Ricky Flake: ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons takes a Latin trip

This week's column kicks off with a review of ZZ Top guitarist/vocalist Billy Gibbons' new Latin-flavored project. A DVD about a previously unknown-to-me period of Van Morrison's career is considered next, followed by an independent release from The Wet Darlings.

'Perfectamundo,' Billy Gibbons & The BFG's (Concord Records, HHHH)

This Oct. 23 release is Billy Gibbons' first solo album, but it harkens back to a time even before The Moving Sidewalks in the late 1960s. Billy studied Latin rhythms with his orchestra-leader father's friend, "Mambo King" Tito Puente before hopping on the guitar train.

I especially enjoy the Latin-ized takes on "Treat Her Right" and "Got Love If You Want It" featuring cool interplay between Billy's guitar and the Hammond B3. Other favorites include the genre-blending "Quiero Mas Dinero," the hard-hitting title song and the Hammond-featuring shuffle "Q-Vo."

I'm not nuts about the synthesized-sounding vocals used on many tunes, but this different ride for ZZ fans will please many folks.

'Another Glorious Decade: Under Review Part 2,' Van Morrison (MVDvisual, HHHH)

This Sept. 18-released DVD covers a decade in which casual Van Morrison admirers were left mystified about his music. Morrison went on several years' hiatus from about 1974-1978 and found that he had fallen out of fashion.

A move back "across the pond," a divorce and a spiritual quest also marks his 1980s music. "Wavelength" was the only tune I had heard before watching the DVD, in which critics dissect and speculate about Morrison's musical mojo. Van's devoted fans will enjoy the program, which alludes in its final moments to his return to prominence in the early 1990s.

'Beautiful Things,' The Wet Darlings (Independent Release, HHHH 1/2)

This Oct. 23 vinyl/CD/digital release is the first full-length album from The Wet Darlings, who formed in Columbus, Ohio, in 2008 when guitarist Bill Patterson met singer Jenny Lute belting out gospel standards in a rural Ohio church. The band is rounded out by drummer Aaron Bishara and bassist/synth player Joe Patterson.

They've produced a hook-laden, powerful album with mostly cynical lyrics. The dynamic-and-tempo shifting opener "Lions For Us All" introduces us to a world of crunchy guitars, droning bass, tasteful drumming and a marvelous lead voice. Other favorite songs include "Used to Be Better," "Good Morning Bad Dream" and "Wedding & Wake."

Listeners will enjoy this dose of "better world hit" music.

Upcoming columns

The next few columns will focus on reviews of new recordings from Toadies, Zeke Duhon, master drummer Anton Fig, Moonsville Collective, new Christmas recordings from Celtic Thunder, Sarah McLachlan and others; also, a DVD documentary about Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Ricky Flake, a former punk rocker and current music fan, lives in Biloxi. Reach him at flakericky@gmail.com