ZZ Top says new Rick Rubin-produced album may be long awaited, but it won't be too long

Expect ZZ Top’s forthcoming new Rick Rubin-helmed recording to have a lean, old-school feel — similar, in a way, Mescalero, but with fewer tracks, according to Billy Gibbons.

That 2003 return-to-form release, ZZ Top’s most recent studio project, was stuffed with 16 tracks, while the band is thinking this as-yet-untitled new offering will be more like 10. In other words, the album may be long awaited, but it won’t be too long.

Gibbons and ZZ Top bassist Dusty Hill are set to induct the late guitarist Freddie King into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 14 in Cleveland. They’ll then be launching the Gang of Outlaws tour, with scheduled summer appearances alongside 3 Doors Down and Gretchen Wilson, beginning on May 25.

No word yet on whether the Rubin project will appear before then, though some new music is expected to find its way onto the set list. Complete announced tour information is below.

As for the length of Mescalero, Gibbons now says: “In today’s game that’s a bit overwhelming. You’re in this netherworld of trying to guess what the next move is in the record business, but I think by and large a 10-song offering is par for the course,” according to Billboard.com. “Any more than that is a little overwhelming, any less than that somebody says, ‘Where’s my 10th song?’ So it’s probably going to be a game of pick and choose.”

Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on ZZ Top. Click through the titles for complete reviews …

ZZ TOP – LIVE IN GERMANY (2011): When ZZ Top, tearing through “Waiting for the Bus,” howls “have mercy!” in tandem, I’m right there with them. It’s been easy to forget what this band sounded like before pasting a sheen of MTV-approved synthesizers over their nasty little amalgam of blues, rock and long-haired Texas-bred don’t-give-a-damn. Not anymore: Recorded in 1980, when ZZ Top was arguably at the peak of its powers, Live in Germany finds ZZ Top digging waist deep into a groove. Then neck deep. Then all the way down — and they get there just one song later, on “Jesus Just Left Chicago,” which sounds like Blind Lemon Jefferson hooked up to a blown transformer. It’s hard, at times, to believe all of this sound, all of this fearless music making, is coming from just three guys. I would’ve lost a lot of money to any one who bet me that furry guitars and “TV Dinners” were just over the horizon.

ZZ TOP – MESCALERO (2003): “Tush” is one of those tunes that always made us reach for the volume knob. It just couldn’t be turned up too loud. The distorted blues/rock guitar, the not quite over-the-top vocals and the blistering lead guitar. Then, shortly after the dawn of MTV, somethin’ funny happened. ZZ Top just exploded. That little ‘ole band from Texas put out Eliminator, made a few videos and went on to be considered one of MTV’s pioneering artists. I basically lost track of the bearded ones, sadly figuring that they were done. As much as I try to ride it out with my old favorites, this time it seemed like that well had run dry. But then, in 2003, I saw a review for a new ZZ Top album. Steeling myself for the usual “they’re all washed up” screed, I popped open the review link to discover that, hey, Mikey liked it! So, I bought myself ZZ Top’s Mescalero. Now this is the real thing. Huge, distorted rhythm guitar, grizzled bluesy vocals, in-the-pocket drumming and snarling guitar leads.

FORGOTTEN SERIES: MOVING SIDEWALKS FEATURING ZZ TOP’S BILLY GIBBONS – FLASH (1969): Best remembered as the band that featured guitarist Billy Gibbons, who eventually reaped universal fame with ZZ Top, the Moving Sidewalks were actually a very popular local act hailing from Houston, Texas. A hot live attraction, they produced a few singles and a full-length album during their stint. Originally released on the Tantara label in 1969, Flash (reissued by Akarma Records in 2000) provides ample servings of heavy psychedelic-blues rock cuisine. The Moving Sidewalks were especially enamored with Jimi Hendrix, and such a fixation religiously invades their material. Soulful vocals, dazzling riffs, bursts of distorted feedback and patches of cosmic impressions shamelessly ape the lauded performer. The admiration was mutual, however, as Jimi publicly praised Billy, calling him his favorite new guitar player, after catching a Moving Sidewalks show.

ONE TRACK MIND: ZZ TOP, “I THANK YOU” (1979): The bearded “little ol’ band out of Texas” had taken a three-year breather following 1976’s Tejas after producing hit after hit of some of the most memorable, tightest blues-rock of the 1970s. They still serve as some of the best examples of the style to this day: “Tush,” “Jesus Just Left Chicago” and “La Grange” only got us hungry for more. So when the trio finally followed up in 1979, it was pretty highly anticipated release, and Degüello was no letdown. At the time, the album sounded a bit like The Top had updated their sound with a New Wave flourish or two, but looking back, it sounds much, much closer to Rio Grande Mud than Eliminator. At this point in time they were still very much a no-nonsense blues-based band, even covering a Robert Johnson tune (“Dust My Broom”), and organic R&B found some space on this record, too. One such R&B styled number was the album’s first track, a cover of Isaac Hayes’ “I Thank You.”

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Here’s a look at the Gang of Outlaws announced tour dates:
May 25 – Manchester, NH – Verizon Arena*
26 – Atlantic City, NJ – Trump Taj Mahal/Etess Arena*
27- Mashantucket, CT – MGM Grand Theater at Foxwoods*
30 – Scranton, PA – Toyota Pavilion**
June 1 – Winston Salem, NC – Joel Coliseum*
2 – Fayetteville, NC – Fort Bragg*
3 – Fredericksburg, VA – Celebrate Virginia Live!*
5 – Richmond, VA – Innsbrook Pavilion*
6 – Simpsonville, SC – Charter Amphitheatre at Heritage Park*
8 – St. Augustine, FL – St. Augustine Amphitheatre*
9 – Atmore, AL – Wind Creek Hotel & Casino Amphitheater**
10 – Alpharetta, GA – Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre*
12 – Hollywood, FL – Hard Rock Live at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel**
15 – Estero, FL – Germain Arena*
16 – Orlando, FL – Universal Orlando Resort Music Plaza Stage**
17 – Clearwater, FL – Tropicana Field*
19 – Southaven, MS – Snowden Grove Park & Amphitheater*
20 – Nashville, TN- Bridgestone Arena*
22 – Baton Rouge, LA – Baton Rouge River Center*
23 – Houston, TX – Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion*
24 – Dallas, TX – Gexa Energy Pavilion*
26 – Des Moines, IA – Wells Fargo Arena*
27 – Clarkston, MI – DTE Energy Music Theatre*
29 – Hinckley, MN – Grand Casino Amphitheatre*

*ZZ Top, 3 Doors Down, Gretchen Wilson
**ZZ Top, 3 Doors Down

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