The Very Baddest Of ZZ Top

Texas trio target summer festival audience with 'best of' compilation

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We reckon this is the seventh time ZZ Top have released some kind of compilation package.

These have lurched from the sublime (1977’s Best Of ZZ Top, released before the the band were filling stadiums outside of Texas) to the ridiculous (1994’s wholly objectionable Six Pack, which added Eliminator-style percussion to the band’s first five albums).

The USP with the latest, The Very Baddest Of, is that tracks from the band’s first three record companies — London, Warners and RCA — are gathered together in one place for the first time. The bad news? The RCA years were largely dreadful, and there’s no tracks from the band most recent album, La Futura, which was something of a return to form. The worse news? After going to the effort of licensing all those songs, it appears that the budget had headed south by the time it came to the packaging.

It’s a truly shoddy affair: no real sleevenotes, just pictures of sleeves, and the widespread use of a western-style font someone probably nicked off the internet. The sequencing suggests it’s aimed at people with serious attention span issues (first four tracks: Gimme All Your Lovin’, Sharp Dressed Man, La Grange and Tush on the two CD-version — there’s a single disc version for those even less likely to explore), and everything has the feel of a package that’s been rush-released for Christmas yet somehow appeared, almost accidentally, in mid-summer.

Having said all that, the music, when it’s good, it very very good. Jesus Just Left Chicago, Tube Snake Boogie, Beer Drinkers And Hell Raisers, Arrested For Driving While Blind, Cheap Sunglasses and Waitin’ For The Bus are all brilliant songs, but you know that already.

This feels like a compilation made for people who stream their music and aren’t bothered by the surrounding paraphernalia. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but if your collection sits on your shelves and not in the sky, you’d be better off with something else. 2003’s Chrome, Smoke & BBQ box-set is a more lovingly curated set, and a much more worthy tribute to a great band.

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.