ZZ Top, "La Futura" (Universal Republic)
With its distortion-heavy slabs of gritty blues-rock and title en espanol, ZZ Top's first full-length album in nearly a decade could easily fit in the band's catalog somewhere pre-1983, before "Eliminator" boldly embraced synthesizers and made the "little ol' band from Texas" unlikely MTV personalities.
To help evoke their less-polished '70s heyday for "La Futura," the band enlisted superproducer Rick Rubin, who has an unparalleled reputation for reorienting artists (Johnny Cash, Metallica) who have lost their way a bit. ZZ Top's last several albums were unfocused, with the band striking aimlessly between the rough-hewn riffs that broke them beyond the Lone Star State and the high-gloss production that shot them to stardom.
"La Futura" is a back-to-basics set of swaggering rock jams ("Chartreuse," "Big Shiny Nine") and barroom blues shuffles ("Heartache in Blue") delivered as always with plenty of the Texans' trademark humor and double-entendre.
Like all worthy ZZ Top records, it's Billy Gibbons' signature guitar sound that bolsters "La Futura" (rumor has it he uses a peso as a pick) and makes it a welcome return to form.
Check this out: The highlight of the album is the opener: a cover -- more like a complete overhaul -- of "25 Lighters," an underground hit by Houston hip-hop producer DJ DMD. The song is a showcase for Gibbons' sultry growl (no, he doesn't rap) and features a bodacious guitar tone that crackles from the speakers. Renamed "I Gotsta Get Paid," it could be a recession-era sequel to the band's 1972 single, "Just Got Paid."