The couple of previous albums had been an effective run-up, but Tres Hombres is where the career of ZZ Top really took flight. This is the album that saw them morph from solid but unspectacular Southern-friend boogie rockers, to one of the finest rock bands on the planet. Of course, “La Grange” remains a staple of classic rock radio, but this album is about a lot more than that one breakthrough hit. “Waiting for the Bus” segueing into “Jesus Left Chicago” is one of the classic intertwining of songs and is a highlight of this album, which in turn has also ensured that they’re almost always twinned on stage as well.
Despite the lean and never-changing power-trio, Tres Hombres is a big greasy, high calorie, rock album and sounds like the work of a bigger line up. This is backed up by the big greasy gatefold sleeve – you knew a 70s rock band had made it when their sleeves were gatefold. The licks are chunky, the rhythm section is anything but lightweight and the whole album still weighs in at a flab-free thirty five minutes. Even now thirty five to forty minutes is the optimum run time for a studio album – if it runs to over forty five minutes, chances are there’s something you can edit out.
Tres Hombres made ZZ Top one of the biggest bands in America, though it would take them the best part of a decade for them to make a lasting impact in Europe, and by then it was also synth-rock, glossy videos featuring scantily clad ladies and hot-rods and beards the size of doormats. Tres Hombres is a very different beast to the one that ran rampage over MTV through the 80s. It’s an organic, blood-pumping beast and all the better for it. That the original mixes weren’t available on CD until a much needed reissue in 2006 is a travesty and that they were smothered in synthetic rhythms were so long is unforgivable. Thankfully ZZ Top have seen the error of their ways in recent years, and are making a concerted effort to highlight how good their mid to late 70s albums were. Tres Hombres is the crown jewel among these and deserves its place on the shelf of any classic rock fan.