Review: Billy Gibbons' Cuban buzz shapes 'Perfectamundo'

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Posted: Nov 06, 2015 1:26 PM
Review: Billy Gibbons' Cuban buzz shapes 'Perfectamundo'

Billy Gibbons & The BFG's, "Perfectamundo" (Concord Records)

Billy Gibbons' first solo album after more than 45 years and counting with ZZ Top is a detour to Cuban and Latin rhythms where his recognizable array of hot and nasty guitar tones leaves room for plenty of Hammond B-3 organ and dance-inducing timbales, congas and bongos.

Gibbons, who studied Latin percussion as a youngster with Tito "King of the Mambo" Puente, reconnected with his mentor's signature sounds after an invitation to the 2014 Havana Jazz Festival. Though he missed the event, it inspired Gibbons to explore the palette of Afro-Cuban sounds.

"Perfectamundo" sounds mostly like Gibbons having a great time away from his other job.

"Sal y Pimiento" cooks, "Piedras Negras" rocks with a Keith Richards-like acoustic guitar intro and on "Hombre Sin Nombre" Gibbons bathes his voice in more special effects than Cher. It all ends on a high note with the nearly fully-instrumental "Q-Vo," which both swings and shakes.

While the lyrics — mostly half-hearted effort at Spanglish in Gibbons' usual guttural resonance — live down to expectations, an annoying trio of raps invariably devalue every tune they touch, including the title track and "Quiero Mas Dinero," which could otherwise fit snugly in the ZZ Top repertoire next to their similarly themed "I Gotsta Get Paid."

The video for the atmospheric cover of Roy Head's 1965 hit, "Treat Her Right," is set in a bar engulfed in a red haze, which would be the perfect location for the rest of "Perfectamundo," too.