George Starostin's Reviews



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Ron <> (13.01.2001)

My opinion "Three ole men in beards playing rock and roll and doin' better than anyone"

REX HALLUM <> (02.07.2001)

Dear Sir,

You obvisouly dont reconize true talent when you hear it, so I would like to know what you think it is about you, that makes you qualified to pass such inferior remarks about ZZ TOP'S music. Billy Gibbons must be one of the greatest natural musicians of the 20th century, if not the Greatest. You have my pity.

[A few minutes later:]

You know something dude, I let you off pretty easy the first time. But after reading a little further, you are obvisouly queer, I mean only a faggot would write on pink paper, why dont you take your feminine remarks up towards the north country and leave the good ole country folks alone. Also I think you might should review whats really goin on with yourself, why you feel the way you do, and leave the southern music reviews to someone qualified, (PLEASE)........What kind of music does a person like you call good anyway (Boy George) ha ha ha ha ha ha ha......

Phil <> (26.11.2001)

How in the hell can you know these guys? Jeff Beck said in an interview that Billy Gibbons is one the best guitar players ever, it just flows and flows! Jimmy Hendrix also complimented Billy on his playing. Then you have that tight rhythm section is tight. Obviously they didn't create the wheel, but they sure made it rock & roll on!

Thomas Hulsey <> (03.04.2003)

I enjoyed your letter about ZZ Top. I began my 'long slide to Hell' as my mother called it, when she told me not to listen to that 'devil-druggie-commie' radio station, XERF, that was across the river from where I was born. The highly illegal zillion watt rig was made possible by a kamikaze stacked yagi type antenna that sent 99.999 percent of the music toward the appalachians and yankeeland, and the other .0001 percent could be heard behind the station a few miles. I sat in Buffalo NY one night, as the 'X' blew the local station off the air.

The first time I heard Billy Gibbons play, I was hooked. I have almost all things by the bearded ones, but there is one thing I am missing. I have never heard Deguello, and am trying now to locate some kind soul who might send me a copy throught he mail. It doesn't have to be top quality, just enough so I could hear it before I get too much older and have to eat with a straw.

I have a 50 year old Martin D18 that looks like it was air-dropped but sounds like God's own guitar, and a 1978 (I think) Gibson SG like Eric Clapton had. A good axe will get you into a nice band, and you will be able to get up to speed before they find out you just own good guitars.

Brendan S. McCalmont <> (09.07.2004)

ZZ Top achieved everything they set out to acheive. They really are a great band. Anyway these guys make music fro the sake of 'having a good time' and 'enjoying themselves' And I think that's a unique quality that you have overlooked. They set out to have a good time, and make music that was fun and enjoyable and they succeeded on every count. For me I thoguht their music lacks variety, and sometimes they address this with ballads which critis apparently don't take to kindly. How childish. As I have said there is nothing wrong with experimenting with a new style for any band. Yes, that is the problem. What really amazes me is their knack for really having a great time when playing their music and how much passion they put into it. I just love their Recycler album from 1990, and hwo many albums contain the musician having such a good time that they scream nonsense out loud that wasn't a lyric? Check out the ending to 'Penthouse Eyes'. But I couldn't really give any of their albums full credit, not even Recycler, in the fact that I listen to the music and it's all blues-rock music. Maybe Tejas, it's just wonderful. It does deserve 10/10! They are always experimenting with guitar tones and have come up with some wonderful tones over the years. You should remember what they are looking fro in music is music that is fun and enjoyable, and that's what they have achieved in making! Not only that they have offered many memorable guitar solo's/riffs over the years!

Vibrance 4/5

Originality I'm not sure, I haven't heard that many artists so I couldn't really say though I think their approach is fairly unique  2/5 [I may change my mind on that one day]

Performance 5/5 Very few bands seem to have as much fun as these guys do when they play. ANd Gibbons is a fantastic guitarist, too.

Other 3/5 I love their lyrics and non-serious attitude, the production is fine. However, I wish they'd record shorter songs. Maybe I am misjudging them here, but I personally like short 2:40 songs. I know it seems stupid but that's how I am. I wish I could enjoy long songs but I have trouble, I lose concentration. Sorry guys.

Diversity 3/5 fantastic for a rock band.

3+2+3+4+5/25 = 16/25 approx 3/5

I do like this band quite a bit

At a time [70's] when most bands took themselves and their musical art so seriously, ZZ Top were just having heaps of fun. Gibbons always comes up with great guitar tones too. It seems to change from album to album. Well done! Actually, many of my favourite ZZ records came out in the 90's.

Francis Mansell <> (08.07.2005)

Fundamentally what I love about ZZ Top is the way they apply science to the very simple art of the boogie - these guys are professors emeritus of the boogie and there ain't really any others. In less inspired hands, blues rock boogie can be unbelievably dull - if you're going to play such unoriginal music, you've got to inject bags of personality to make it interesting; in the words of an Irish comedian whose name I forget, "It's the way they tell 'em" - this applies to blues right across the spectrum really - you can be a fine musician but if you aren't distinctive it's just the same boring old blues changes.

ZZ Top mix a superbly tight and swinging rhythm section with one of the most distinctive guitarists ever to come out of Texas - or should that be Tejas - or indeed anywhere else. Check that amazing facility with harmonics - I've never heard anyone else play like that - and, in recent years especially, the fabulously dirty sound he makes. Then add two fine vocalists - Billy Gibbons with his amusing growl/croak (and he can sing properly when called for) and Dusty Hill with his higher register Elvis-meets-heavy-rock yell. Give 'em a sense of humour - po-faced boogie sure ain't much fun. And the beards! What a stroke of genius. They were in their late 20s when they grew those, and they'd never been much to look at. So they made themselves into cartoon characters - and cartoon characters don't get any older, they were already old when they were 30, it means they can go on till they drop and no one will be saying, "Look at the state of them, why don't they call it a day."

Their only real failing is their relative lack of realy great songs. They've got some - but not enough to make most of their albums really consistent. Shame, because they make such a wonderful noise.


Glenn Wiener <> (11.11.2002)

I have to agree with you on the point that the record is consistent. No bad songs but certainly nothing that is over the top either. 'Just Got Back From My Baby's' and 'Shakin' In Your Tree' seem to stand out from the pack. Like the tone on the first one and the harmonies and overall drive on the second one. A 3 1/2 stars sounds right to my ears.

Brendan S. McCalmont <> (09.07.2004)

There is some raw bluesiness and raw passion that really makes this a worthy album. I also really like the ballad 'Old Man' which is really touching and has a great melody [how-come George never mentioned that?] and there are some rather unusual drum-beats. Other choice cuts are 'Shaking you're tree', 'Backdoor love affair', 'Bedroom Thang', 'Goin down to Mexico', 'Squank' and 'Just Got Back from baby's'.

Francis Mansell <> (08.07.2005)

I utterly fail to see how you rate this equal top of the band's albums that you review here with Eliminator. There's nothing terribly wrong with it - it's consistent, well played and establishes their basic style for all time. But it's consistent because all the songs on it are ok. None of them are rubbish, but none of them are that good, let alone excellent, it's an entire album of filler - as you pretty much admit, so why the four stars? To rate it above ZZ Top's other 70s albums is bizarre; all those albums are less consistent, but that's because alongside the filler (and ZZ Top ain't recorded an album that hasn't got filler on it, with the half exception of Eliminator) they've all got good to great songs on 'em. And most of the filler on those albums is better than damn near every track here. This is formative stuff - they were about 21 when they recorded this and they still had a lot to learn about songwriting - which they did, developing their distinctive sense of humour over the next few albums.

o, if your ratings for most of the others are fairly accurate - they are inconsistent, after all - then this rates two stars, two and a half if we stretch the point and admit there's no outright stinkers here. They didn't record another album as bad as this until El Loco, and that at least has a track or two that stand out, even if some of it really smells.

Think it's time to re-evaluate these, George - you don't use this star system anymore, do you? I like to see comments about a band I like from a relatively objective (and non-Anglo-Saxon) source, even if I don't agree with them I can often learn something from it. That's why I like your site and keep coming back to it (good to see you back, by the way!) but at the same time, you clearly sometimes hear things with such different ears that I absolutely can't tell where you're coming from at all, and this is one such example.

Cooper Adams <> (15.01.2006)

I guess thats what happens to me when I'm checking out music late at night on the web. And unless you email me back saying to stop sending you gibberish, I'm not gonna. Anyways, this one is in reference to the song "Squank" off of ZZ Top's First Album.

You said "Anybody has any ideas on the subject? They're welcome." Well, I always thought it was in reference to the guitar sound Billy Gibbons has going throughout the song, the 'squank'y-esque notes. He gets it by a technique you might be familiar with called artificial harmonics - its when you pick a note with the guitar pick but sort of re-pick it right after with your thumb, so it squeals real good. Now I know the lyrics are about god-knows-what, but thats another thing that makes ZZ Top great - their half joking lyrics. But anyways yeah, thought you might like to know.


Brendan S. McCalmont <> (11.06.2004)

In reference to 'Chevrolet', 'Down Brownie' and 'Ko Ko Blue', if they are not inventive, [I love the harmonica solo on Ko Ko and the high-pitched part in the the Guitar solo in DB] they are some of the most enjoyable pieces of music I have ever Heard. I also like 'Appollogies to Pearly' and 'Muchmouth Shoutin', my fav off here, which is really atmospheric.

There is some really hot blues-rock that is also just really enjoyable. 'The best of a motor cruise is just the joy to get there' The vocal harmonies are a highlight from Chevrolet, my second favourite song here. Mushmouth Shoutin' has so much groove and the Harmonica on the song is great. Then Gibbons does an amazing Harmonica solo on 'Ko Ko Blue', an energetic rocker. Why didn't you mentin that? Oh that's right, you don't listen to music because you like music, you listen to music because of Ideal and Ethical reasons 'This song is better than that song because it is rock music as opposed to a pop song'. Other great songs are 'Down Brownie', 'Sure Got cold' and the guitar solo on Just got paid.


Danny Marshall <> (13.12.2000)

I heard, years ago, an interview on the radio (w/ Billy Gibbons) where he explained that one of his buddies made this big steel ball out of like, rebar, that had a seat inside and a door, and they would push it (with someone in it!) out of the back of this Mack Truck going about 60 mph--at night. Billy says he actually DID try it once. Got to give him credit, he aint short on nerve...

Hope that helps ya appreciate that jam a little better.

Brendan S. McCalmont <> (11.06.2004)

In reference to your comments about people liking <<Jesus just left Chicago>> that song is much more light-hearted and cheerful than most generic blues songs. There's none of that 'My womans gone and left me and I'm hear crying on my own'. That's why that song is popular. That si what I love about ZZ, they play with passion, they enjoy playing music, they themselves have fun playing it. I also have to stick up for poor old 'Hot Blue and Righteous' which is a lovely ballad, it shows ZZ can do something other than blowing up amps. 'Have you heard' is fun too, and shows their ability to intertwine their rootsy-southern Blues-rock with other styles, like Gospel. I'm not keen on 'Master of Sparks' but I thought you were too hard on the lyrics. They're interesting and one of the few times the boys sang about something other than getting laid. It's a fan favourite and would be a fond memory for Billy Gibbons recounting his young days. It's a slice of history put to music. Even if it's not as significant as say Lennon being shot, it's a touching slice of what a group of young men did way back when to pass time.

Francis Mansell <> (08.07.2005)

If they could've come up with a whole album as good as the better half of this ('Waiting For The Bus', 'Jesus Just Left Chicago', 'La Grange', 'Beer Drinkers', 'Have You Heard'), it would've been their best by far. Sadly the rest is filler and your three and a half stars is probably about right (three and three quarters perhaps). You're also right that most ZZ Top fans think 'Jesus Just Left Chicago' is one of the best things they ever did, certainly it's their best and most distinctive blues number, with the possible exception of 'Fool For Your Stockings'.

Tagbo Munonyedi <> (20.03.2006)

There would be something about ZZ Top that would really irritate the life out of me were it not for this album. I came across it during my heavy rock odessey in the summer / autumn of 1980 ( I think I saw them in a heavy metal section of records for sale in a magazine I had ) and it blew me away. Nothing about it was outwardly attractive, daft name, rubbish title, crappy cover, lame gatefold, no concrete information, couldn't put the names to the faces. But what a great album. Bluesy without being blues, barroom boogie from the South, but with humour and intelligence and the ability to rock, hard and heavy without being metallic and a suitably wide set of lyrics that could be read one way or the other. Or even the other, to boot. HOT,BLUE AND RIGHTEOUS is so sparse, it's almost not there. But in common with the rest of the album sustains interest. HAVE YOU HEARD has real gospellish overtones, complete with boogie and it's lively and communal in a controlled kind of way. MASTER OF SPARKS seemed to me to have spiritual leanings till I read about the bloke who used to get into a steel barrel or whatever and get thrown off speeding vehicles ! This song wastes nothing but it's brilliant, I just love the solo. SHIEK has always made me laugh....I can't think of another song that mentions Mozambique ( and it's a less predictable rhyme than 'greek' ). WAITING FOR THE BUS has a particular resonance for any Londoner given that we spend half of our lives doing just that ! It was the first Top track I ever heard and I can remember the anticipation as I put it on and heard that wicked riff, followed by " Have mercy !! / Been waitng for the bus all day....". It's a great spiffy little number and it has the benefit of a fantastic solo. JESUS JUST LEFT CHICAGO is one of my favourites; it's such a good example of the way a three piece band can make something interesting and colourful without multiple overdubs on guitar. Not that I'm against such { indeed, I love it }, just that coming across so much of it, it's nice to hear sparseness on a studio recording. Notably, the songs are short, yet some of them seem to be so much longer. ZZ Top manage to cram the utmost into the songs on this album. MOVE ME ON DOWN THE LINE rocks along at speed, or at least speed compared to most of the other songs and sports yet another inventive solo. My absloute killer in the congregation is the utterly weird PRECIOUS AND GRACE, it sounds like it's about a couple of whores or at the least a couple of 'chicks' who don't mind perpetrating illegal acts ! Or at least it did when I was younger, so much younger than today....I think it's literally about a couple of hitchikers. I think the guitar at the end of the song is mesmerizing, a tumultuous bit of playing. BEER DRINKERS AND HELL RAISERS couldn't really be anything other than it is, a stomping, marauding great rocker, made for the likes of Motorhead who later covered this. Yet it's so southern, it reminds me of the kind of people Dr Kimble used to run into in the telly series " The Fugitive ", bar room troublemakers. It's a great piece,as is LA GRANGE. I'm not a great fan of the subject matter, but it is reflective of life after all and musically it's possibly the most inventive on the album, trying that Zeppelinesque thing of the acoustic passage giving way to the electric blast. And it works better than most.

Some albums demand that you check out more from the group. I've never felt that way about them though I've read up on them. Neither Dusty Hill nor Frank Beard ( I love that name ! ) are particularly outstanding players on here, but being competent and sympathetic can often net greater results than being virtuoso and as the pulse of the music { very important, that } they allow the songs to move and breathe and Gibbons to steamroller everything in sight with some of the most enjoyable playing I've heard and the feeling that these guys really dug what they were playing really comes over.


Francis Mansell <> (08.07.2005)

Not much more to say on the studio half of this - 'Tush' (later given the tribute/riff-steal treatment by Motorhead on 'No Class') and 'Heard It On The X' are clearly the stand-outs, most of the rest is pretty good, making this one of their best albums.

But I think you're a little unfair on the live half. The first two songs rock, superbly, there's nothing more to say. The long medley is definitely of the "you had to be there" variety, i.e. one of those things that works better as a crowd-pleaser at the concert than on the live album - but it's still damn entertaining, even if it could profitably have been replaced with 2 or 3 actual songs from the same gig. And I don't get the AC/DC comparison - they were equally likely to stretch a song beyond breaking point live as a crowd-pleaser but thankfully they had enough sense to keep that sort of stuff off If You Want Blood.

What frustrates me as a fan of ZZ Top, though, is how little live material they've ever issued, particularly from the best parts of their career - half of Fandango, 2 songs on a single in 1996 and 4 rather dull ones on XXX in 2000. They were clearly in scorching form at the New Orleans gig these 3 tracks were taken from, let's hear the rest of it.


No reader comments yet.


Glenn Wiener <> (05.01.2002)

Like this CD a great deal. A nice combination of the blues and some creative effects not to mention keyboard and horn sounds. A welcome change of pace from the guitar, bass, and drums sound that is the norm for these guys. Like your commentary on 'I'm Bad I'm Nationwide' and 'A Fool For Your Stockings'. Excellent guitar solos indeed.


Brendan S. McCalmont <> (04.05.2004)

Ah, the dreaded 'Adult Contemporary' even works it's way into hard blues rockers. What a shame. So mainstream and commercially minded ay? Not to mention the fact it gave Gibbons a chance to play guitar in a totally different way. What a wondeful solo. Actually it's my favourite song of all time... Yes, it's awful when a band doesn't stick to the same old formula for every song isn't it. Other than that, they really utilised the 'watered down' sound of Deguello well. This time they added a 'mellow' element. Even the lyrics portray them as more sensitive people than we had been previously used to. In one song his girlfriend is picking on him, another song he's sympathising with people with broken hearts. I think you'll find there aren't any synthesisers on here but they are in fact Gibbons is using a guitar FX pedal. The other songs are typical blues rock but they do feature unusual tones and some are quite quirky. I'm not too fond of 'Ten foot pole' and the guitar solo at the end of 'It's so hard' is dreadful, but otherwise this is a quality record with excellent musicianship from our three bearded friends.

J.D. Darby <> (04.06.2004)

I think 'Ten Foot Pole' is one of the greatest ZZ TOP tunes of all time.  I really like this album, especially wanna drive you home, ten foot pole, and It's so hard  Unless they want to reproduce their tres Hombres sound over and over, they'll want to experiment.  I for one like the chorus pedal effects on 'Drive you home', 'ten foot pole' and 'Pearl necklace' - a change of pace from the cleaner guitar sounds of Deguello - I thank you, "Nationwide", Fool for your stockings, etc."  People so often refer to ZZ  as sticking to their roots, but their main theme has always been lay down some grooving tracks, right some ironic, throw away lyrics that refer interchangeably to cars, women, beer or getting into trouble in the state of Texas. They don't take themselves too seriously so I don't either.  But I have every album they ever made.


Glenn Wiener <> (08.06.2002)

A nice change of pace for these Texas dudes. The boys slicking up the sound with a more danceable beat and some catchy synthesizer tones. The first half of the disc is quite strong with the radio friendly 'Give Me All Your Lovin', 'Sharped Dressed Man', and 'Legs'. Not too mention the slow blues 'I Need You Tonight' with some awesome guitar licks and the speedy but fun 'I Got The Six'. There is just a little bit of diversity and thats what makes this record special.

Francis Mansell <> (08.07.2005)

One word is missing from your otherwise perfectly reasonable review: disco. At a time when some rock fans were going round saying "Disco sucks," (which actually means "We can't dance because people might think we're gay") ZZ Top had the guts to put a disco beat behind hard rock, and make glossy pop videos - and not only did they acquire legions of new fans, they didn't lose the old ones. Even better, a startling return to songwriting form (compare with the lacklustre El Loco) made it their most consistent album. Even the filler on this one is very good.

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