Various artists “ZZ Top: A Tribute From Friends”
With only a couple of exceptions, “ZZ Top: A Tribute From Friends” sounds like a bunch of bands and solo artists battling it out to see who can do the best dead-on imitation of ZZ Top.
That may have been fun for the participating players, but where does that leave the listener? If one wants to hear these familiar songs done just the way that little ole band from Texas would do them, one can play ZZ Top albums, right?
The album opens with a rendition of “Sharp Dressed Man” by an outfit called M.O.B., which is actually an alias for Aerosmith's Steven Tyler on vocals and harmonica, Jonny Lang on guitar, John McVie on bass and Mick Fleetwood on drums. Tyler has Billy Gibbons growl down pretty well, and Lang apes Gibbons' riffs to perfection, deviating from the ZZ pattern only when he takes solo, but even then the overall sound.
Nickelback's run at the propulsive “Legs” is slicker and heavier, but the band still colors inside the lines of ZZ's original arrangement, and even though reedy-voiced Wolfmother vocalist Andrew Stockdale couldn't carry Gibbons' growl in a bag on “Cheap Sunglasses,” guitarist Aidan Nemeth and drummer Will Rockwell-Scott can't seem to resist the riffs and rolls already established by Gibbons and Frank Beard.
Coheed and Cambria's version of “Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers” matches the boogie classic note-for-note in the best tradition of any Holiday Inn cover band worth its salt, and the same goes for Mastodon's faithful recreation of “Just Got Paid” and Daughtry's dead-center stab at “Waitin' for the Bus” / Jesus Just Left Chicago.” Jamey Johnson can probably be forgiven for sounding like a ZZ clone on “La Grange” only because he's got Gibbons himself playing and singing with him on the track.
The bright moments come when Grace Potter & The Nocturnals bring a feminine touch to “Tush,” and Wyclef Jean's soulful, new wave reworking of ZZ's beautiful ballad “Rough Boy” is a rewarding three minutes of artful originality.
The rest of these people need to learn that cover songs should be challenging reinventions of the originals, not Xerox
— Gene Triplett