ZZ Top – Fandango – Our Shootout Winner from 2015

xxxxx

A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. They are often recessed as well, lacking presence and immediacy.

Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.

And most of the time those very special pressings just plain rock harder. When you hear a copy that does all that, it’s an entirely different listening experience.

Side One

Richer, fuller, and bigger than most, with the grungy guitar sound this band is famous for — this side was doing most everything right.

Side Two

Huge and lively, the sound here is really jumping out of the speakers. The top is especially open and extended, which helps the percussion immensely.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Thunderbird
Jailhouse Rock
Backdoor Medley:
– a. Backdoor Love Affair
– b. Mellow Down Easy
– c. Backdoor Love Affair No. 2
– d. Long Distance Boogie

Side Two

Nasty Dogs and Funky Kings
Blue Jean Blues
Balinese
Mexican Blackbird
Heard It on the X
Tush

AMG Review

Blessed with their first full-fledged hit album, ZZ Top followed it up with Fandango!, a record split between a side of live tracks and a side of new studio cuts.

In a way, this might have made sense, since they were a kick-ass live band, and they do sound good here, but it’s hard not to see this as a bit of a wasted opportunity in retrospect. Why? Because the studio side is a worthy successor to the all-fine Tres Hombres, driven by “Tush” and “Heard It on the X,” two of their greatest songs that build on that album by consolidating their sound and amplifying their humor. If they had sustained this energy and quality throughout a full studio album, it would have been their greatest, but instead the mood is broken by the live cuts.

Now, these are really good live cuts — and “Backdoor Medley” and “Jailhouse Rock” were fine interpretations, making familiar songs sound utterly comfortable in their signature sound — and Fandango! remains one of their better albums, but it’s hard not to think that it could have been even better.