Thursday, May 28, 2009

Rancho Texicano Review


Rancho Texicano (2004) Review

Many people may be thinking “Ugh, another ZZ Top compilation?”, but this one is the best yet.  Spanning from 1971-1992, “Rancho Texicano” covers the band’s blues and MTV years.  However, the biggest reason to buy this album is for the mixes…

In the late 80s, ZZ Top’s back catalogue was released onto CD.  In an attempt to ‘modernize’ the albums, many changes were made.  Drum parts were replaced completely by reverb drenched drum machines, guitar parts were re-recorded, and vocals were changed.  This makes the albums sound dated and loses much of the original mood.  “Rancho Texicano” restores the original mixes, making this purchase well worth the money.

Disc 1:

“ZZ Top’s First Album”: Brown Sugar, Goin’ Down To Mexico, Just Got Back From Baby’s

A good selection of songs from the band’s first album.  However, it is slightly disappointing that Backdoor Love Affair is not included.

“Rio Grande Mud”: Francene, Just Got Paid, Bar-B-Q

I can’t complain about the song selection here.  All three are among ZZ Top’s best.

“Tres Hombres”: La Grange, Waitin’ For The Bus, Jesus Just Left Chicago, Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers

All four of these songs are perfect choices.  From the great guitar of La Grange to the swagger of Jesus Just Left Chicago, “Tres Hombres” is covered perfectly.

“Fandango!”: Mexican Blackbird, Tush, Thunderbird, Blue Jean Blues, Heard It On The X

Tush and Heard It On The X are two ZZ Top’s best songs, while Blue Jean Blues might just be their most bluesy and heartfelt song.  The other two tracks are good, but I do feel they could have been left out. 

“Tejas”: It’s Only Love, Arrested For Driving While Blind

This is one of my favourite albums, yet it seems to go unnoticed and unappreciated.  The two selections are clearly the best songs, but I would have liked to see a little more coverage.

“Deguello”: I Thank You, Cheap Sunglasses, I’m Bad I’m Nationwide, A Fool For Your Stockings

The last of the blues albums is covered well.  Cheap Sunglasses and I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide are two of my favourite songs, and the other tracks are great too.

Disc 2:

“El Loco”: Tube Snake Boogie, Pearl Necklace

“El Loco” really was a pivotal point in ZZ Top’s history.  They embraced new technology, but weren’t quite in the “Eliminator” phase yet.  The two best cuts are here, but I really would’ve liked to have seen Party On The Patio.

“Eliminator”: Gimme All Your Lovin’, Sharp Dressed Man, Legs, Got Me Under Pressure

All three MTV hits are here along with the severely underrated Got Me Under Pressure.  I do wonder why TV Dinners was not included.

“Afterburner”: Sleeping Bag, Stages, Rough Boy, Velcro Fly, Woke Up With Wood

This album took the synthesizers and drum machines to a whole new level, basing the songs around them rather than using them to compliment the tracks.  This and “El Loco” are arguably the band’s weakest efforts, so I wonder why this album gets so much attention?

“Recycler”: Doubleback, My Head’s In Mississippi

ZZ Top’s return to blues-rock does not get the coverage it deserves.  Doubleback is a great all-around rock song, and My Head’s In Mississippi is one of the band’s best tracks, but where are the other songs?  Give It Up, 2000 Blues, and Burger Man are all great songs that could have been included.

Misc. Songs: Viva Las Vegas, Cheap Sunglasses (Live), Legs (Dance Mix), Velcro Fly (12” Remix)

All useless songs.  The cover of Viva Las Vegas and the live performance of Cheap Sunglasses aren’t bad, but completely unnecessary.  The two remixes are just plain stupid.  Why were this included?

High Points

  • Every song is good (at the very least)
  • Original mixes restored
  • The best retrospective of the band available

Low Points

  • Song selection is questionable at points


Overall, this is a great compilation that showcases some great songs from the little ol’ band from Texas.  My only problem is some of the song choices.  Personally, I would have removed Mexican Blackbird, Thunderbird, Velcro Fly, Woke Up With Wood, and the four non-album tracks.  This opens up about 38 minutes of space.  In that space I would add Backdoor Love Affair, Snappy Kakkie, Pan Am Highway Blues, Party On The Patio, TV Dinners, Give It Up, 2000 Blues, and Burger Man. This leaves about 15 minutes for new material.  As for newer material, I would add Pincushion, Rhythmeen, Poke Chop Sandwich, and Two Ways To Play.  This leaves it just a couple of minutes over the original.

Keep in mind I’m just showing you what the perfect compilation for me would be.  I would still recommend this fantastic collection to anyone.