Chrome, Smoke & BBQ: The ZZ Top Box

Chrome, Smoke & BBQ: The ZZ Top Box

by ZZ Top
The self-proclaimed "lil ol' band from Texas" require a big ol' box to accommodate the Lone Star–sized sprawl of their three decades in the spotlight. Fans, of course, wouldn't want anything less from ZZ Top, who deliver all the expected smashes on this four-CD set -- kicked up a notch by just the right peppering of oddities and left-field choices. The trio's


The self-proclaimed "lil ol' band from Texas" require a big ol' box to accommodate the Lone Star–sized sprawl of their three decades in the spotlight. Fans, of course, wouldn't want anything less from ZZ Top, who deliver all the expected smashes on this four-CD set -- kicked up a notch by just the right peppering of oddities and left-field choices. The trio's best-known material is all here, restored to its original boogie-down glory (shorn, that is, of the ill-advised drum "improvements" that marked previous reissues). Disc 1 of the chronologically arranged set kicks off with a passel of tracks from the Moving Sidewalks -- Billy Gibbons's pre-Top psych-punk outfit -- that show the beginnings of the Texas trio's tequila-soaked party spirit. That's confirmed in the ultra-early Top recordings "Miller's Farm" and "Salt Lick," both concise, lusty swatches of greasy guitar choogle. As the set chronicles the band's evolution from ambassadors of pure Texas boogie (characterized by "La Grange" and "Tush") to the tongue-in-cheek techno-cowboys they'd come to portray on, say, "Legs," it also takes plenty of side trips sure to interest fans. Admittedly, some -- like a dance remix of "Viva Las Vegas" and a Spanish-language "Francene" -- are probably included for mere novelty. Others, however -- a cover of the 13th Floor Elevators' "Reverberation (Doubt)" and a strutting live version of "Cheap Sunglasses" -- give further insight into what's kept the Top vital for nigh onto 35 years. The set is outfitted with a number of extras, including a well-annotated liner note booklet and -- best of all -- a nifty flipbook that, when used properly, provides a re-creation of the band's trademark stage choreography. [The limited-edition version is housed in a compact box styled like a Texas back-roads barbeque shack.]

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Prior to 2003's Chrome, Smoke & BBQ, ZZ Top's catalog was crying out for a comprehensive retrospective. Not that the band hadn't been anthologized before: they had two hits collections, with notably different track listings, and in 1987's Six Pack, they even had a makeshift box set, but all three of these were hampered by limited focus and haphazard execution. Chrome, Smoke & BBQ addresses both of these concerns by focusing on the trio's 20 years at Warner -- from 1970's ZZ Top's First Album to 1990's Recycler -- picking the best 70 or so songs from these ten albums and spreading them over the course of a lavish four-disc, 80-track box set. This is the first logical approach to ZZ Top's career yet, and while it isn't a perfect collection, it comes tantalizingly close to that ideal. The primary problem is that by the time the fourth disc rolls around, the collection has lost considerable momentum -- and that's without even touching any material from the forgettable albums the band waxed for RCA in the '90s. With its robotic beats and flattened production, Recycler pointed the way toward those RCA records, yet it did have some excellent songs -- "Give It Up," "My Head's in Mississippi," and "Doubleback" -- that harked back to the group's strengths, something that would have been more apparent if these songs appeared at the end of disc three, after the Afterburner material. Instead, they're stranded on the fourth disc, along with four other songs from Recycler, for a grand total of seven of ten songs from that album, to which are added six "Medium Rare" tracks -- the obligatory obscurities that are included on each box set, this time being a pretty cool Spanish version of "Francene," an OK live take on "Cheap Sunglasses" from a 1980 promo single, and four 12" remixes, none of which are very good. This disc is required listening only for diehards. Fortunately, the other three discs are damn near perfect, containing six to seven songs from each of their albums except their debut (nearly all of those records had a mere ten tracks, making this a very generous sampling) along with three tracks from guitarist/vocalist Billy Gibbons' first band, the Moving Sidewalks, and a single, "Miller's Farm"/"Salt Lick," from the "embryonic" ZZ Top, before bassist Dusty Hill or drummer Frank Beard joined forces with Gibbons. All the hits and classic rock radio staples are here, of course, along with a wealth of album tracks that illustrate that even if the band didn't have much range -- whether the production was raw and greasy as it was on "La Grange" or clean and sleek, like the Police playing the Rolling Stones, as on "Pearl Necklace," they rarely strayed from either fast blues boogie or slow blues -- they did have strong songwriting chops, witnessed by such buried treasures as the raucous "Brown Sugar" and "Just Got Paid," the monster groove of "I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide," the sweet "Leila," the crawling "Blue Jean Blues," and the unspeakable sleaze of the oozing "Mexican Blackbird" and smirking "I Got the Six." All this and more (including a radio commercial for Deguello) spread out over three addictive discs that truly do condense ZZ Top's records to their very best. It would be nice to have the good Recycler songs sandwiched onto the third disc and top the set off at three discs -- it would have been a nice symmetry, with one disc for each band member -- but it's easy enough to ignore the last disc and revel in how good the rest of the set is. Basically, Chrome, Smoke & BBQ is all the ZZ Top you'd ever need. [Chrome, Smoke & BBQ was released in two editions, both containing a terrific book, filled with great photos -- including early shots of Gibbons in the Moving Sidewalks, without the beard -- testimonials by the likes of Billy Bob Thornton, Dwight Yoakam, Ann Richards, and of all people, David Lynch (who immortally proclaims "ZZ Top = the fast track to cool"), an excellent history by Tom Vickers, and track-by-track notes by Gibbons, Hill, and Beard, as told to Bob Merlis. The limited edition is quite fancy in its own right, encased in a mock roadhouse shack and containing a booklet shaped as a menu, a sheet of ZZ Top paper dolls (no perforations, however; this is for display purposes only), and a flipbook that finds the trio doing their signature twirling guitars and hand gestures. It's a little elaborate, but it's fun, particularly because the four discs are in jewel cases and can be transported while this sits on the set, next to the other impractical, oversized box sets, such as that Charley Patton box designed as a fake album of 78s, in your collection.]

Product Details

Release Date:


Disc 1

  1. You Make Me Shake
  2. Joe Blues
  3. Crimson Witch
  4. Miller's Farm
  5. Salt Lick
  6. Brown Sugar
  7. Goin' Down to Mexico
  8. Just Got Back from Baby's
  9. Francine
  10. Just Got Paid
  11. Ko Ko Blue
  12. Chevrolet
  13. Bar-B-Q
  14. Sure Got Cold After the Rain Fell
  15. Whiskey'n Mama
  16. La Grange
  17. Waitin' for the Bus
  18. Jesus Just Left Chicago
  19. Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers
  20. Master of Sparks

Disc 2

  1. Precious and Grace
  2. Shiek
  3. Thunderbird
  4. Jailhouse Rock
  5. Nasty Dogs and Funky Kings
  6. Heard It on the X
  7. Blue Jean Blues
  8. Mexican Blackbird
  9. Tush
  10. It's Only Love
  11. Arrested for Driving While Blind
  12. El Diablo
  13. Enjoy and Get It On
  14. She's a Heartbreaker
  15. Asleep in the Desert
  16. I Thank You
  17. Cheap Sunglasses
  18. I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide
  19. A Fool for Your Stockings
  20. Degüello Album Radio Spot
  21. Manic Mechanic
  22. She Loves My Automobile
  23. Leila
  24. Tube Snake Boogie

Disc 3

  1. I Wanna Drive You Home
  2. It's So Hard
  3. Pearl Necklace
  4. Heaven, Hell or Houston
  5. Gimme All Your Lovin
  6. Got Me Under Pressure
  7. TV Dinners
  8. Sharp Dressed Man
  9. Legs
  10. I Got the Six
  11. Dirty Dog
  12. If I Could Only Flag Her Down
  13. Sleeping Bag
  14. Stages
  15. Woke Up With Wood
  16. Rough Boy
  17. Can't Stop Rockin'
  18. Planet of Women
  19. Velcro Fly
  20. Delirious

Disc 4

  1. Concrete and Steel
  2. Lovething
  3. Penthouse Eyes
  4. My Head's in Mississippi
  5. Give It Up
  6. Doubleback
  7. 2000 Blues
  8. Reverberation (Doubt)
  9. Viva Las Vegas
  10. Gun Love
  11. Francine
  12. Cheap Sunglasses
  13. Legs
  14. Viva Las Vegas
  15. Give It Up
  16. Velcro Fly

Album Credits

Performance Credits

ZZ Top   Primary Artist
Frank Beard   Percussion,Drums,Alto Saxophone,Vocals,Interviewee,Group Member
Billy Gibbons   Fiddle,Guitar,Harmonica,Keyboards,Baritone Saxophone,Vocals,Interviewee,Group Member
Dusty Hill   Bass,Keyboards,Tenor Saxophone,Vocals,Interviewee,Group Member
Dan Mitchell   Drums
Don Summers   Bass
Lanier Greg   Bass
Tom Moore   Organ

Technical Credits

Dwight Yoakam   Quotes Researched & Compiled
Roky Erickson   Composer
Mort Shuman   Composer
Kid Rock   Quotes Researched & Compiled
Jerry Leiber   Composer
Terry Manning   Engineer
Moving Sidewalks   Contributor
Steve Ames   Producer
James Austin   Liner Notes
Frank Beard   Composer
Bert Frilot   Engineer
Billy Gibbons   Composer
Isaac Hayes   Composer
Bill Ham   Composer,Producer,Executive Producer
Joe Hardy   Engineer
Jimi Hendrix   Contributor
Dusty Hill   Composer
Doyle E. Jones   Engineer
Bob Ludwig   Engineer
Larry Nix   Engineer
Doc Pomus   Composer
David Porter   Composer
Mike Stoller   Composer
Don Summers   Composer
Stacy Sutherland   Composer
Tommy Hall   Composer
Robin Brian   Engineer
Tom Vickers   Liner Notes
Marty Cordray   Composer
David Lynch   Quotes Researched & Compiled
Bob Merlis   Interviewer
Billy Bob Thornton   Quotes Researched & Compiled
Farah Fawcett   Quotes Researched & Compiled
Terry Kane   Engineer
Ann Richards   Quotes Researched & Compiled
Tom Moore   Composer
Jim Reeves   Engineer
William Hill   Composer
Joe M. Hill   Composer

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