ZZ Top – Deguello

I was a little scared to lower the tonearm on Rhino’s pressing of this 1979 set after my dreadful experience with Rio Grande Mud, but this one brought my faith back. (This leads me to believe that my copy of Rio Grande Mud is defective. I’ve had much better than average luck with audiophile pressings over the years, so perhaps my number was up.) Everything you love about ZZ Top is here in spades: big blazing guitar riffs, grumbling bass lines, and powerful albeit sparse drumming that has made this band famous. How can you not love a record that not only features “Cheap Sunglasses” and “I’m Bad I’m Nationwide” as well as deep cuts such as “Hi Fi Mama” and “A Fool For Your Stockings?” While some might dismiss the fare as party music, the playing on Deguello is top-notch, replete with guitar sounds that could easily be mistaken as those of Stevie Ray Vaughan. When these guys weren’t clowning around, they were damn good musicians.

Dusting off the original pressing revealed an overall flatness and fairly high level of surface noise. The new Rhino version offers mega dynamics, with Gibbons’ guitar cutting through the grunge and now front and center. Frank Beard’s drumming is also much cleaner, with the cymbals enjoying huge helpings of decay and smoothness.

My only complaint? Rhino didn’t pay the same level of attention to the album’s packaging as it did with Rio Grande Mud. The cover came apart in my hands as I removed it from the shrinkwrap. Tough to swallow for collectors that really obsess over replication, and for $25, we deserve better.  –Jeff Dorgay

Rhino, 180g LP