Tito Puente himself taught a very
young William Frederick Gibbons the
mysteries of Latin percussion. This was a favour to his friend's son and
something that we have not had the chance to see the fruits of until today, the
young apprentice to the late, great, 'King of Latin Music' now at the ripe old
age of 66. After decades recording and touring with his inseparable ZZ Top band mates, he has finally
decided to take a musical excursion on his own, mixing up his usual blues and southern rock sounds with
heavy doses of Afro-Cuban rhythms. A heady mix of rum and bourbon, Perfectamundo
is without doubt one of the best records of 2015.
Gibbons, the creator of his own particular variant of Spanglish which he has always made good use of, came up with the idea of recording Perfectamundo after being invited to play in the Havana Jazz Festival, 2014. Inspired by the event, he subsequently recruited Chino Pons to add some Cuban flavour to Gibbon's customary Tex-Mex solos driven to the max. The rock hardliners have been up in arms about one point in the album where they reckon he has gone way over the top - hip hop not really what they were expecting to see from the man with the legendary beard.
To be fair, the supposed blasphemy lasts hardly a minute, all the furore mainly down to the media hype that the record company has instigated to ensure Gibbon's Caribbean adventure hits the front-page news. There is no cause for alarm here: all the mojitos in the world would never be enough to drown out that unmistakeable ZZ Top boogie-woogie and blues-inspired rock riffs screaming out from his 'Billy-Bo' Gretsch or 'Pearly Gates' Gibson. It's a weird experiment, to be sure, but a controlled one, and one with the Billy Gibbons sound that the world expects of him. Let nobody get their knickers in a twist about it.
To start, the most exotic location used in the recording of the album was Pontevedra. All the rest was produced in Houston, Austin and Los Angeles. The excuses given were that Cuba was ruled out for political reasons. Reasons which a year later are History - or very near to it. So the man stayed in Texas. Pontevedra happened just because he happened to be passing through there at the time.
Of course, his new friends in The BFG's help to give a different flavour to such classics as Baby Please Don't Go and Got Love If You Want It (Slim Harpo), but without ever going south of New Orleans. He also hardly steps a foot out of his back door with the Latin-American infused track Sal y Pimiento, with Martin Guigui on the piano, a man born in Argentina, but musically educated in Puerto Rico. Apart from Guigui's talented mastery of the ivories, also present is the marvellous sound of the Hammond organ, played by Gibbons himself (as well as the bass and timbales, among other instruments).
As well as Pons and Guigui, Gibbons is also accompanied by Mike Flanigan, Alex Garza, Greg Morrow and has Joe Hardy, Gibbons' closest collaborator, covering base in his role as co-producer.
A walking legend like this ageing rockster could have conformed himself with releasing an album of cover versions, or duets perhaps; something to keep him occupied until the next ZZ Top megahit, the last being in 2012. Gibbons, however, has preferred to go out on the edge, showing once again that the adage, 'music knows no frontiers' is no glib saying. For such vision, for such audacity, he has confirmed himself as one of modern music's greats.