Release Date: Nov 6, 2015
Record label: Concord
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Blues-Rock, Album Rock, Hard Rock, Southern Rock, Boogie Rock
Billy Gibbons and the BFG’sPerfectamundo(Concord)Rating: 4 out of 5 stars The longtime frontman for that “little ol’ band from Texas” transforms into a Latin lover? Well, not quite, but ZZ Top guitarist/vocalist Billy Gibbons adds just enough percussion, soul-jazz, cha-cha and Afro-Cuban mojo to his gnarly blues rock to concoct something vibrant and exciting on his first ever solo outing. Unbeknownst to most, Gibbons studied percussion early in his career under legendary master mambo king Tito Puente (a friend of his band leader father), which shows the music on this recording is a closure of sorts. Still, it’s the confluence of genres that makes this more than just ZZ Top with timbales.
ZZ Top mainman’s first solo album, heavy on ???the Afro-Cuban flavours. There’s a famous story that Billy Gibbons tells about Jimi Hendrix, from the days before ZZ Top were formed. In the late 60s, when Gibbons was still a teenager, his psychedelic rock group The Moving Sidewalks opened for Hendrix on a US tour, and Jimi was so impressed by the young guitarist that he taught him how to play his song Foxy Lady, bending the strings just so.
As good as it was, La Futura felt somewhat constrained by the concept of ZZ Top's classicism, whereas this record thrives on freedom, including the freedom to be ridiculous. The very fact that Perfectamundo gets silly makes it appealing: Gibbons enjoys playing with this Cuban-blues hybrid so much, he lets down his guard, allowing himself to spin out some slick, greasy solos, ride out some infectious vamps, and act like the cheerful dirty old man he is. .
On his first-ever solo outing, ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons marries his band's bedrock Texas-blues boogie with more recent obsessions, most prominently Afro-Cuban rhythms. It's the sound of a Havana moon shining down on Rio Grande mud. The 65-year-old guitarist's musical anthropology is loving and loose, with nods to hip-hop and funk (the "Legs" callback "You're What's Happenin' Baby"), Stones-y rock & roll (on "Piedras Negras") and Sixties soul (a tight slide through Roy Head's 1965 hit "Treat Her Right").
The world may not have realised it was waiting for a Latin-Cuban hip-hop album from the guitarist in ZZ Top, but Perfectamundo is just that: a mix of distinctive, Top-ish rock licks and seemingly unlikely rhythms. In fact, long before ZZ Top, Gibbons was a student of Latin music giant Tito Puente, and the influence audibly runs deep. Gibbons takes bluesy standards Got Love If You Want It and Treat Her Right on a South American tour, while his originals deliver a ridiculously catchy Tex-Mex feast in Piedras Negras, turning the timbales and congas up even louder.
Billy Gibbons is, of course, first and foremost famed for his 40-plus-year tenure as frontman of seminal blues rockers ZZ Top, a close second perhaps for his luxuriant, flame-colored beard, and probably a distant third as compadre-cum-accomplice of resurrected Texas psych-god Roky Erickson. What he is unlikely to be remembered for is his first official solo album, Perfectamundo. The album is not actually “solo”, as Gibbons co-bills his backing band the BFG’s (the mind beggars to imagine what that could possibly stand for), but the BFG’s seem no better equipped to tackle this album’s Latin rhythms than Gibbons himself (Gibbons himself studied under famed jazz luminary Tito Puente in his pre-stardom youth).
Billy Gibbons' new album "Perfectamundo." Thanks to a series of tongue-in-cheek MTV videos in the '80s, Billy Gibbons and his bandmates in ZZ Top rarely get mistaken for serious musicologists. But Gibbons' appreciation of blues, garage rock, psychedelia, surrealist art and now, as it turns out, Latin music, runs pretty deep. Through his bandleader father, young Billy got to hang out and study Latin percussion with Tito Puente in the '60s.