Arzell Hill was born Sept. 30, 1935 in Naples, Tx. He started out singing gospel with a quintet called the Spiritual Five, but was lured to blues and soul music. Inevitably he began performing around Dallas but moved to California to release his debut single on M.H.Records, started by his brother Matt Hill. "You Were Wrong" briefly dented the pop chart in 1964 (reached #100). Follow up singles on Kent, including the now classic "I Need Someone", didn't chart. He then released singles for Atlantic, Mankind, and brother Matt's Hill Records. In 1971 he finally scored his first big hit for United Artists. "Don't Make Me Pay For His Mistakes" hit #17 on R & B and #62 Pop. Several more hits followed (including a new version of "I Need Someone" #30 R & B) before his 1977 Columbia single "Love Is So Good When You're Stealing It" became a smash at #15 R & B. When he switched to Malaco Records he started a blues revival. 1982's "Down Home Blues" was a smash, hitting #17 on R & B album charts and he followed that up with a string of similar soul/blues albums prior to his 1984 heart attack. Truly one of the legends of the genre.
"Whole Lot of Soul" (Kent 1969)
"Brand New Z.Z. Hill" (Mankind 1971; SDEG 2003)
1. It Ain't No Use
(Act I, Scene I)
**** Classic LP produced by Swamp Dogg contains several popular Z.Z. Hill titles like "Second Chance", "A Man Needs A Woman" & Joe Simon's chestnut "The Choking Kind". Country soul numbers like "Hold Back (One Man At A Time)" and "Faithful And True" were his norm at this point but the down home bluesy "It Ain't No Use" portends a career path. Several tunes were written by Jerry Williams aka "Swamp Dogg" and Gary U.S. Bonds. Swamp Dogg re-issued the album on cd in 2003 with 10 bonus cuts.
"The Bluest Blues" (Excello 1971)
1 Act I - Scene I - "It Ain't No
"Dues Paid In Full" (Kent 1972)
1 Happiness Is All I Need
*** Collection of blues & soul singles released on Kent 1964-1965 including the first version of "I Need Someone". Other Hill originals include "Happiness Is All I Need", "Everybody Have To Cry" & "If I Could Do It All Over".
"The Best Thing That's Happened To Me" (United Artists 1972)
1 - I've Got To Get You Back
*** First UA album scored a hit with Bobby Bland's "Ain't Nothing You Can Do". The set is comprised of gutbucket R & B ("Little Red Rooster") and Southern Soul.
"Z.Z. Hill" (United Artists 1974)
1.It Ainít Safe
"Keep On Loving You" (United Artists 1975)
1 I Created A Monster
"Let's Make A Deal" (Columbia 1977)
1. Universal Love
"The Mark Of Z.Z. Hill" (Columbia 1979)
1. Lets Have a Party
"Z.Z. Hill" (Malaco 1981)
1. Separate Way
**1/2 It's easy to forget that Hill's Malaco debut was not "Down Home" but this self-titled warm-up. While it's mostly sturdy Southern Soul ("Separate Ways", "Bring It On Home To Me"), Hill's first step into contemporary soul/blues appears with the hard rollin' "Bump & Grind" and his excellent take on "Blue Monday". He perfected his style on the follow up.
"Down Home" (Malaco 1982)
1. Down Home Blues
***** Classic LP gave a huge boost to the stagnate soul/blues world when "Down Home Blues" blew up on juke boxes and urban radio. The genre has never been the same. The George Jackson staple is a flawless piece of goodtime soulful blues. Sit back, get comfortable, kick off your shoes and listen to some down home blues. How can you argue with that? Still, what helped the album climb to #17 on Billboard's R & B Albums Chart was "Cheatin' In The Next Room" (again by Jackson, this time with Robert Miller). A delicate soul melody with an exquisite horn arrangement. (Despite the objectionable infidelity theme) this is a real jewel that managed a #19 placing on singles charts. The other eight cuts here are none too shabby either. The poppin' R & B of "Right Arm Of Your Love" and "Givin' It Up For Your Love" are both credited to Swamp Dogg. There's also faithful covers of Little Johnny Taylor's "Everybody Knows About My Good Thing" and King Floyd's "Woman Don't Go Astray". Every blues collection should include this album.
"The Rhythm & The Blues" (Malaco 1982)
1. Someone Else Is Steppin' In
**** Quick follow up keeps the momentum going full speed with prime soul/blues winners like Denise LaSalle's "Somebody Else Steppin' In". Although this classic has since been covered by stalwarts like Ernestine Anderson, Buddy Guy, Johnnie Taylor and LaSalle herself, none match Hill's version. George Jackson provides two more quality songs, the down home blues "Get You Some Business" and pleading slowie "Help Me I'm In Need". Frank-O Johnson provides four ingratiating showcases for Hill's throaty grit (three written with M. Misole and one with Thomisene Anderson). The best being "That Fire is Hot" and bittersweet "What I'm Gonna Tell Her". Once again Hill borrows one of Little Johnny Taylor's hits, "Open House In My House". (I still prefer LJT's). Another standout is the chugging R & B "Who You Been Givin' It To". His vocal inflection on "sho(sure) ain't giving it to me" is a hook in itself.
"I'm A Blues Man" (Malaco 1983)
1. I'm a Blues Man
****1/2 Third hit platter in a row by Hill and Malaco starts with another instant standard, "I'm A Blues Man". No objection. "I was raised up on Jimmy Reed/Corn bread, collard greens and black-eyed peas/Turn my first bath in Muddy Water/All you mothers you better lock up your daughters/I'm a blues man" he sings. The song is a first cousin to Willie Dixon's classic "I'm A Man (Mannish Boy)". Rich Cason and Jimmy Lewis wrote the next hit, "Three Into Two Won't Go". Lewis also provided the intriguing "Get A Little, Give A Little", which instructs menfolk to fork out some greenbacks 'cuz a lover can't live on lovin' alone. All 10 tracks here are first-rate. Other jukebox hits were "Shade Tree Mechanic" and Frank-O Johnson's "Please Don't Let Our Good Thing End"
"Bluesmaster" (Malaco 1984)
1. You're Ruining My Bad
*** Last record released while Z.Z. was alive begins with Denise Lasalle's "You're Ruining My Bad Reputation", a decent clone of "Down Home Blues". Hill's gritty growl is in full effect here. Other tasty nuggets include the swift shuffler "Bottom Line Woman", 70s-styled soul "Personally" and pounding blues "Friday Is My Day". Although not as riveting as the previous three outings, "Bluesmaster" is a solid soul/blues record.
"Thrill On The Hill" (Rare Bullet 1984)
1 I Think I'd Do It
"In Memorian (1935-1984)" (Malaco 1985)
1. Down Home Blues
***1/2 First attempt at a "best of" from Hill's successful 1980-1984 run collects some of the essentials ('Down Home Blues", "I'm A Blues Man", "Someone Else Steppin' In") but inexplicably leaves out hits like "Cheatin' In The Next Room" making this a pointless undertaking.
"A Man Needs A Woman" (Topline 1986)
Tracks taken from Swamp Dogg produced "Brand New Z.Z. Hill" and obscure LP "Thrill On The Hill".
1 It Ain't No Use
"Greatest Hits" (Malaco 1990)
1. Cheatin' in the Next Room
**** Second attempt at a "best of" compilation (following "In Memorium") makes the same mistake. It gathers some essentials ("Down Home Blues", "Cheatin' In The Next Room", "Somebody Else Slippin' In", "Three Into Two Won't Go") but inexplicably omits "I'm A Blues Man" & "Youre Ruining My Bad Reputation". Record companies love this trick so you're forced to buy the missing cuts elsewhere. Nevertheless the songs/music sound great but it's really not the "Greatest Hits". You should have the full albums anyway as no single disc collection could get it right. Too many goodies.
"Down Home Soul Of Z.Z. Hill" (Ace 1992 Kent 1995)
1. Baby I'm Sorry
****1/2 Excellent 22-track collection of Hill's Kent material released in the mid-60s. His first single "You Were Wrong" snuck in at #100 on the pop chart but proved to be his only charter from this period. This is surprising as stunning R & B ballads like "I Need Someone", "You're Gonna Make Me Cry", "You Don't Love Me" and "Happiness Is All I Need" merited airplay and sales.
"Turn Back The Hands Of Time" (Tuff City 1992)
1. Ain't Too Proud to Beg
*** Intriguing mix of rarities and out-of-print material. The sub-title reads "Rare and Previously Unreleased Recordings 1965-1972". It's currently the only place to get his smash version of "Don't Make Me Pay For His Mistakes" (#17 R & B) recorded for his brother's Hill imprint. There's also stylized versions of The Temptation's "Ain't Too Proud To Beg", "My Girl" and Tyrone Davis' "Turn Back The Hands Of Time". His aching versions of "Mr Nobody's Somebody" and "Nine Pound Steel" are two of the best. As far as the "unreleased" tracks the scratchy "Five Will Get You Ten" was obviously transferred from LP and the alternate "You Were Wrong" is even lower fidelity. The fluctuating sound quality is the Achilles heel of this collection but it's still a must for Z.Z. fans.
"Final Appearance" (Kent 1993)
1-I'M GONNA LOVE YOU
"The Complete Hill/UA Recordings 1972-1975" (Capital 1996)
**** It's hard to find fault with a consummate collection like this- all three full LPs released during this period are included. And I don't. Had this been his 80s period this would be a treasure. Hits include "Ain't Nothing You Can Do" (#37 R & B), "I Don't Need Half Of Love" (#63 R & B), "Am I Groovin' You" (#84 R & B), "Let Them Talk" (#74 R & B) and "I Created A Monster" (#40 R & B). There's also the finest version of "You Were Wrong", which was his first hit back in 1964. The bubbling soul "Snap Your Fingers" should've been a hit. Same goes for the terrific "I've Got To Get You Back" & "Country Love". A single disc with the very best would be welcomed. Being that this set is out-of-print somebody should be licensing these tracks as I write.
"Love Is So Good When You're Stealing It" (Ichiban 1996)
1. Universal Love
***1/2 18 Tracks extracted from Hill's two discofied Columbia LPs. Same as the two-fer "Let's Make A Deal (1978)/"The Mark Of Z.Z. Hill" (1979) only in different sequence and artwork.
"Faithful And True" (Blue Dog 1997)
1. Faithful And True
"This Time They Told The Truth: The Columbia Years" (Columbia 1998)
1. Universal Love
**** The best 13 (out of only 18) tracks taken from Hill's brief 1978-79 stay at Columbia. The hits "This Time They Told The Truth", "Love Is So Good When You're Stealing It" and shoulda been hits "A Message To The Ladies", "Stop By And Love Me", "Whip It On Me Baby". Fans of his soulful 60s to early 70s period or his 1980 down home blues revival might find trouble warming up to this material.
"Blues Business" (601 Music 1997)
1. Right Arm for Your Love
** Budget-priced collection of Malaco material 1980-1984. It's got "I'm A Blues Man" & "You're Ruining My Bad Reputation" make this a potential supplement to the incomplete "Greatest Hits" cd released seven years earlier.
"Am I Groovin' You?: Great R&B Hits" (Micro Werks 2009)
1. Am I Groovin' You
"The Brand New ZZ Hill Outtakes" (EMG 2015)
1 (Home Just Ain't
Home At) Suppertime
"That's It! The Complete Kent Recordings 1964-1968" (Kent 2018)