Fandango! (Warner Brothers)
by Brian Varney
Finally restored here to its original mix, Fandango! was the fourth and, until the mega-platinum smash Eliminator, probably the most famous album in ZZ Top‘s discography, thanks to the perennial FM radio and sports arena hit “Tush.” As fine as that song is, though, the eight songs that precede it in the original running order are just as worthy of your attention.
First of all, for those who don’t know, Fandango! is half live and half studio. The live half (side one on the original LP) is the only officially sanctioned live recording from the band’s early years, and though I usually don’t have much interest in live audio recordings, this one’s pretty special. The approximately sixteen-minute set shows the band dipping deep into their blues and R&B roots, especially on the set’s centerpiece “Backdoor Medley,” which includes “Backdoor Love Affair” from the band’s debut as well as Willie Dixon’s “Mellow Down Easy” and John Lee Hooker’s “Boogie Chillen.” The recording itself, though raw and obviously unadorned, shows the band in top form, tight as a duck’s ass, and with a mile-deep pocket.
The second half contains the best studio work the band had done at that point in their career. Everything about these tracks, from the full, rich recording to the band’s majestic playing and, most importantly, the songs themselves screams of a band at the height of its power. And if the cocky strut of “Nasty Dogs and Funky Kings” is any indication, the band knows just how fearsome it is. My favorite tune here is the laid-back funk of “Balinese,” but the propulsive, slide-driven “Heard It on the X” and the laid-bare slow blues of “Blue Jean Blues” are also among my very favorite Top tracks.