Click Here To Purchase ZZ Top A Tribute From Friends

Musicians: Various Artists

Audio CD

Label: Show Dog / Universal Music



Tribute albums, in the main, say more about the performers doing the covers than the group being honored. By definition, such collections are uneven. Only occasionally, rarely do tributes offer fresh approaches to the songs that became classics in the hands of their originators. In the case of ZZ Top, the tributes keep coming—the newest effort is the fourth such assembly. This one demonstrates there’s often wisdom in downloading specific tracks as MP3s without need of investing in a full album.  

Of course, responses to new incarnations of old favorites  are going to be a matter of taste. The listener has to put ZZ Top aside and decide what interpretations suit their own preferences. For this reviewer, a number of the songs from the band’s “Friends” are marked by a large dose of self-consciousness. Some musicians are either trying too hard or uncertain how to blend their own styles with those of Messrs. Gibbons, Beard, and Hill. Or, as in “Sharp Dressed Man” by the “super group calling itself The M.O.B., some players decided there’s nothing to do but try to do your best ZZ Top imitation. Here, Mick Fleetwood, Steven Tyler, Jonny Lang, & John McVie do a straight-forward re-working of the Eliminator hit with some    nice guitar work from Lang. “Cheap Sunglasses” by Wolfmother is another virtual note-for-note cover, the only differences  being the added percussion, the guitar solo, and the less gritty vocals.

Bands going to the other extreme include Filter who puts its own stamp on “Gimme All Your Lovin’,” alternating between whispered electronica verses and screaming heavy metal choruses. Grace Potter & The Nocturnals are a case of seriously trying too hard with “Tush,” evoking “Le Grange” as much as the song she’s over-driving. Likewise, “Legs” as interpreted by Nickelback is straight-up bash and smash metal. The most pleasant surprise is “Rough Boy” by Wyclef Jean. This smooth R&B re-working bears no semblance to the original and is the only track that can really be called a fresh look at a classic melody.

While trying to do your own thing and retain the spirit of your inspiration is tough work, Duff McKagan’s Loaded does a credible job with “Got Me Under Pressure.” Some of the flavor of the original is blended with their own touches, notably the slamming drum part. Getting more basic, the best offerings are simple jams from groups not trying to do anything more than have fun with the material. “Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers” from Coheed & Cambria along with “Just Got Paid” by Mastodon are just that. They offer recognizable versions of the originals played as if the groups just learned the songs and are performing them for a club audience. In the same vein, Daughtry deserves special credit for remembering ZZ Top started out rooted in the blues in his six-minute medley of “Waitin’ for the Bus / Jesus Just Left Chicago.” Speaking of the blues, you’d think “La Grange” would be a showcase for that connection. But Jamey Johnson just wasn’t the performer to do it justice. Even though it’s hard to go wrong with a simple boogie, the vocals are grating country twang. In the end all you got is a bar band doing what every bar band has ever done with John Lee Hooker’s groove.

Then again, country twang might be your cup of tea and this redo of “Le Grange” might be some listeners favorite selection. The problem with “something for everyone” collections is that there are going to be many choices good for someone else. The only point ZZ Top fans will likely agree on is that we’re all much happier listening to ZZ Top. Still, there’s no harm in checking out the samples of these new versions—there might be a handfull you’d like in your library.

Click Here To Purchase ZZ Top A Tribute From Friends