REVIEW: David Lee Roth – A Little Ain’t Enough (1991)

DAVID LEE ROTH – A Little Ain’t Enough (1991, Warner, digipack promo CD version)

First Billy Sheehan was gone – fired by the “note police”.  Then Steve Vai was out, to join David Coverdale in his merry international band of Whitesnake, replacing Vivian Campbell.  David Lee Roth lost his two biggest guns in the space of a year.  What next?  Replacing Billy was Matt Bissonette, brother of drummer Gregg.  Matt is a fantastic bassist, but there is only one Billy Sheehan, so naturally the band was bound to sound different.  Replacing Steve Vai was much harder.

Filling the guitar slot, but not the shoes, was new young guitar prodigy Jason Becker (from Cacophony, with Marty Friedman), and veteran axeman Steve Hunter (ex-Alice Cooper).  Becker was beginning to feel the effects of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).  Fans must have known something was wrong when Becker was not seen on tour.  Becker kept his diagnosis private for the time being. Roth tapped Joe Holmes (future Ozzy guitarist) and stated that he needed musicians who could “fly” on stage.  It was hard for fans to become attached to his new band, even wielding the firepower of two guitarists, with all these changes.

Roth’s first post-Vai album, A Little Ain’t Enough, failed to ascend the commercial heights of Eat ‘Em and Smile or Skyscraper.  “Good”, but not “great”.  Not enough of that Dave “charasma”.  Just a collection of songs, not a fierce sexed up power-packed ride through.  Roth hooked up with producer-du-jour Bob Rock at Little Mountain studios.  Rock endowed Roth with a generic sound, contrasting the high-tech Skyscraper.  Dave seemed to be trying to take a step back towards his Van Halen roots.  Roth insisted that he and his band stay in the shittiest Vancouver hotel they could find.  Prostitutes, dealers, criminals, the works.  He wanted a dirty rock album and you can’t make one of those with a $20 room service hamburger in your stomach, as per the method of Diamond Dave.

A Little Ain’t Enough wasn’t the return to dirty raw rock Roth that had hyped.

Lead single “A Lil’ Ain’t Enough” was plenty of fun, a top notch Roth party song.  “Was vaccinated with a phonograph needle one summer break, then I kissed her on her daddy’s boat and shot across the lake.”  Perfect for summer.  Second track “Shoot It” was just as fun, a big horn section delivering all the big hooks.

The one-two punch of those openers was slowed by following them with “Lady Luck”, a rock blues track written by Dio’s Craig Goldy.  Good song, but the firepower and excitement of the previous two was missing.  “Hammerhead Shark”, the fourth track, had more energy but not the killer hooks.  What it does have is some killer shredding by the guitar duo of Hunter and Becker, with Hunter on the slide and Becker on the quick pickin’.  “Tell the Truth” is another blues, slower this time, and was also released as an instrumental remix with dialogue (from a movie?) dubbed over.  Side one closed with a real Van Halen-like corker called “Baby’s On Fire”.  As the title suggests, it’s red-hot and loaded with smoking playing.

Side two is a mixed bag.  “40 Below” is a fun track, with shades of Halen but more focused on bluesy guitars.  “Sensible Shoes” was a single, a slinky blues that appealed to some that normally wouldn’t buy a David Lee Roth album.  The slide guitar is the main feature.  “Last Call” is another one reminiscent of classic Van Halen, and “Dogtown Shuffle” dips back into noctural blues rock. Good songs – not great, but good.

Jason Becker only contributed two of his own songs to the album:  the final two, “It’s Showtime!” and “Drop in the Bucket”.  These happen to be two of the best tracks.  “It’s Showtime!” is 100% pure Van Halen, smoking down the highway, so try to keep up.  It’s the kind of high speed rock shuffle that they invented and mastered.  Meanwhile “Drop in the Bucket” serves as a cool, smooth ending to the album.  Its impressive guitar work is only a glimpse at what Becker was capable of.

ALS be damned, Jason Becker refused to go down without a fight.  As the disease took his voice and his hands, he began composing music on a computer.  He uses a system that tracks his eye movements, much like Steven Hawking.  This way, Becker has managed to stay active musically and has inspired thousands with his efforts.

It’s a shame that Becker’s only album with David Lee Roth was a bit middle of the road.  It wasn’t the full shred of early Roth, nor as diverse as Dave can get.  In his efforts to make a straight ahead rock album, Dave shed some of what makes his music special.  The musical thrills are lessened on what is probably the most “ordinary” album in his catalog.

3.5/5 stars

 

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49 comments

        1. Well that is, as they say in French, “Tres Bien”! I have Black Sabbath Live at Last (57 minutes) and you can tell the difference on that one. But that is older than the Plant as well.

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    1. I was in my last year of highschool. A buddy of mine named Andrew Christodoulou was a huge VH/Roth/Vai fan. He very much looked forward to this. When it came out, he warned me, “It’s good, not great.” And coming from him? That wasn’t good news.

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  1. But 3.5 ain’t a rating to be scoffed either!

    Cool review thanks Mike. Wasn’t a record quite on par with his previous Long Plays, but nevertheless a darn fine effort. Spot on re those Becker contributions too, pity the man couldn’t have given some more back when, the man could play a storm.
    An absolute talent.

    Always felt the track order messy though? Thought ending the record with Dave’s neat crooner Time To Tell The Truth would’ve made sense (a highlight too if ya ask me). And that way the absolutely excellent Drop In The Bucket you rightly praise could’ve hit somewhere in the first half and bolstered side A !?

    Regardless like I said, a fine enough effort and ya got this one pretty well spot on Mike nice one \m/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Wardy your Metal Lists book is in the mail! I was told up to 4 weeks. Hopefully there in 2.

      Boppin has requested that you review the book for us in a guest post! I have to back Boppin on that, I would love to post your review.

      Track order is messy but I never thought of that before. You’re right though. Some songs are in their logical positions, others seem really random.

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  2. Interesting Roth album for sure. Huge musical shift for Dave as the two virtuoso’s were gone by now and this is a more straight ahead rock record. No flash/no sizzle just Dave running things and thats were it goes a little screwy…
    This album over the years has become a grower like so many but at the time when myself and Tbone bought this upon release we were surprised that it just did not have the staying power up the charts it went and as fast down….
    Some good tracks and i really like Drop In The Bucket….
    For me though i knew Roth was in serious trouble was when we had tix to see Roth/Cinderella and Extreme at Alpine Valley and the whole tour was scrubbed….
    Extreme survived but the other two acts were cooked at that point!

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    1. When you say “busy 91” I am assuming you are referring to another, more well known album. With a black cover :)

      Yes that is true. And Motley Crue the same year for their 3 new songs on Decade of Decadence.

      As Uncle Meat said, there is a Jason Becker documentary film and it’s a must!

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    1. It’s Dave’s life motto! I think this is about when Dave felt the pressure to always “get back to the old VH sound”, which of course is next to impossible when you don’t have anyone named VH in your band! Good effort, but not a homer.

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  3. I dint know Goldy was with Roth..did he play or just write the tune for the album? Goldy went to my high school in San Diego handful of years ahead of me though…Jake E Lee from close to the same area and Ratt just to brag a little…lol

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    1. Goldy just wrote — it wasn’t working out I guess so he didn’t make the album. I think he’s a great player…sounds like you came from the Magic highschool of Rock!

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        1. I personally don’t think he’s gay and I also couldn’t care. But the Record Store people sure loved to tease me about it. They even put MY name in inventory with the solo album title “Paul Stanley is not Gay”.

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        2. I think it’s private too. I find it interesting only insofar as how it may effect the music. Halford for example rarely wrote any gender specific lyrics and that’s cool. I don’t think it had much other impact on the music. And that’s what we’re here for!

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