ZZ Top: The Beards Go Again…

25th April 2019

Title: Cinco No.2

Label: Rhino

A box set of five LPs from the beardy rockers, the whole is packaged within a slip case box and is mastered nicely via Rhino. The collection features, with two exceptions, the band’s 80s output of slicker and, if anything, more humorous outings. One of those exceptions is the excellent Degüello (1979), which reflected back to their early 70s glory days. Trouble is, the guys don’t know when to stop because the almost kiddy-esque, naughty jokes and polished production took it too far away from 1981’s El Loco pathway. It’s fun but it’s almost too much for its own good. 

The band snaps out of it by the time of their 1983 release, Eliminator, with a superb array of singles and heavyweight chart action via Gimme All Your Lovin’, Sharp Dressed Man and Legs. The production has dated the presentation a bit and the computerised studio work has removed a slice of soul from the guy’s playing but this is still a joyous release.

Afterburner is a bit like After the Lord Mayor’s show, retaining that mechanical feel with too many Yamaha DX-7 synths washing over the soundstage. As such, this album is Eliminator on steroids. Good but again too much. 

The second exception is the 1990 release, Recycler which continued the synth-based boogie. Offering more energy, yes, but the processed sound digs an even greater hole for itself here as the one trick pony of processed blues fades into schtick. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a poor album, there is much to like here with plenty of worthy songs that remain highly enjoyable. Did they have to wrap it up in that overly slick production wrapper, though? Does the title provide a clue as to the aim of this particular game?

All-in-all, a worthy box set but one that shows that creative evolution can be a struggle.

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