ZZ Top's new album richly deserves the title 'Greatest Hits'

April 17, 1992|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

GREATEST HITS

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.

OFF THE DEEP END

"Weird Al" Yankovic (Scotti Bros. 72392 75256)

Part of the problem with musical humor is that a good song demands to be played and played again, while most jokes only work if there's an element of surprise involved. Yet somehow, "Weird Al" Yankovic manages to pack enough insight into his best musical parodies to make them sturdy enough to bear hearing more than once. That's certainly the case with "Smells Like Nirvana," the "Smells Like Teen Spirit" parody that opens Yankovic's new album, "Off the Deep End." ("We're so loud and incoherent/ Boy this oughta bug your parents," goes one couplet). And though the rest of the album rarely hits as hard -- for instance, a version of the New Kids' hit "The Right Stuff" rewritten as a tribute to Oreo filler -- it's usually worth a chuckle or two.

OOOOOOOHHH . . . ON THE TLC TIP

TLC (LaFace 73008 26003)

Like Kris Kross, TLC is a young and ambitious rap outfit, combining deft wordplay with engaging, radio-ready hooks. But where the guys in Kris Kross never let their crossover ambitions keep them from sounding credibly hard core, the sound of "Ooooooohhh . . . On the TLC Tip" is too slick and considered to seem like anything but street-savvy bubble gum. That's not to say the album doesn't have its moments; "Shock Dat Monkey" builds off of a nicely insistent groove, while "His Story" manages a nice blend between dance-floor aggression and love-ballad tenderness. But despite the trio's obvious ability, there's too little individuality to these tracks to keep any listener on the TLC tip for long.

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