Sound — 6
Billy Gibbons has championed the blues rock attitude behind ZZ Top for more than four decades since that lil' ol' band from Texas released their 1971 debut "ZZ Top's First Album," and since then has rarely stepped away from the group, if only to offer more than a handful of guest appearances in recent years on a variety albums from Sammy Hagar, Nickelback, Kid Rock and Queens Of the Stone Age. These performances indicated to some dedicated listeners that Gibbons was readying a solo album, and considering ZZ Top last released new material in 2012 with "La Futura" the time was right for the guitarist to do so. That's what is found throughout the first record from Billy Gibbons And The BFG's, "Perfectamundo" - a renowned rock musician celebrated for the largely consistent sound of his full-time band exploring new influences and interests as a standalone artist.
Solo albums may not always be such a full-fledged departure into previously unventured territory, however Billy Gibbons seized control of the opportunity to break new ground with this release. The only common tie between "Perfectamundo" and the body of work with ZZ Top is Gibbons' whisky-soaked vocals and soulful guitar playing, both of which are heavily layered with modern effects. This makes for a somewhat bizarre release on it's own for familiar listeners, yet not even being considered a standalone title does it make the end result allthemore palatable. "Perfectamundo" frequently alternates it's pace between smoky blues rock to Cuban pop rhythms and vintage soul music, often with each song taking an entirely different vibe both musically and production-wise. The opening track "Got Love If You Want It" should attract the interest of music fans who have previously encountered the work of ZZ Top, yet it's also where the association ends and the experimental performance begins.
"Treat Her Right" is a piano led bluesy number that's heavy on grounding bass lines, sporadic bursts of brass arrangements and intricate guitar pickings. The point of focus here is Gibbons' singing, which is always a welcome element to include in the mix. "You're What's Happenin', Baby" is a more unique unification of Latin pop and hard rock, as steel drums echo beneath roaring guitar bends and the autotuning of Gibbons' voice. This vocal effect is added almost entirely for that purpose alone, effect, as the 65 year old frontman doesn't require any aid himself in that department. "Say Y Pimiento" moves further into Latin territory through autotuned vocal harmonies and Santana-esque synthesizer and guitar layers. The rock bedrock of Gibbons tends to break through every now and again, such as the uptempo "Pickin' Up Chicks on Dowling Street" and the rewarding cover of the blues staple "Baby Please Don't Go." However, those moments are continuously overshadowed by the influence of Latin pop, leaving a very diverse spread of material for the adventurous listener.
Lyrics — 6
Billy Gibbons has been growling and coughing out the lyrics to hard rock anthems for more than forty years, and even at 65 years of age sounds almost unchanged by the hindrances of time which have altered many a veteran vocalist. The only time his singing might have the listener cringing throughout "Perfectamundo" is through the combative use of studio production effects, such as the previously noted "Say Y Pimiento" or "Hombre Sin Nombre," which are frankly not well suited for Gibbons' characteristic approach to the microphone. That being said, the end result found here on the singer's solo debut doesn't fall together seamlessly, and the familiar sound of Gibbons is often times the only thing keeping the entire body of work from falling flat into a vat of tabasco.
Overall Impression — 6
If you walked into the debut album from Billy Gibbons And The BFG's expecting another grooving hard rock record ala ZZ Top, you should turn back now. "Perfectamundo" is a far more diverse assortment of songs compared to anything released by the Top in their extensive history, and shows Gibbons exploring the culture and variety of Latin pop through his own interpretations. It's not always memorable and it's not always exceptional, however "Perfectamundo" is still a unique and rewarding listen from one of the defining voices in rock.