jason becker

#729.2: Uncle Meat Destroys 2018!

Man of few words, but many lists:  Uncle Meat presents his top movies, albums, and disappointments of 2018!

 


TOP 10 MOVIES

1. Bohemian Rhapsody
2. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
3. Mandy
4. A Futile and Stupid Gesture
5. Avengers: Infinity War
6. BlacKKKlansman
7. A Star is Born
8. Solo
9. Ant-Man and the Wasp
10. Black Panther

* LeBrain’s comment:  I’m pleased to see the MCU and Coens make strong showings here, but Solo surprises me.


TOP 10 ALBUMS

1. The Wake – Voivod
2. Used Future – The Sword
3. The Tree of Forgiveness – John Prine
4. The Sciences – Sleep
5. Town Burned Down – Adam’s House Cat
6. The Wolf Bites Back – Orange Goblin
7. Mankind Woman – Brant Bjork
8. Our Raw Heart – YOB
9. Spaceman – Ace Frehley
10. Triumphant Hearts – Jason Becker

 


DISAPPOINTMENTS OF 2018

1. Tenacious D – Post Apocalyptico (Both the animated show and album)
2. Kiss completely playing to tracks live
3. Troy Tulowitzki
4. LeBrain’s Porn Debut

* You can’t please everybody!

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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

 

REVIEW: David Lee Roth – Your Filthy Little Mouth (Japanese import)

DLR FRONT

DAVID LEE ROTH – Your Filthy Little Mouth (1994 Warner Japanese edition)

I’ll admit it, I like this album a lot, and I have since it came out in ’94. It was, however, a total flop. I will never forget the summer of 1994. Working in a record store for the first time, there was a lonely stack of Your Filthy Little Mouth discs sitting right next to an equally tall stack of Motley Crue self-titled CDs. I don’t think I sold one that entire summer, though not for lack of storeplay. It was the times, and if this album had been released in 1989, I’m sure it would have been a smash hit across multiple radio formats.

By this time, David no longer had a “real” band. Long gone were the days of Vai and Sheehan, and even poor Jason Becker was now gone, struck with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Dave started writing and playing with guitarist Terry Kilgore, and utilized a lot of studio cats on these sessions. Kilgore’s playing — bluesy, stratty and tubey — was lightyears away from the futuristic sounds coming from Planet Vai.

The album skirts multiple genres, which earned Dave equal amounts of praise and derision. We all knew Dave had lots of different T-shirts in his drawer. “She’s My Machine” is a groove rocker, mid-paced and sexy with Dave doing his best Van Halen impression. Other songs, such as “Big Train” explored the fast and speedy side of Dave’s boogie rock. Deeper in, “Cheatin’ Heart Cafe” (an excellent duet with Travis Tritt) and “Hey You Never Know” hang on the outskirts of Nashville quite successfully.

Meanwhile on side two, you get the eclectic reggae and urban sounds of “No Big ‘Ting” and “You’re Breathin’ It”, neither of which work and weaken an otherwise strong collection of songs. “Your Filthy Little Mouth”, the title track, quickens the pace back to where we started. It is a strong rocker with some of Dave’s patented fun and cool lyricism. The album ends on a slower note — Willie Nelson’s “Night Life” (previously covered by Thin Lizzy) and a track called “Sunburn” which recalls “Coconut Grove” from the first EP.

A stupid and terribly unnecessary remix of “You’re Breathin’ It” is a bonus track, and the final song — unless you own the Japanese version (I found mine at a record show in Guelph Ontario), which tacked on a cool blues called “Mississippi Power”. “Mississippi Power” was also available on the “She’s My Machine” 7″ single (which I also bought at a record show in London Ontario many years before that).  The Japanese version also had a sticker.  Wheee!

DLR STICKER

Lyrically, Dave was at the top of his game, spinning fun and witty lyrics like never before or since in his entire career. Only Dave could sing, “I got a steel-wheeled radial prophylactic for you, and I ain’t afraid to use it now.” All over the album, you will find double and triple entendre as well as Dave’s personal philophy of life. Are you a passenger, or an engineer? “Whatever gets you to the end of the line”. “Take the traveller and the tourist — the essential difference is, the traveller don’t know where he’s going, and the tourist don’t know where he is!”

When the album flopped, Dave disappeared for a few years and went to Vegas. By 1998 he had snapped up John5 (from Rob Halford’s 2wo), and put together the awesome DLR Band which could rival Van Halen in chops and aggression. Your Filthy Little Mouth stands as an interesting detour on Dave’s road of life.

4/5 stars. Only a couple stinkers (and one useless remix).