A two-part review of the 1989 compilation CD, Billy Sheehan – The Talas Years.
Fans of David Lee Roth are probably already aware of Talas via their incredible bassist Billy Sheehan, an innovative genius of the four-string rumble. His first recordings were with Talas (1979-1983), a Buffalo power trio. With Roth, he re-recorded the Talas track “Shy Boy” on Eat ‘Em And Smile. The Talas original can be found on their second LP Sink Your Teeth Into That, or the compilation The Talas Years.
The focus is immediately and obvious on the bass. Billy plays it simultaneously as a lead instrument, and the rhythmic foundation. “Sink Your Teeth Into That”, the title track boasts not only insane playing, but sounds that had never been heard before from a bass guitar. And the song’s pretty good too. It’s raw 80s hard rock, no more no less, except for that bass. “Hit and Run” is just as strong. Talas were not just a bass showcase, but a band that could actually write good songs. These are unpolished and rough songs, with the band (Dave Constantino on guitar and Paul Varga on drums) alternating lead vocals.
The centerpiece of the album is the bass solo “NVH 3345”. Write that down and turn it upside down: it spells “SHEEHAN”. It has been said before that as Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption” was a game changer on guitar, “NVH 3345” is the “Eruption” of the bass guitar. It is hard to imagine more sheer technique stuffed into 2:21. For anyone who is a serious collector of hard rock heroes, “NVH 3345” must find a way into your collection.
“High Speed On Ice” returns to a hard rocking momentum, like “Highway Star” via Buffalo New York. Then “Shy Boy” which needed David Lee Roth and Steve Vai to finally perfect it. Think of this version as a prototype. It is hard to believe that David Lee Roth did not write the line “Gotta keep things movin’ ’til my personality starts it groovin'”, but Roth made it sound like he meant it.
“King of the World” and “Outside Lookin’ In” occupy the mid-tempo range, and that would be Billy singing those high screams. Both good songs with the memorable hooks to go with the bass hijinks. Shadows fall on “Never See Me Cry”, a darker side of Talas but still with the hooks intact. Second to last song “Smart Lady” is the only loser. There isn’t room for songs that just don’t cut it. “Hick Town” ends the album on a better note, with bass pyrotechnics and thrills to go.
Sink your teeth into Talas, and come back tomorrow for a look at Live Speed on Ice.