readers. Enter our competition by answering the question below and you will have a chance to win a copy of British writer Neil Daniels‘ latest book, “Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers : A ZZ Top Guide.” The competition will close on February 9th.
Neil Daniels has recently released his new book, “Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers : A ZZ Top Guide” which is a history of the band from their pre-ZZ Top outfits through to the present day, along with analysis of their albums, gigs and (of course) videos. Neil also looks at the band’s many awards, appearances on TV and film, a discography and more.
There are some rare photos, and the whole thing is top and tailed with a foreword and afterword from top rock writers Steve Rosen and Martin Popoff respectively.
Hails and Metal to you all. As I have said before, heavy metal music has gone far from just being a genre of music, it’s a life style, a philosophy to look at the world …. my guest this time is a British writer specialising in rock and heavy metal. Neil Daniels wrote ten books about bands and artists such as JUDAS PRIEST, IRON MAIDEN, Robert Plant, BON JOVI and most recently, ZZ TOP. Neil‘s career and his newest project, Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers : A ZZ Top Guide, which was released recently, inspired me to conduct an interview with him, which can be read below:
Hello Neil, Thanks for accepting to be my guest on Metal Shock Finland. How are you doing?
I’m good thanks. I’ve just been working on my new website www.neildanielsbooks.com which was launched last Monday. I’ve had 500 hits so far, so close to a thousand already. This year alone I’ve released two books – “Electric World – A Casual Guide To The Music Of Journey’s Neal Schon” and “Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers – A ZZ Top Guide”. Finnish rock fans may be keen to know I’ve had three of my books translated to Finnish – Judas Priest, Robert Plant and Iron Maiden.
Let’s start with your newest book, “Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers : A ZZ Top Guide,” which was released recently. Would you tell me first, how did you choose the title?
It’s a pun on the ZZ Top song. I try to do that was much as possible with my books – Judas Priest with “Defenders Of the Faith” and Neal Schon with “Electric World”, Journey with “Don’t Stop Believin’” etc. It’s a cool title. I like to think it works well. It kinda sums up the band and their music. Even Motorhead covered it.
What encouraged you to choose ZZ Top, was it because they are one of your favourite bands or it was suggested by someone? And can you tell me more about the process, researching and writing?
There’s not much out there on the band. I know Dave Thompson years ago but since then there’s hardly been anything and given the success of the new album and how much they’re in the rock press I thought it was a no brainer and thankfully Phil and his wife Sue at Soundcheck Books really got behind the idea and commissioned it after my UFO book. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to get ideas off the ground but Phil and Sue have really stuck behind my pitches. It’s a guide to their music and history – the first half of the book is a biography followed by detailed discographies, timelines, trivia, essays/quotes from fellow rock writers and all sorts of other tidbits of info on the band as well as unpublished photos. It’s a really nice looking book. There’s a foreword by Steven Rosen and an afterword by Martin Popoff. It’s out now in the UK and published March 1 in the US.
Ok, let’s go back when you had not started writing about rock or metal, as in when you were still a young school boy, how were your writing skills? For example if you had a dream to become a writer one day.
I don’t think I ever dream to be a writer when I was a kid. I was a film obsessed teenager like Dawson in that cheesy TV show Dawson’s Creek. I’m still a major film buff. I released a collection of my articles on films and TV shows last year called “In A Dark Room – Exploits Of A Genre Fan” and I’m currently working on a film biography for a major London publisher. I’ve also been a pop culture nerd whether it be books, comics, magazines, TV, films and music. I love it all. The one thing us fans have is an opinion, so it just happens that mine gets published. I think I’ve improved as a writer over the years. Some of my earlier stuff makes me cringe so it’s all a learning curve; a process of improvement and refinement.
What encouraged you the most to improve your skills during the years that you were beginning as a writer and perhaps facing some difficulties?
I’m still improving and learning and face difficulties with everything I write. A lack of confidence is a major difficulty to overcome. I certainly had that with the first couple of books. Facing criticism is hard but you learn to use it as an aid rather than an obstacle. I learn something new with each book; how to write, edit, organize etc.
Would you like to share with us, if you have any particular memories or experienced any difficulties during the process of writing your books?
Well, with my UFO biography, I started as I usually do with each book by gathering a list of possible interviewees and approaching them. I got to interview the likes of Leo Lyons, Laurence Archer, Mick Glossop, Nick Tauber and Ron Nevison, amongst other producers and ex members from the band’s history. I then created a chronology of their history going back to 1969 and merged my research into the chronology to create the first draft. It’s very hard to write a book on a famous band and unearth new information in the age of digital information and research because so much is online. Plus, it depends on your own knowledge of the band – one story may have been heard before by one fan but unheard of by another. What this book does is tell the story of the band in a chronological and easy to read fashion – there’s enough geeky detail on the music for seasoned fans and enough casual detail for newcomers. The difficulties are usually always research because there can be so much of it so you have to set yourself deadlines and targets. I get better with each book.
I’ve read somewhere that you love science fiction, fantasy and horror. So do you have any plans to write a novel in those genres? If so, I would like to know if you have any picture formed in your head?
Yes, I love sci-fi, fantasy and horror as well as crime. I love comic books too. One day I’d love to write a book – when I have enough confidence. I have lots of ideas. Neil Gaiman began his career writing features and articles; hack work. He even wrote a Duran Duran book. I’m happy working on the music stuff for now though my aim is to expand into film and TV writing.
What else do you do except writing? Would you like tell us more about your life?
There isn’t much to tell, really. I have a day job and live in the North West of England. I love music, films, TV, books and comics. I’ve just released books on Neal Schon and ZZ Top. Last year I had books out on AC/DC, Pantera and UFO.
Well, as my final question what would be your next project?
Well, I’ve just launched my new website www.neildanielsbooks.com which is a pretty good way to start the year. It includes information on everything I have ever written. On the book front; I have released two so far – the Neal Schon and ZZ Top books. My books on the first four Iron Maiden albums and Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet are due to be released in around 3-4 months. There’ll also be a few more Createspace books. Everything is detailed on the site.
Thank you Neil for giving me your time, feel free to leave a message to your fans and our viewers.
Thanks for taking the time to read my interview. I hope you check out my books. Please visit my website and take a look around. There are links to social media if you wanna get in touch.
Legendary Texas trioZZ TOP are going to celebrate their 45th Anniversary in 2014. Writer Neil Daniels has recently released his new book, “Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers : A ZZ Top Guide” which is a history of the band from their pre-ZZ Top outfits through to the present day, along with analysis of their albums, gigs and (of course) videos. Neil also looks at the band’s many awards, appearances on TV and film, a discography and more.
There are some rare photos, and the whole thing is top and tailed with a foreword and afterword from top rock writers Steve Rosen and Martin Popoff respectively.