Just Listening to…David Lee Roth – Skyscraper

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.

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15 comments

    1. Where have you been, man? I’ve missed your Blaze Bayley worship.

      Just to expand on my comment below, I feel the need to say that my junior high gym teacher was the coolest guy ever. Not at all the macho jerk you think of when you think of gym teachers. He had a great sense of humor, was very polite, tried to make everyone feel good about themselves, and loved The Beatles. Great dude.

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  1. Sorry Derek, I’m with Mike. Eat ‘Em and Smile is 1,000x better than Skyscraper. I actually prefer A Little Ain’t Enough to Skyscraper, but neither are even in the same league as Eat ‘Em and Smile. Skyscraper just seems too processed to me, not enough energy and it’s too lightweight. It also just seems way too unfocused for a DLR album, he tried to do too much and it just didn’t work for him. The synth bass in “Stand Up” is awful.

    I read a review once that said “Just Like Paradise” reeked of the same ’80s musk as your old gym teacher’s VHS copy of “Baseball Bloopers”, and that resonated with me because my gym teacher in junior high had a VHS of “Baseball Bloopers” that he’d show whenever we had downtime in health class (most of the time). I haven’t been able to separate that description from this entire album since, because it is such an apt description. It also struck me because I had no idea other junior high schools showed “Baseball Bloopers” in health class, must be some sort of unspoken cliché here in the United States. (I’m referring to Grades 6-8 for all Canadian readers).

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  2. I dunno, really loved the first one but over the years I’ve played Skyscraper more. Loved Just like paradise, Damn good and Two Fools A Minute. Not forgetting Knucklebones.

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    1. I did. This tour opened in Lakeland, Florida….which is where I saw it. Steve Vai had a broken hand and his guitar tech played guitar in his stead at the show I saw in Florida. Faster Pussycat was the opening act.

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  3. Skyscraper sounds awesome on vinyl. Its a great albums for what it is and I tend to like more now 31 years alter haha
    Sure its over produced/layered guitars/synths all the trimmings of the late 80’s..
    Hina is brilliant….
    And Adios to RANDO on Bass!
    Nice write-up Mikey

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