STORY WRITTEN BY GARY GRAFF
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ZZ Top has not been the most prolific band of late, with only four studio albums released during the past 20 years.
But singer-guitarist Billy Gibbons is convinced that the Texas trio still has, er, legs.
“We’ve got enough elements now to go back into the studio and start the writing process and see what shakes,” Gibbons, 66, says by phone from Los Angeles. And, he adds, there’s also material left from sessions the group did with co-producer Rick Rubin for ZZ Top’s last album, 2012’s “La Futura.”
“There’s a lot of good stuff,” Gibbons says. “It’s a dilemma. It’s the good problem when you have too much stuff.
“I don’t have a target date. I know we’ve been knocking it around. (Material) won’t be a problem when we do hunker down and get back in (the studio).”
ZZ Top’s next effort, however, comes from the stage. The group will release “ZZ Top Live — Greatest Hits From Around The World” on Sept. 9, featuring 15 songs recorded during performances in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, Vancouver, Nashville, Dallas, Berlin and Paris. The set also includes a pair of songs — “Rough Boy” and the country staple “Sixteen Tons” — with Jeff Beck guesting in London. Gibbons acknowledges that the group spends much more time on the road than in the studio, and always has, and he and bandmates Dusty Hill and Frank Beard genuinely feel that’s where they’re more creative.
“One good thing about playing live is it’s never really the same,” explains Gibbons, who released his first solo album, “Perfectamundo,” last fall. “Night to night we can plot a set list that we want to stay close to, and even when the nightly presentation is carved in stone and you might want to play it the same, it never comes out that way.
We consider it a bonus. Each night, if there’s an element of surprise that seems to make sense we’ll put that in our hat and maybe pull it out. That’s always a welcome part of the adventure for us.”