Name: “Tres Hombres”
Artist: ZZ Top
Release date: 1973
Favorite track: “La Grange"
It made sense to feature “Tres Hombres” as my first ZZ Top vinyl feature.
This was the blues rock band’s breakout album, featuring “La Grange.” I own this album, and a few other ZZ Top albums, because my parents are big fans.
This Southern, soulful sound is right up their alley, and I like it, too.
The album has also been featured in Rolling Stone Magazine’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.” I think a more fitting description of this list is perhaps the 500 most influential albums of all time. Nevertheless, I trust the publication’s choices. I hope to someday own the albums currently on the list.
I listened to my album and a remastered version of “Tres Hombres” on Spotify. I’ve read there are many versions, so it’s interesting to hear how music can translate with different sound production.
“Waitin’ for the Bus” is a fantastic album opener and definitely the type of song I imagine with which almost all blues albums begin. It’s sassy, rockin’ and soulful. I love the first “Have mercy” in the lyrics.
The song flows so seamlessly into the second track, “Jesus Just Left Chicago,” I almost didn’t realize they were two separate songs. In fact, I think I made it to three and a half minutes before I recognized it.
“Jesus Just Left Chicago” is a little slower paced and a lot more soulful. Billy Gibbons really starts to reveal his vocals in this one. His sometimes unrecognizable mumbles — “ha,” “hm,” “hey” — are undeniably fun to hear and imitate.
“Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers” makes me feel like I’m in a dive bar with a pool cue in my hands near a billiards table. And, for the record, I actually do enjoy that. The title is simply perfect, and I like the guitar solos in the last 45 seconds.
“Master of Sparks” starts with an almost robotic staccato beat. This might be the most experimental song on the record. And, to think, Radiohead wasn’t even around back then. I’ve grown to enjoy some progressive rock, but this track isn’t my favorite. Although, I do like the Wild-West-esque storytelling lyrics.
“Hot, Blue and Righteous” is an excellent slow song for ZZ Top. It fits into “Tres Hombres” perfectly, nestled between two other more dynamic tracks. This song mentally helped me identify the album’s era, but in a positive way.
“Move Me on Down the Line” almost sounds too classic rock for ZZ Top’s naturally bluesy sound, in my opinion. But, the guitar solo starting at the one-minute mark totally redeems it. It’s not a long song.
“Precious and Grace” immediately brings the album back into the band’s wheelhouse with a really edgy bass guitar sound. Gibbons’ vocals are like the gristle in meat — tough and resilient.
Alas, my favorite, “La Grange.” It was the first ZZ Top song I ever heard, and probably the band’s most popular.
Rumour spreadin’ ‘round
In that Texas town
About that shack outside La Grange
— “La Grange”
The song refers to an actual brothel near La Grange, Texas.
The best way I can describe it is as the pinnacle of what you expect and crave in a blues song. “La Grange” is 45 years young.
This has to be one of the only green album covers in my collection. It’s easily identifiable for that reason alone.
Then it also has the recognizable typography and three photos to go along with its title meaning “three men.” The band formed in Houston and, indeed, consists of three men.