Just Listening to…David Lee Roth – Skyscraper
This is the first Just Listening post for an album I’ve already reviewed in full. I tackled David Lee Roth’s Skyscraper back in 2013, rating it 4/5 stars. However a recent conversation with singer/songwriter Derek Kortepeter led me to try to listen with new ears.
It started with Derek’s message to me. “Unpopular opinion: Skyscraper is better than Eat ‘Em and Smile,” he said. “Better songs, better guitar, tons of awesome synth…when you have tracks like ‘Perfect Timing’ and ‘Knucklebones’ how can you go wrong?” Derek says “Perfect Timing” might be his favourite song on the album.
Derek definitely has some good points. It’s easily arguable that Skyscraper has better guitars. Steve Vai was in the co-producer’s chair, and he layered his guitar parts as if he was building one of his own solo albums. They’re very dense, yet melodically intertwined. As for the synth, he has a valid observation with some songs like “Skyscraper”. That song verges on progressive rock; it’s got so much going on, including synth and layered Roth vocals. However I think the synth was overdone on tracks like “Stand Up“, which doesn’t even have Billy Sheehan on bass.
Skyscraper is an almost absurd album in some respects, with Dave pouring on that “charasma” to the nth degree. There are so many “woo’s” “wow’s” and “oh’s” that you could make an entire song of just that. Steve Vai was the star on Skyscraper, and as I said in my original review, how much you like Skyscraper will depend on how much you like Steve Vai. I like Steve; I think his music and playing is fascinating. Rock fans often don’t want “fascinating”, they just want the riffs and the choruses. Eat ‘Em and Smile was much more about the big guitars and choruses, but it’s also just a fabulous record. Skyscraper is colder sounding by comparison, and often drifts into experimental pop rock excursions. It also suffers for the lack of Billy Sheehan, who wasn’t given a lot of creative freedom. Where there should be bass, often you will hear synth.
Sorry Derek, you have made some really great points, and Skyscraper really is a great album. It’s brave and fun and experimental, but it’s also cold with little bit of filler (“Stand Up”). I’ll always rate it high…but not as high as Eat ‘Em and Smile.