Chrome, Smoke & BBQ is a box set by American blues-rock band ZZ Top, released in 2003. This box set is notable for using the original mixes for all of the tracks from the band's first five albums for the first time on the CD format. This box set, and the companion release Rancho Texicano, are the only two CD releases which feature original mixes from ZZ Top's First Album, Rio Grande Mud, and Tejas, aside from 1977's The Best of ZZ Top which features two tracks from Rio Grande Mud and one track from First Album. Tres Hombres and Fandango! were reissued in their original mixes in 2006.
Tres Hombres is the third album by the American rock band ZZ Top. It was released in 1973. The album was the first of many times the band worked with Terry Manning as engineer. It was a successful combination as the release was the band's first commercial breakthrough. In the US, the album entered the top ten while the single "La Grange" reached number 41 on the singles charts (meanwhile, "La Grange" debuted number 33 on the American Top 40 broadcast on June 29, 1974). At the height of ZZ Top's success in the mid-1980s a digitally remixed version of the recording was released on CD and the original 1973 mix was no longer issued…
With their second album, Rio Grande Mud, ZZ Top uses the sound they sketched out on their debut as a blueprint, yet they tweak it in slight but important ways. The first difference is the heavier, more powerful sound, turning the boogie guitars into a locomotive force. There are slight production flares that date this as a 1972 record, but for the most part, this is a straight-ahead, dirty blues-rock difference. Essentially like the first album, then. That's where the second difference comes in – they have a much better set of songs this time around, highlighted by the swaggering shuffle "Just Got Paid," the pile-driving boogie "Bar-B-Q," the slide guitar workout "Apologies to Pearly," and two Dusty Hill-sung numbers, "Francine" and "Chevrolet." There are still a couple of tracks that don't quite gel and their fuzz-blues still can sound a little one-dimensional at times, but Rio Grande Mud is the first flowering of ZZ Top as a great, down-n-dirty blooze rock band.
Assembled from various shows from various tours from around the world, 2016's Live: Greatest Hits from Around the World is billed as ZZ Top's first "full-length live album" – a matter of dispute considering how Eagle Rock released three CD/DVD/Blu-ray combo sets between 2008 and 2014. There is no visual component to Live: Greatest Hits from Around the World, which may be how it skates around the first live album distinction – if there's no video, this is a pure album – but the record mines a similar musical vein, collecting highlights from latter-day ZZ Top tours. During the 2000s and 2010s, ZZ Top released an excellent studio album called La Futura, but that's ignored here in favor for all the songs that are classic rock staples…
ZZ Top closed out their tenure with London Records in late 1977 with The Best of ZZ Top, a basic but terrific ten-song retrospective of highlights from their first five albums (well, four, actually, since the underwhelming Tejas is ignored).
Tres Hombres is the record that brought ZZ Top their first Top Ten record, making them stars in the process. It couldn't have happened to a better record. ZZ Top finally got their low-down, cheerfully sleazy blooze-n-boogie right on this, their third album. As their sound gelled, producer Bill Ham discovered how to record the trio so simply that they sound indestructible, and the group brought the best set of songs they'd ever have to the table.
Blessed with their first full-fledged hit album, ZZ Top followed it up with Fandango!, a record split between a side of live tracks and a side of new studio cuts. In a way, this might have made sense, since they were a kick-ass live band, and they do sound good here, but it's hard not to see this as a bit of a wasted opportunity in retrospect.