ZZ Top (Warner Bros. 26846)
When ZZ Top began adding synths and sequencers to their albums, the group managed to rewire completely the traditional power trio approach. What this meant in terms of chart success for the band ought to be evident by the number of immediately recognizable singles backed into its newest album, the deservedly titled "Greatest Hits." But what it means in terms of the music doesn't become obvious until the fourth or fifth time through the album, when the listener suddenly realizes that no amount of familiarity can diminish the bluesy vigor of these singles. Nor are the two new tracks any exception. Indeed, Dusty Hill's rendition of "Viva Las Vegas" is classic ZZ Top -- audacious, affectionate and steady-rockin'. Proof once again that this band has soul, and knows how to use it.
SOLO PARA TI
Ottmar Liebert + Luna Negra (Epic 47848)
Most guitar virtuosi make their point through fancy picking and fretboard flash, but not Ottmar Liebert. Even though his third album, "Solo Para Ti," offers plenty of reason to believe that he could show off if he wanted to, Liebert prefers to keep his playing focused and functional, so that the emphasis remains on the music, not the players. Given the strength of his band, that's understandable, for the other members of Luna Negra -- drummer Dave Bryant and bassist/keyboardist Jon Gagan -- not only maintain a similar sense of compositional discipline, but feed off one another so well that there's little need for show-off solos. But even the guest artists (including guitar god Carlos Santana) play along, and that, ultimately, is what makes lively, Latin-style numbers like "Merengue de Alegrias" or "Samba Pa Ti" so memorable.