With a signature sound like no other, ZZ Top is the very definition of blues rock and roll. They are a no-frills trio that are, in my opinion, only topped by AC/DC. Although, let’s be honest, as cool as Angus' schoolboy uniform is, those signature beards remain unchallenged.
Eliminator is eighth studio album by ZZ Top and is arguably as polished as the band has ever been. While I love their entire catalogue, Eliminator plays like a greatest hits compilation and there isn't a B-side to be found. Seriously, if you don't have a copy of Eliminator in your collection, you're missing out on one of the greatest rock and roll albums in recorded music history.
Of course, it wasn't only the music that made this band a household name. The now iconic music videos certainly played a part. Yes, they're corny and cliche, especially with their fluffy guitars, but it encapsulates the 80s and the MTV era.
If the beards didn’t catch your attention, then Eliminator would. Yes, Eliminator not only characteristically graced the album cover but would also appear in their music videos during this era. I don’t know about you, but Eliminator is simply stunning.
The vinyl artwork is truly amazing and simply looks fantastic on display or in the hand. However, I have always been perplexed by the coloured box within the artwork itself. Initially, I had thought it was an indicator guide for other formats that was simply left in the final artwork, but that isn't the case as the reformatting, of even the cassette version, crops tighter into the artwork. It is an absolute mystery. If you have any thoughts regarding this interesting design decision, I'd love to hear from you.
Overall, the 30th Anniversary vinyl release (circa 2013) is a collector's dream come true. Yes, it is rather barebones, but the print and pressing quality is exquisite. Priced in the budget range at sub $30 ($AUD), the sonic performance of this record trumps many of my more expensive 'audiophile' pressings, thereby proving that one does not need to go broke in the collecting of new vinyl for one's passion. That said, this is the exception rather than the rule and the similarly priced 2016 re-issue is reported to have a serious pressing fault as Legs prematurely ends. Logic would dictate that the same master should have been used, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. If it was, one must then question the obvious lack of quality control. Regardless, the 2013 pressing I have is flawless. Beautifully quiet, although not a major issue for rock music, and sonically pure. I’ve never heard the album sound better. It is honestly a 10 out of 10. I’ve also compared it to the CD-quality TIDAL Hi-Fi edition, from the 2008 remastering session, and I find that by comparison, it lacks the overall warmth and depth of the vinyl counterpart. It is, however, a solid edition should you prefer to stream the album. Unfortunately, I don't know which specific master was used for the 30th Anniversary release as that information is not available. However, a little research and subsequent deduction indicate this release was most likely pressed from a different master as the 2008 Deluxe Edition CD reportedly reduced the dynamic range from a 12 to a 6 out of 20. Yes, I acknowledge the dynamic range differences between the formats, but this difference is simply too large to ignore. Most likely this is why I prefer the vinyl release as every drum and bass beat resonates within your soul as the lead guitar and vocals tantalise your senses. Yes, it really is that good!
The 30th Anniversary vinyl release is printed in a high-gloss that looks incredibly impressive but quickly becomes a fingerprint magnet. Inside, you get a singular printed sleeve with Eliminator on one side while the other side remains black. Yes, it is a basic design but appeals to purists as it remains faithful to the original 1983 release. I like it when record labels don't make changes for the sake of making a change.
Gimme All Your Lovin has such an incredible rhythm. It is the perfect song to start the album with and really sets the tone for the entire record.
Got Me Under Pressure continues the toe-tapping head-bopping rhythm. Sensational!
Sharp Dressed Man is a song that defies explanation. Just turn the volume knob to 11.
I Need You Tonight slows the rhythm, but increases the blues. It's absolutely gorgeous and that guitar is, as with most ZZ Top recordings, pushing the distortion right to the limit while remaining hauntingly clear.
I Got The Six is a perfect rock and roll song. It's nothing to write home about, but it is the meat and potatoes of the album.
Legs is iconic! Interesting fact: every time I hear the first few chords, I'm reminded of the Mythbusters television series theme song. I’m honestly surprised there wasn't a lawsuit around this unless they obtained permission of course. Either way, after watching an episode it makes me want to listen to Eliminator.
Thug is a solid tune but it isn't one of my favourites. That said, I do appreciate the bass emphasis on this track.
TV Dinners is one of my all-time favourite ZZ Top songs. Seriously, to take something as mundane as a TV dinner and turn it into an incredibly rhythmic blues rock and roll tune, that takes exceptional skill. It is soloing heaven and features some of the best musicality heard on the album. I also adore those mid-song pauses as they're executed perfectly.
Dirty Dog is a great tune with a tone that is borrowed from Legs. While plagiarism is bad in and of itself, self-plagiarism in music ensures an identifiable sound.
If I Could Only Flag Her Down brings us back to blues rock and roll. While it’s enjoyable, I feel the vocal tracking is particularly lacking and lost in the mix, especially in comparison to the rest of the album. It sounds like Lemmy Kilmister sang instead of Gibbons. Hey, I love Motorhead too, but this is a ZZ Top album.
Bad Girl, as the final track, is compelling enough for me to play the entire album again. The rhythm is addictive, as is the rawness of the pseudo-live performance. However, the final spoken words, at the end of the track, seem pointless. I really don't like it when artists do that. I know it’s artistic expression, but you'd think I was a little weird if I closed every review with a random word or two.
Regardless, Eliminator is not only one of the best albums ever recorded by ZZ Top, it is one of the greatest rock and roll albums of all-time.