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I’ve only recently discovered how much I like ZZ Top, having been put off by their 80s MTV fare. At heart they are snappy musicians who don’t take themselves too seriously and have in Billy Gibbons the best hard rock blues guitarist in the business. It also helps that their music is kept dynamic by not cluttering it up with too many additions to the three-piece format. Mescalero is a Tex-Mex album, some of it sung in Spanish, that deploys in addition to the triumvirate instruments such as marimba and accordion. The opening track, Mescalero, which refers to a heavy Mescal drinker, chugs along with feral ferocity driven largely on some really fat distorted bass, thumping drumming and lovely marimba flourishes - Billy Gibbons snarls over the top of this in a mixture of Spanish and English before finally he unleashes some vicious guitar. I just love this. The rest of the album, over an hour of it in all, never quite reaches the same heights as the opening track, but it is full of punchy performances and their trademark witty but largely inconsequential lyricism. Standout tracks include Alley Gator, Buck Nekkid, Tramp, Crunchy and a ‘hidden’ performance of As Time Goes By in which Billy’s singing is so much like Tom Waits that I’m not sure it’s not him. Overall, this is macho music of a very high standard which briefly undoes these emasculating times. The All Music website gave this album a rating of 2/5 and the album only made 57 on the Billboard charts. What’s wrong with the world? Standout Track: Mescalero
Having been a fan of the Top since I discovered Tres Hombres way back in the seventies, for me they have never failed to deliver and Mescalero is no exception. There seems to be four distinct era's to ZZ Top, early blues/rock (First Album - Tres Hombres), experimentation (Deguellio/El Loco) commercialisation (Eliminator - Recycler) and post commercialisation (Antenna onwards), this carries on from Antenna and Rhythmeen where the boys have been trying to get back to the stripped down feel of their early albums, and which even though they get some poor reviews I find satisfying and probably bulds upon them. It is a long CD by Top standards with 16 tracks (but 17 songs) but it is never dull and there is plenty of variety Que Lastina on which Billy Gibbons sings in Spanish very, very well and if you let the CD play you will find a version of "As Time Goes By" lurking at the end (but not listed). For me the highlight though is Goin' So Good, one of those times like "I Need You Tonight" off Eliminator or "Blue Jean Blues" off Fandango or "Rough Boy" from Afterburner when they come up with one of those gut wrenching slow songs that just seems to have you ending up in tears, it is an an absolute classic, has some brilliant slide guitar work in it and the lyrics are so, so sweet. So why only four stars and not five? Nothing compares to Fandango and Tres Hombres to me, but this is close, I still love it and the Top, so if you are a young pup looking to get into classic rock/blues, get into the Top, you know you want to.
I like this album. It doesn't have the stand out tracks of some of their earlier. But taken as a whole it's a good solid Album. There are no bad tracks and everything slots together really well and it still rocks out in the boys' inimitable style. A pretty good buy.
Since hearing ZZ Top "Fandango" I never thought any of their work would ever come close to that but I was wrong. Mescalero has it all. The first track's the hardest heaviest thing I've ever heard from ZZ Top and has the meanest bassline in the land! Some of the riffs like in "Buck Nekkid" are so blues cool it's unbeleivable. There's the sadness in Goin' So Good. The only two tracks I don't rate at 5* were What would you do? and Stackin Paper. But it wasn't enought to bring a great album down...a weird hidden track at the end too
somehow i missed this in 2003,. i`ll say that it is not as good as some of the other music they have done in the past, actually its rather weak,. compared to other albums i would only give three stars, shame really as i love the early deep rythm and blues they did on rio grande mud and tejas ,it just seems mescalero is a little weak for a trio with such a great musical hertitage as zz top have if they do another album i hope they go back to and earlier style as on their first album