Top 5 ZZ Top Albums

Our favorite picks from ZZ Top's discography

ZZ Top didn't become famous overnight. Although ZZ Top's First Album clearly established their hard rock and Southern rock musical style as well as their upbeat, in-your-face lyrical themes, it just barely missed the Billboard 200 album chart cut off—peaking at #201.

Despite their humble beginnings, ZZ Top kept plugging away. Now, 14 albums and 40-plus years later, they are one of the few artists who have U.S. album sales of more than 25 million.

Picking favorites from their discography isn't easy, but it is kind of fun. Here are our top 5 ZZ Top albums, what are yours? 

Release date: July 26, 1973
Chart peak: #8
Best known tracks: "La Grange" / "Waitin' for the Bus" / "Jesus Just Left Chicago"

Their third studio album release boosted ZZ Top to what would become a familiar position—the top of album charts. Tres Hombres success was driven by the popularity of "La Grange," the song for which the band is best known. Allmusic called it "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."

Release date: April 18, 1975
Chart peak: #10
Best known tracks: "Tush" / "Jailhouse Rock" (live)

ZZ Top followed up their first chart hit with Fandango. The album is known for being part studio recordings, part live performance which showcases the band's considerable skill as a live band. The album also gave us "Tush," the band's first Top 40 single, peaking at #20. Bassist Dusty Hill's lead vocals are featured on four tracks: "Tush," "Balinese," "Jailhouse Rock" and "Heard it on the X."

Release date: March 23, 1983
Chart peak: #9
Best known tracks: "Sharp Dressed Man" / "Legs" / "Gimme All Your Lovin'"

The popularity ZZ Top earned in the '70s didn't stop in the '80s, as evidenced by Eliminator, another Top 10 US hit and an even bigger hit in the UK. It is the band's best-selling album. Two years before the album's release, MTV launched, and by the time Eliminator was released, it was considered a must for successful album sales. Three music videos, "Legs," "Gimme All Your Lovin'" and "Sharp Dressed Man" were influential in driving the album's huge sales success.

Release date: October 28, 1985
Chart peak: #4
Best known tracks: "Can't Stop Rockin'" / "Velcro Fly" / "Sleeping Bag"

Afterburner was a hit thanks to the strength of "Sleeping Bag" (a #1 single) and the fact that two more tracks were featured prominently: "Velcro Fly" in Stephen King's book, The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands and "Can't Stop Rockin'" in the feature film, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III.

Although the prominent addition of synthesizers to their trademark power trio (guitar-bass-drums) sound drew some criticism, it drew an equal amount of praise for keeping ZZ Top's music current in the mid-80s mainstream.

Release date: March 23, 1990
Chart peak: #6
Best known tracks: "Concrete and Steel" / "Doubleback" / "My Head's in Mississippi"

Their first release in the '90s, Recycler was yet another Top 10 hit. The album's success was aided by the appearance of the band (and the song, "Doubleback") in the movie Back to the Future III. The continued presence of synthesizers drew continued barbs from critics, but the album's commercial success once again validated the wisdom of reinventing their sound.