Crazy From the Heat

REVIEW: David Lee Roth – Crazy From the Heat (1985 EP)

DAVID LEE ROTH – Crazy From the Heat (1985 Warner EP)

Although David Lee Roth’s debut EP has been issued a few times over the years (including remastered on David Lee Roth’s 2013 Greatest Hits deluxe edition), there really is no better way of enjoying it than the old fashioned way:  vinyl!  Crazy From the Heat was made for the turntable.  At only 14 minutes long, the CD was a strange waste of space.

For me, this EP represents an interesting bit of personal history.  While it was cool seeing Roth on TV again, I felt like David had sold out his heavy metal past.  Van Halen were the first band I liked that split into two camps, and I was in Camp Halen.  Roth had not only sold out, but looked ridiculous.  He was wearing (gasp) two different coloured gloves in the video for “California Girls”!  I can’t stress how much that actually mattered to me at the time.

To people like my mom and dad, David Lee Roth was the superstar, Van Halen were just his backing band.  “Why is the band called Van Halen if his name is Lee Roth?” asked my mom.  “Because there are two Van Halens and only one Lee Roth,” I answered her simply.  No point trying to explain who Eddie Van Halen was!  Meanwhile, Van Halen chose the hard rockin’ Sammy Hagar for their new lead singer.  It seemed to me that a line had been drawn in the sand.  On one side, rock and roll integrity.  On the other:  David Lee Roth.  I was not yet 13 years old.

You can certainly see how Crazy From the Heat was so polarising.  The truth is, it’s just Dave having some fun with some old covers.  If Van Halen weren’t so uptight about it, maybe they wouldn’t have had to break up.  The really crazy thing?  This four-song EP produced two hit singles!

Edgar Winter’s “Easy Street” (1974) cooks like an egg on blacktop.  That’s Edgar on sax too, who all but steals the show from the consummate showman Dave.  It’s a masterful teamup.  “Just A Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody” demonstrated Dave’s love and knowledge of old standards, if not his sheer ability to perform them!  It was obvious that Dave was influenced by that whole genre, going back to Van Halen.  The fact is, Dave’s the master of it.  His whole schtick is founded on that era of American music.

My parents and I used to have furious arguments over who was better:  David Lee Roth or the Beach Boys?  I didn’t see how anyone could say the Beach Boys.  They didn’t have Steve Vai or Eddie Van Halen on their songs.  But Dave did have Carl Wilson on “California Girls”, and maybe that’s how he managed to duplicate their surfing harmonies.  Dave beach babe music video for “California Girls” was so arousing that I felt guilty for watching it (over and over).  It reminded me of this deck of playing cards that my buddy Bob had. Each card had a different girl in a different bathing suit. (He kept the playing cards hidden inside an 8 track tape.) Now, nobody’s really saying that Dave’s version of “California Girls” is superior to the original.  They do, however, co-exist continually, in hearts and minds. Roth’s version is to some people what the Beach Boys original is to others.

The final track “Coconut Grove” was a Lovin’ Spoonful cover from 1966.  It was clear that Dave’s solo EP wasn’t going to challenge Van Halen for the rock crown, not with songs like “Coconut Grove”.  It’s so laid back you’ll drift away beneath the tide.  It’s very much at odds with the other colourful, fun songs.  As such, “Coconut Grove” wraps up the EP with a bow.  Crazy From the Heat has a very clear start, middle and end.

Back in 1985, I assumed that we had lost David Lee Roth forever, since “California Girls” became such a hit.  Fortunately I was wrong, and Dave returned to rock on his next LP (though not without losing his knack for oldies, covering “That’s Life” next time).  Crazy From the Heat might have pissed me off at the time, but Roth ended up with an EP that is surprisingly timeless and classic.

4/5 stars

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Part 276: Character Study – HH and Rasputin

RECORD STORE TALES Part 276:  Character Study – HH and Rasputin

HH (aka “Hobbit”) and Rasputin were regulars.  They came to T-Rev’s store first, always selling, never buying.  HH was known for her outrageous makeup.  Usually the lipstick started somewhere below the nose and went down to the chin.  Trevor used to say, “She looks like that woman from David Lee Roth’s ‘Just A Gigolo’ video!  Remember her?”

“DAVID! DAVID!  MY KIDS WILL DEFINITELY KILL ME IF YOU DON’T SIGN THESE PICTURES FOR THEM!”

That’s kind of how she looked.  Very close.  In the summer, HH wore these short skirts that were just way too little clothing.  T-Rev had to deal with her more often than I did.  I don’t know how he didn’t claw his own eyes out.  T-Rev tells me that once, HH pulled up to his store riding a little banana seat bike, wearing that short skirt.  He remembers her so clearly.  “Yeah!   The ‘hobbit’, the ripped nylons and the short skirt with her ass hanging out…yuck.  She looked like she had a Botox stroke in her face!” he says.

Rasputin, unsurprisingly, looked a lot like Grigori Rasputin, the famous “mad monk” of Russian history.  All he lacked was the long hair.  His long trench coat even remotely resembled Rasputin’s long monk robes.  T-Rev nicknamed him Rasputin, or Razzy for short.  He had a lazy eye.

They would come in, selling crappy scratched used CDs.  HH would often say she was selling them for her son.  That meant she had procreated, a scary thought in itself.  She never specifically identified Razzy as the father, but that certainly could have been the case.  Razzy never spoke.  When we would make an offer on the CDs, HH would turn to Razzy.  Razzy would either nod yes, or shake his head no.  Then they’d try to haggle.  Their CDs were rarely worth haggling over.  But haggle they did.  According to Trevor, “I remember her always haggling for a better price out of me…like ‘this CD is really popular right now with the kids’.  Fuck you!”

Those summers of HH and Razzy are long gone, now. I wonder if Razzy ever shaved off that black beard.   I wonder if she’s still riding that bike in her skirt.  I may never know…I don’t really want to know.

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 – Diamond Dave (2003)

DIAMOND DAVE_0001DAVID LEE ROTH – Diamond Dave (2003 Magna Carta)

One can indeed judge a book by its cover. David Lee Roth is hands-on with every aspect of his product, be it a photo shoot, a recording session, or an interview. He must have known his Diamond Dave album was crap, so he made a terrible cover to match it. Check out the tan, that wig and them pants!  (Also notice:  furry walls!)

This album, following up another aborted Van Halen reunion and the surprisingly powerful album DLR Band, switches gears and shows Dave’s “multi-faceted side”. Sure, we all know Dave likes disco, jazz, blues, showtunes, and standards.  It’s Dave doing what he did very successfully on Crazy From the Heat, and trying to do so again.  To make an album of this stuff would be fine, but Diamond Dave lacks any sort of zap.  At all.  It’s just one “who cares” cover after another, a couple crappy originals, and a Van Halen tune.

Dave’s voice just doesn’t generate the heat it once did, and all of Diamond Dave suffers for it.  The way Van Halen did A Different Kind of Truth used a lot of production on Dave.  Here, Roth is a whimper, a wheeze, a breathless gasp at the greatness that once was. To listen to this album in one sitting is an exersize in stamina. I know because I’ve done it.

Positives:  Instrumental moments on the Steve Miller cover “Shoo Bop”.  The ace rhythm section of LoMenzo and Luzier are complimented by a guitarist named Brian Young who is shit-hot on this.  Then Dave goes all dance-y on it…ugh.  “She’s Looking Good” is old-school and well done.

The indigestible:  The Doors’ “Soul Kitchen”.  Nobody needs to cover the Doors; Dave makes them sound like Smash Mouth.  Hendrix’ “If 6 Was 9” has too much of Dave’s boring talking voice, but not enough crooning.  His cover of the otherwise excellent Beatles number “Tomorrow Never Knows” (which he actually had the audicity to rename “That Beatles Tune”!?) sucks all the life and innovation out of a great song, as he wheezes to the finish line.    This is by far the worst song, even though he also covers “Let It All Hang Out”.

There is only one number here worth owning, which is his Las Vegas version of “Ice Cream Man”. He did this shortly after Your Filthy Little Mouth with Edgar Winter, Omar Hakim, Greg Phillinganes, and Nile Rodgers!  According to Dave’s autobiography Crazy From the Heat, this was recorded in a live in a video shoot.  The video was never released, but the audio was finally released.  It lives up to the hype if not the wait.

Decide what you are willing to pay for one or two songs, and buy accordingly.

1/5 stars