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ZZ Top - 1983 Eliminator

ALBUM: Eliminator
LABEL: Warner Bros
SERIAL: 9 23774-1
YEAR: 1983
CD REISSUE: 2008, Warner Bros, R2 238204 (remastered, bonus DVD, bonus tracks)


LINEUP: Billy Gibbons - vocals, guitar * Dusty Hill - vocals, bass * Frank Beard - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Gimme All Your Lovin' * 02 Got Me Under Pressure * 03 Sharp Dressed Man * 04 I Need You Tonight * 05 I Got The Six * 06 Legs * 07 Thug * 08 TV Dinners * 09 Dirty Dog * 10 If I Could Only Flag Her Down * 11 Bad Girl


So synonomous with Texas culture, ZZ Top embodied the gritty blues based rock the state is known for. When it came time to begin work on what would become 'Eliminator' in late 1982, they were already untouchable legends with a boulevard of gold and platinum on the wall. The previous vinyl 'El Loco' had achieved gold but was a patchy record especially compared with the brilliant 'Deguello'. The decision was taken to incorporate the latest synth and digidrum effects into the new album. This is where Texas hard blues and AOR collided, combining with 'that' red automobile imagery to ramp ZZ Top into commercial orbit.

The Songs
Launching with insistent, almost metronomic backbeat, 'Gimme All Your Lovin' reveals that ZZ Top have embraced melodic AOR without losing their Texan identity. The sequencers add welcome atmosphere to the biting guitar backdrop, that wonderfully simple chorus nailing it shut. Deserved hit. 'Got Me Under Pressure' is busier but not lacking in riffage or bizarre lyrics 'she likes Cocaine and flipping out with great danes' ... Not forgetting that seemingly endless tom tom break, this one relies more on attitude than a big chorus but still a winner. 'Sharp Dressed Man' serves up another slice of catchy Texas AOR, the synth set to a low register works well with the bluesy riff and hypnotic backbeat. A bit like adding some chili to the coffee grinds, the result was another hit single and rightly so. Mysterious then when you consider that ZZ Top and 38 Special succeeded at fusing their traditional Southern sound with 80's AOR, yet Blackfoot and Molly Hatchet crashed despite doing the same really well. 'I Need You Tonight' is a blues ballad on the surface, but there's something more going on here. I find myself returning to this hypnotic serving of Texas AOR voodoo very often indeed. Bluesy and melodic in equal measure, the centrepiece being Gibbons transfixing guitar leads. This will stay with you long after dark. 'I Got The Six' sends the vocal mike to Dusty Hill for a raunchy workout full of buzzing guitar and urgent tempo. His voice could strip paint off the walls but it remains catchy. 'Legs' was the third hit, really thrashing the charts and propelling the album to over 10 million US sales. Insanely catchy, this one has everything going for it: the insistent digital thud supporting an offshore hook and waves of synth, capped off with another memorable AOR chorus. Picture 38 Special ensconced on a Texas ranch and you're in the vicinity. 'Thug' is a bizarre piece of digi-funk that doesn't really work out, unlike 'TV Dinners' which follows the same approach but works better somehow. As the fourth single it provided a minor hit. 'Dirty Dog' repeats the dose of deep register synth/Texas riff combination and ends up satisfying the listener again. ZZ Top unleash an outright boogie in the form of 'If I Could Only Flag Her Down', not quite 'La Grange' for the 80's but thoroughly entertaining anyway. Dusty grabs the mike for album closer 'Bad Girl', stripping off any paint he missed on 'I Got The Six'. Not out of place in this Texas crunch environment though, it closes 'Eliminator' with yet another dose of catchy Texas raunch.

In Summary
'Eliminator' pretty much owned 1983, the AOR upgrade and captivating automotive imagery proving irresistible the world over. Then we get to the videos ... The bizarre alien fantasy video for 'TV Dinners' may have been forgettable but the trilogy before it were inescapable for large tracts of '83 and '84. Casting the iconic red Ford Coupe as a helping hand to various underdogs hit pay dirt, not to mention the band's choreographed hand movements. The tour was a huge success as well, taking in some festivals in addition to the arena/stadium circuit. They would follow this with the equally brilliant 'Afterburner' in '85. Which makes me wonder when 'Afterburner' will be afforded the same dazzling reissue awarded to 'Eliminator'?

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#1 | dangerzone on March 05 2012 06:32:32
Even with the AOR elements thrown in the mix, the best track for me is 'If I Could Only Flag Her Down.' What a piece of boogie!
#2 | sabace on March 06 2012 19:15:39
I loved this when it came out! but the mtv and radio overplay put me off it for years! must go back and give it a blast!
#3 | Nick C on March 13 2012 08:09:34
I'm with Sabace - loved it when it came out but overplay killed it for me, and I still can't stand it to this day. I even sold my other ZZ Top albums I had at the time from Fandango to El Loco. I kind of regret selling them since. But I've never had the desire to buy anything since by the band, nothing I've heard of post Eliminator stuff even appeals I'm afraid.
#4 | gdazegod on March 13 2012 10:10:27
The 70's stuff is all pretty good. We must do 'Deguello' and 'El Loco' at least..
#5 | super80boy on May 18 2014 15:38:26
Got to give old ZZ Top credit for figuring out how to harness the stylish MTV ready blues new wave beats and bringing them to the mass market of AOR listeners. It makes for quite an entertaining album, even if it did have 4 top singles in very heavy rotation.

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