ZZ Top – El Loco

It took me a little while to decide which of my many records I was going to review first. For no reason at all, I picked the one on the bottom of the list.

I bought this album because I couldn’t find anything else that stood out to me at Half Priced Books that day. I know the track “Tube Snake Boogie”, and how dirty it is, so I was hoping for more of that nasty, southern rock ZZ Top is known for. This was a bit of a surprise album for me.

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Another Notice
I posted this review fairly quickly, just to get something out there. I don’t plan on reviewing other albums track-by-track, and I really need to get some better photos.

ZZ Top - El Loco - Review


Side A

  • 1. Tube Snake Boogie
  • 2. I Wanna Drive You Home
  • 3. Ten Foot Pole
  • 4. Leila
  • 5. Don’t Tease Me

Side B

  • 1. It’s So Hard
  • 2. Pearl Necklace
  • 3. Groovy Little Hippie Pad
  • 4. Heaven, Hell or Houston
  • 5. Party On the Patio

Instead of the straight ahead blues-rock you’d get from their earlier albums, El Loco is definitely the experimenting ground between the full-on rock Tejas, and the 80’s pop-rock that is Eliminator.

The band definitely still has their roots with the rock, but I believe this is the first they’ve messed with synthesizers and other electronic equipment.

Don’t get me wrong, I really, really like this album. It’s them finding something new, while sticking to their roots.

The album starts off with that familiar drum intro from Frank Beard on “Tube Snake Boogie”. You hear Billy Gibbons kick in with a little shuffle lick, and Dusty Hill gets that bass thumpin’ hard. This is a track with some silly lyrics, and you can’t help but sing and smile at the same time. A killer solo from Gibbons rounds out the song.

The next couple tracks, “I Wanna Drive You Home” and “Ten Foot Poll” are new ones to me, but keep with the classic ZZ Top sound everybody loves from the 70’s. “Ten Foot Poll” has Billy doing that low growling vocal he’s known for, and it sounds cool as ever. The track has a certain bouncy feeling to it that really makes me nod my head to the beat.

“Leila” is a song that I was not expecting at all. This is a straight-forward love ballad. This song also is the start of the modern electronics the band would use on the next few albums. There’s a clean guitar with a crescendo delay, soft keyboards in the background, and definitely some effects used on Billy’s voice. I really like the twangy slide guitar, but this is a song that kind of feels strange on a ZZ Top album.

The final track on the first side, “Don’t Tease Me”, brings us back to the same vibe as the songs before the ballad. Just a good-ol’ fashion blues-rock tune.

A flip of the record, and we’re on side two. “It’s So Hard” is another song that slows things down, but has a slick bass line that drives the track along. Gibbons has a nice and bendy solo to run the song to fade out.

“Pearl Necklace” is another single from the album, and has that famous vibrato bend just before the chorus. This song also has a driving, straight-forward bass line that keeps the song going. You’ve also got a lot of reverb used throughout. It’s not a modern effect by any stretch, but hearing so much on the drums really gives it a new-wave type of sound.

Now we’ve hit the new ZZ Top sound. “Groovy Little Hippie Pad” starts off with synthesizers, and is a totally new sound on the album. There’s a reggae-sounding riff on an organ, and that synth never lets up throughout the track. But still, it’s got a killer vibe to it that just keeps your head moving.

The next track, “Heaven, Hell, or Houston” brings in more keyboards, sound effects, and Billy speaking in a low, gravelly voice. Unfortunately for me, right when the song picks up with the solo, this is where my record starts skipping a little. But I love that little bounciness to the clean guitars.

“Party On the Patio” is the final track, and the only sung by Dusty Hill. I’ve just noticed that Billy and Dusty’s vocals sound very similar, and I wonder how many other songs are sung by Dusty without me noticing. Anyway, this rockin’ track has a few different solos, and is the perfect way to end the album, even that abrupt last note.

Final Verdict

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review Summary

Overall, this is a pretty solid album. You get some of that ZZ Top was known for up until this point. Then you have the band experimenting with a lot of new ideas that eventually led to what following albums would be known for.

That’s not all, folks…

There is still a lot more content on the way. I’m working on reviewing every record in my collection.

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