Brett Tuggle

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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REVIEW: David Lee Roth – Greatest Hits/The Deluxe Edition (2013 CD/DVD)

NEW RELEASE – nov. 19 2013

DLRGRHITS_0001DAVID LEE ROTH  –  Greatest Hits/The Deluxe Edition (2013 Warner CD/DVD)

Dear LeBrain readers,

I’ve been here writing reviews for the better part of 21 months now.  I think we know each other well enough, you and I, that I can skip the formalities in some instances.  I don’t think I need to describe in detail classic David Lee Roth recordings such as “California Girls”, “Just a Gigolo”, or “Just Like Paradise”.  I’m willing to bet that with exception to the 1990’s material, most readers already know most of the songs on this album.  If you happened to stumble upon later albums like A Little Ain’t Enough or Your Filthy Little Mouth, then you probably know them all.

If you’re familiar with David Lee Roth but don’t own any as of yet, then your next question is likely to be, “Is this a good place to start?”  Sure, why not?  Dave’s latest “hits” compilation, simply called Greatest Hits (his last one was called The Best), does the trick in most regards.  It even includes Dave’s entire first solo EP Crazy From the Heat albeit not in the original running order.  (1. “Easy Street” 2. “Just A Gigolo” 3. “California Girls” 4. “Coconut Groove” in case you feel like re-arranging the tracks as originally released.)  “Easy Street” is an Edgar Winter Group original, and Dave has Edgar guest on his version too.

Some of the best songs are distilled from Eat ‘Em and Smile, but that’s a 5/5 star album that needs to be owned on its own regardless.   From Skyscraper is “Just Like Paradise” and “Hot Dog and a Shake”, but not the single “Stand Up” interestingly enough.   Present are the three singles from A Little Ain’t Enough: the bluesy “Tell the Truth,” the title track and the swanky “Sensible Shoes”.   Three tracks are included from Your Filthy Little Mouth, only one of which is a head-scratcher (the reggae infused “No Big ‘Ting”) but by-and-large this an acceptable slice of Warner Brothers era David Lee Roth.

What you readers are likely to be most interested in is the bonus DVD.  This “Deluxe Edition” (there’s no other edition available) includes most of Dave’s groundbreaking, genre-hopping classic music videos.  The “Dave TV” segment has uncut videos for “California Girls” and “Gigolo” interspersed with Dave’s commentary.  Continuing the fun are Dave’s first two “band” videos, “Yankee Rose” and “Goin’ Crazy!” along with Dave’s cast of characters.  These of course includes the fabulous Picasso Brothers!

As an added bonus they also included the Spanish version of “Goin’ Crazy!” (“¡Loco Del Calor!”) which appears to be an entirely unique cut, based on the same video shoot.  There are fewer costume changes and stunts, but it’s cool that Dave’s attention to detail included lip-synching an entirely separate video for another territory.

The odds and ends on this disc are pretty scarce, such as the videos for “Sensible Shoes”, “The Nightlife”, and “Tell the Truth”.  None of these videos are nearly as entertaining as the colourful classics.  Let’s face it, Dave’s great in front of a camera, but he’s at his best when it’s one hell of a party happening behind him.

In Canada, this is an import and I paid about $26.  In the US it’s under $19 which is a much more reasonable price.  For fans who don’t own anything, get this, it just makes sense to.  For fans who already have all the albums, you are now forewarned that you’re buying this solely for the DVD.  There’s nothing much else special in terms of packaging, although lyrics are included.

The CD:  3.5/5 stars

The DVD:  5/5 stars

Blended rating:  4.25/5 stars

More DAVID LEE ROTH at mikeladano.com:

Sonrisa Salvaje (Eat ‘Em and Smile 1986 – Spanish version) – Skyscraper (1988) – “Stand Up” promo remix – Your Filthy Little Mouth (1994 Japanese version) – DLR Band (1998) – Diamond Dave (2003)

REVIEW: David Lee Roth – “Stand Up” promo 12″ remix single

It’s THE WEEK OF SINGLES!  Each day this week I’ll be bringing you reviews and images of a recent CD or vinyl single acquisition.  Craig Fee picked this up for me at Jerry’s Records in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Monday:  Van Halen – “Best of Both Worlds” 7″ single
Tuesday:  Deep Purple – “Above and Beyond” CD and 7″ singles
Wednesday:  Aerosmith “Dude (Looks Like A Lady)” 12″ single

IMG_00001369_editDAVID LEE ROTH – “Stand Up” (1988 Warner promo 12″ remix single)

I had no idea this even existed!  Craig found this one knowing it was something that I would find very interesting.  Indeed!  Promo discs sometimes do have exclusive bonus material on them, although most do not.  I generally only value a promo disc if it has some kind of rare versions on it.  This David Lee Roth 12″ has two exclusive remixes that I’ve never heard, nor heard of, before.  Both exceed 7 minutes.  These mixes were probably done in an attempt to get the song “Stand Up” played in dance clubs, a fairly common practice.  Aerosmith, for example have many such remixes, released on commercial singles.

“Stand Up” is a good choice from the Skyscraper album for such an attempt.  It was already the most pop and dance-like of the 10 tracks. These remixes were done by François Kevorkian, a name that made me chuckle a bit at first.  Craig however immediately recognized the name, and told me that he’s actually a well known mixer.  His name can be found on the credits of Depeche Mode’s Violator and Kraftwerk’s Electric Café albums, among others.

I’ve always said that remixes aren’t my thing, but I actually like these two versions of “Stand Up”.  They are both similar in style, but have traits in common.  They both have a similar sparse style that brings forward isolated elements of the mix to the forefront.  There are some vocals here that you probably haven’t heard before, because they were never that prominent.  Same with Steve Vai’s lead and rhythm guitar, which is actually used generously in these remixes.  I’m not a big fan of dance-y rhythms, but it works on “Stand Up”.

The two remixes are the “Swank Remix (E.Z. To Swallow)” and “Extended Edit (The Long 1!)”.  These unbearably annoying names had me expecting the worst, but I find this single to be quite listenable.  I kind of like them actually.  Bonus: the so-called “extended edit” has plenty of cowbell.  Cheers to François Kevorkian!

3.5/5 stars

More DAVID LEE ROTH at mikeladano.com:

Sonrisa Salvaje (Eat ‘Em and Smile 1986 – Spanish version) – Skyscraper (1988) – Your Filthy Little Mouth (1994 Japanese version) – DLR Band (1998) – Diamond Dave (2003)

REVIEW: David Lee Roth – Skyscraper (1988)

 

DAVID LEE ROTH – Skyscraper (1988 Warner Bros.)

Changes were afoot in the land of Roth after the success of Eat ‘Em and Smile.  Keyboardist Brett Tuggle was hired in as a full-time member.  Steve Vai was promoted to the rank of co-producer for the next album.  Billy Sheehan was put on a leash, his busy bass stylings reduced to typical pop rock lines on much of the new material.  One song even had a programmed bass instead of the real thing.

It seemed like a sudden about-face.  David Lee Roth had left behind the Van Halen-nouveau trappings of the last album in exchange for a much slicker and more commercial sound. What resulted was Skyscraper, a synth-heavy odd duck that nevertheless spawned a massive hit single still getting radio play today. Revisiting it, this almost (only almost!)  sounds more like a Vai album than a Dave album. That’s not a bad thing, depending on how you feel about the 6 (soon to be 7) string master. Certainly, his loopy noodling was reaching an early peak here, but his stylings are not for everyone.

My biggest complaint would be the sidelining of Billy Sheehan.  I mean, you’ve got possibly the best bass player in the universe in your band:  Exploit that!  Don’t keep him playing 1/4 notes.  In a 1988 Hit Parader interview, Sheehan said that he had to leave the band in order to express himself.  He referred to the “note police” (Roth) who ordered him to play it simpler.  After Skyscraper, he was replaced by drummer Gregg Bissonnette’s brother Matt (no slouch).

The opening rocker “Knucklebones” is a great song, but falls a little limp.  Skyscraper‘s production is cold, sterile, and digital; like in that 80’s way before the technology had really come along.  It does boast complex guitar riffing mixed in with idiosyncratic Dave lyrics. Dave has acknowledged that Vai was in the driver’s seat for this album, and its complexity is a testament to that.

Elsewhere there are some progressive moments (the title track, “Hina”), stage-ready rockers (“Perfect Timing”, “Hot Dog and a Shake”), good time ballads (“Damn Good”) and whatever-the-hell (“Three Fools A Minute”). All of this is surrounded by a fun, party-like atmosphere courtesy of Dave as the band’s hoots n’ hollers along.

I consider this album to be a brave experiment, and Dave’s highest artistic achievement. Not his best album, but his most artistic.  While not as instantly likable, rocking, or consistent as Eat ‘Em And Smile, it is endlessly ambitious, layered, and most importantly fun. Dave is the ringmaster of the greatest party in town. Skyscraper is the party where the smart dudes stop in for a beer.

Craig Fee at 107.5 Dave FM, the world’s biggest Van Halen (not Van Hagar!) fan has this to say:

I still have a soft spot for “Just Like Paradise,” “Stand Up” (the more you do it the less you fall down!) and “Hot Dog & A Shake.”  With Steve Vai on lead guitar, this album is a killer follow-up to EEAS.

I’m glad I asked Craig for his comment because our song likes and dislikes on this album are almost opposite!  My faves?  “Skyscraper”, “Hina”, “Just Like Paradise”, “Knucklebones”  My filler: “Stand Up”!  So there ya go.  Maybe this record has something for everyone?

4/5 stars

“Promo only!  Not for sale!”