"I was in junior high when this album came out, and I played my cassette copy to death back then. I thought the song "Stages" was the coolest song I had ever heard. I recently bought the CD after not listening to the album in over 10 years. As much as I loved it in 1985, the music has not aged well at all. The heavy synthesized sound that was great back then sounds uninteresting and bland today. However, the CD does bring back a lot of memories. If you grew up during the 80s and want to return to those days (at least in spirit), go ahead and pick this up. Otherwise, don't bother."
Great flashback album!
J. Scholle | NC, USA | 10/06/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I remember the day, 20 years old and just finished basic training at Ft. Benning. You walk into the PX and all you hear is ZZ Top blaring from the Jukebox. That's all you would hear, either the cool and mellow "rough boy" or slip inside my "sleeping bag" or ultimately, the "shhhrch" sound when "velcro fly" is on. This is an excellent album from ZZ Top and really brings back good memories."
Out of this World
Jerry Fry | Freeman, MO USA | 03/29/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Now Eliminators are flying into outer space. That's cool but what happened? ZZ Top became more marketable in the '80s and raked in a lot of jack. The space rock boogie was a good gimmick. It sold well, these guys threw away their razors and dipped low in the lap of luxury. But this is exactly the kind of "Stages" a band goes through. No longer a hungry band and it sounds like it. "Rough Boy" got played constantly and the video wasn't bad but this isn't the ZZ Top I like to remember. Somehow it seemed like this wasn't a bad direction for them to go. But that's where it ended. The following album I believe was "Recycler" and that's pretty much what I did with it."
Shot o' Afterburn, please!
Quinn Miller | Columbus, OH United States | 02/24/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Afterburner has nothing to do with ZZ's blues roots or why they began playing music back in the 60's. Nope, it's all updated rythms and synths, double entendres and calculated hooks. That said, the album is a ton of fun! It's a bit hard to say whether they were selling out or just noodling around with new technology (or maybe some of both). And I don't give a rats ... about why they turned in this direction, just glad they did, even if just for a while. Party record: yes indeed! Record with brains: hung jury. Gibbons' guitar solos are still fantastic if not featured nearly as frequently as on previous outings. Absoulutely a kick ... solo on "Rough Boy," ... near one of my faves of all time. Also, this is one of the only times on the album where the fun lets up... only to let it air out for a few minutes! But with other titles such as "Woke Up with Wood," "Can't Stop Rockin'" and "Planet of Women" you prettymuch know exactly in which direction this material is headed. Yep, "I Got the Six" parts I, II, and III. Now go pick it up if you haven't already!"
A Great Example Of Top's Experimentation
John Lawrence | Michigan | 02/07/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"First of all, let's get one thing straight. This isn't the true ZZ Top as the hardcore fans identify with. Anyone that's a substantial fan of ZZ Top knows that the heart and soul of what makes ZZ Top such an amazing band is found in their blues and boogie rock of their early period (Tres Hombres, Rio Grande Mud, Fandango...etc.). This album is not of that period, and to compare it to that material is a waste of time, because this album was not trying to be what ZZ Top was in their early career.
The truth about Afterburner is that it was made as ZZ Top's true take on the synth-infested, digitized world of 80's mainstream rock, and that's exactly the period that it should be compared to. Whether or not Top was trying to "sellout" in order to garner more mainstream success or just wanted to fiddle around with the sounds of the period is something I sure don't know the answer to. However, I can say one thing for certain; their end result was quite an impressive production.
Many reviewers slam this album for its massive use of synthesizers and other digital equipment and mixing. However, I on the other hand have to praise it for what it's done. Afterburner really seeks to go after its synth-sound headfirst and it puts the synth material at the heart of all of the songs on the album.
I truly view this almost as somewhat of a concept album in that it takes the popular synthesizer sounds of the 80's and tries to take them from the backing track area of most mainstream rock of the time period, and it moves them into the forefront of every track. These are songs led along by their synthesized compositions. The synthesizers own the rhythms of each track, and that's somewhat of a major difference between most music of the 80's which used synthesizers to help back up the rhythms. In this album, Synths are not part of the songs, they are the songs.
So, what we have is an album embracing the technology and style of the time while still adding in some of the blues rock style that ZZ Top has always had in the past. The guitar playing is still often quite heavy and bluesy, like Gibbons style shown on older albums. These aren't the Van Halen-esque solos popular during the time period, but instead it truly is Gibbons being himself and playing his own style.
And, to be frank, this album really rocks harder than most of the music it was trying to emulate and stem from during the 1980's. Just listen to the ending solo to "Rough Boy", for example. This solo is far more "soulful" than most guitar parts coming from other mainstream rock of the same time. Arena power ballads and hair metal of this time period couldn't touch the raw emotion of Gibbons guitar playing throughout this album.
And that, to me, is what makes this album so well done. It retains much of the synthesized sound of the time period, but the music itself is far less "cheesy" at its heart than most contemporary releases. There's soul to this stuff, and there's rock there too."