Z.Z. Hill

Snap Your Fingers with Z.Z. Hill

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Z.Z. Hill's long recording career took in stints with several labels. One of these, which saw him release an album apiece on United Artists in 1972 and 1974, respectively, marked one of the less remarkable junctures of his career. It did bring him three small R&B hit singles ("Ain't Nothing You Can Do," "Let Them Talk," and "Am I Grooving You"), all of which are on this compilation, which combines 1972's The Best Thing That's Happened to Me and 1974's Z.Z. onto one CD. Hill was one of those singers whose steady competence insured that he would never rank among the lesser soul-bluesmen, yet at the same time guaranteed he'd never be one of the great R&B vocalists, either. These albums are more notable for Hill's feat in keeping some sort of presence for the blues -- albeit a commercial form of soul-blues that was at least as much soul as blues -- in the marketplace than they are for the quality of the music itself. The Best Thing That's Happened to Me is marginally the earthier of the pair, recorded with several members of the Meters and Allen Toussaint, though the sound isn't as New Orleans-flavored as you might expect. They back him capably on easygoing, largely romantic tunes that can sound a little like B.B. King's material of the period, though in more of a pop-soul vein and without nearly as much guitar. Recorded in Muscle Shoals, the 1974 Z.Z. album is similar if a tad slicker. It's a bit more diverse, too, though not strikingly so, getting into orchestrated pop-soul on "Let Them Talk," mild social comment on "Clean Up America," and admitting slight country influences, including a cover of "Funny Face."

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