Van Halen

REVIEW: Sammy Hagar – “Give to Live” (12″ single)

SAMMY HAGAR – “Give to Live” (1987 Geffen 12″ single)

Sammy Hagar released his solo album I Never Said Goodbye in 1987, right when he was still in Van Halen.  It was co-produced by Sammy and Eddier himself.  It was a mixed bag, with some killer tunes and a few things that were far too wimpy.  A couple singles were released, and “Give to Live” was the best.  As a power ballad, it probably could have suited any of the Van Hagar albums except For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.  That’s Eddie on bass, by the way, and listen to how great he is.  No surprise, right?  When you’re as great at music as Eddie Van Halen is, it must be hard for other musicians to cut it in his eyes.  (Cough cough Michael Anthony cough.)

Also on the A-side is album opener “When the Hammer Falls”, an OK rock track.  As discussed in the album review for I Never Said Goodbye, “When the Hammer Falls” has a good riff but not much of a chorus.  That’s too bad since it was one of the hardest rockers on the LP.  (And just listen to Eddie’s bass…again!)  you can’t hit a homerun every time, though there’s nothing here to be embarrassed of.

If you buy the single, there’s no point unless you get the 12″ with the non-album bonus track.  On the B-side you will find the full-length version of “Standin’ at the Same Old Crossroads”, which was only 1:46 on album.  It served as an introduction to the song “Privacy”, but on this single it’s unedited.  This is a real treat for fans of Sammy’s underappreciated guitar playing.  The song is just Sammy and an electric slide guitar, bluesing it up.  The intro is longer and there’s a lot more playing than the album version.  Stuff like this is the reason to have B-sides and buy singles in the first place.

3.5/5 stars

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REVIEW: Van Halen – LIVE: Right here, right now. (1993, plus “Jump” live single)

scan_20160929VAN HALEN – LIVE: Right here, right now. (1993 Warner Bros, plus “Jump” live single)

The summer of ’93 was the “Summer of Live Albums” here at LeBrain HQ.  There were many live discs out to digest, several of them from “must-purchase” bands.  Most notable was Ozzy’s Live & Loud which came in a metal speaker grille cover.  Iron Maiden also put out A Real Live One, the first of a two-album live set.  And then there was a big’un:  Van Halen’s first live album, the double Right here, right now.

What did all three releases have in common?  They were all boring duds.

Sad but true.  In Van Halen’s case, the disappointment was acute.  Sure it was “Van Hagar” and not the “real deal” if you believe in that  sort of thing, but that wasn’t the issue.  There are a few problems with Right here, right now but none of them have to do with the singer.  The setlist is a real drag, with way too much material from For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.  10 of the 11 songs from F.U.C.K. are on this album!  (“The Dream is Over” being the only missing song — you had to buy this on VHS to get it!)  A F.U.C.K. song opens the set, another closes the set…it’s too much, especially since F.U.C.K. was (one of?) the weakest Halen albums to date.

Issue #2 is perhaps a bit silly, since Van Halen shows are known for their solos: but this album has too many solos.  Eddie’s aside; he always going to blow your mind.  Unfortunately, Michael Anthony and Alex Van Halen are, quite frankly, boring soloists.  Did “Ultra Bass” need to be five minutes long?  It’s best when Michael’s just playing, but as fans know his bass solo is half notes, and half noise.  Immediately after that is “Pleasure Dome/Drum Solo”, nine whole minutes.  The instrumental “Pleasure Dome” section is best since it resembles a song (a driving hard one at that).

The final major issue is one we didn’t even know about until recently.  Sammy Hagar revealed in his book Red that this album was heavily overdubbed afterwards, and I wouldn’t doubt it.  (Hagar claims that he re-sang the entire thing over again in the studio.)  There was always something underneath the surface that didn’t feel right about this album, and that could be it right there.  Right here, right now feels dulled, perhaps by too much studio polish after the fact.

It’s not all bad of course, how could it be?  “Poundcake” and “Judgement Day” start it off strongly.  Then they went and dropped a ballad (“When It’s Love”) and a shitty song (“Spanked”), and all momentum is stopped.  The duo of “You Really Got Me” and “Cabo Wabo” are pretty damn great though.  There are a couple Hagar solo tracks in set which add some spice to the mix.  The acoustic ballad “Give to Live” is just Sammy alone, but “One Way to Rock” is the whole ass-kickin’ band.  Of all the Hagar tracks the band has played live, “One Way to Rock” sounds most natural as a Van Halen song.  The final surprise is “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, which Eddie does not play keyboards on.  Instead he mimics Pete Townsend’s synthesizer part with his guitar.  Who purists will hate Sammy’s take on it, but fuck it.  It’s a pretty damn good version of a hard to cover classic.

There are a couple other decent tracks to be had.  German and Japanese versions contain two bonus tracks:  “Mine All Mine” (from the OU812 tour) and another Hagar track, “Eagles Fly”.  They can also be found on the “Jump” live single.  Unlike much of the rest of the album “Mine All Mine” has some bite to it.  It’s a great example of synthesizer working well in a hard rock song.  (Unfortunately it fades out early.)  As for “Eagles Fly”, this is a song Sammy played acoustic on the occasions he didn’t play “Give to Live”.  Although it was played less, “Eagles Fly” edges out the other just slightly by a nose.  These two bonus tracks are worth tracking down the single for, or an import version of the album.

I traded up my original copy of LIVE: Right here, right now for a US import that came in a cardboard digipack.  Although it has no bonus tracks, it does have some bonus photos, which is still pretty cool.

It’s not fun to say any Van Halen album isn’t essential, but Right here, right now is not essential.

2/5 stars

 

COMPLETE VAN HALEN REVIEW SERIES:

VAN HALEN – Zero (1977 Gene Simmons demo bootleg)
VAN HALEN – Van Halen (1978 Warner)
VAN HALEN – Van Halen II (1979 Warner)
VAN HALEN – Women and Children First (1980 Warner)
VAN HALEN – Fair Warning (1981 Warner)
VAN HALEN – Diver Down (1982 Warner)
VAN HALEN – 1984 (1984 Warner)
VAN HALEN – 5150 (1986 Warner Bros.)
VAN HALEN – OU812 (1988 Warner)
VAN HALEN – For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991)
VAN HALEN – Balance (1995 Warner – Japanese version included)
VAN HALEN – Best Of Volume I (1996 Warner)
VAN HALEN – 3 (Collectors’ tin 1998)
VAN HALEN – The Best of Both Worlds (2005 Warner)
VAN HALEN – A Different Kind of Truth (2012)
VAN HALEN – Tokyo Dome Live in Concert (2015)
VAN HALEN – Tokyo Dome Live in Concert (2015) Review by Tommy Morais

+

VAN HALEN – “Best of Both Worlds” (1986 Warner 7″ single)
VAN HALEN – “Can’t Get This Stuff No More” / “Me Wise Magic” (1996 Warner promo singles)
VAN HALEN – “Can’t Stop Loving You” (Parts 1 & 2, inc. collector’s tin)
VAN HALEN – “Right Now” (1992 cassette single, Warner)
VAN HALEN vs. JOHN LENNON – “Imagine A Jump” mashup by “Mighty Mike”
RECORD STORE TALES Part 186:  The Van Halen Tin

 

 

#512: Sh*t LeBrain’s Wife Says

GETTING MORE TALE #512: Shit LeBrain’s Wife Says

As readers here know, when I can get away with putting the minimum amount of effort into a story, I’m going to go for it.  This one is lifted directly from my Facebook posts, a couple months after Jen and I got married.  Her ongoing education in rock was just beginning.  I can proudly say that today, Mrs. LeBrain knows the difference between Van Halen and Van Hagar.  But in 2008?


 

Oct 9 2008:

TOP TWO QUOTES FROM JENNIFER TODAY:

#2 Some background, I was playing the track “Me Wise Magic” by Van Halen, an obscure song with David Lee Roth singing.  I said to Jen, do you know who this is? And she responded:

“Yeah…is this Van Hagar?”

#1 “Wow is your beard ever grey!”

But I’m still gonna stay married to her anyway.

wow is your beard ever grey


It’s even more grey today.

Jen likes both Van Halen and Van Hagar now, and she’s perfectly capable of telling the difference.  She counts “Jump” and “Why Can’t This Be Love” as her favourite VH songs, tied for the #1 position.  Considering that in my dating days, girls used to insist on listening to MuchDance95 in the car, I’m a very lucky man. I dodged some musical bullets, and somehow ended up with the best girl in the world.

REVIEW: Sammy Hagar – Sammy Hagar / I Never Said Goodbye (1987)

Scan_20160705SAMMY HAGAR – Sammy Hagar / I Never Said Goodbye (1987 Geffen)

Remember when everybody in the Van Hagar camp just loved each other?  Things were so happy in Van Hagar, that Sammy released a solo album in 1987 and nobody got mad.  Hell, Eddie himself co-produced it and played bass!   Hagar was obligated to do another solo album to get out of his contract with Geffen, and so the self-titled Sammy Hagar was recorded quickly.  Sammy apparently forgot he released another album also called Sammy Hagar in 1977, so this one was re-titled I Never Said Goodbye.   (I still call it Sammy Hagar.)

There was something particularly weird about this release on cassette. I had a version, purchased from Columbia House around 1989-1990, with a bizarre cover. The J-card was designed to fold around outside the cassette shell. I’m not sure why to this day, and I’ve never seen another copy like it. The artwork was obviously designed to fold on the outside rather than the inside, but I’ll never figure out why.

All the members of Van Halen even appeared in Sammy’s video for “Hands and Knees”.  The plot was simple, and perhaps a foreshadowing of things to come.  A bored Hagar calls his bandmates (including nextdoor neighbor Eddie) to jam, but nobody’s interested.  Instead, Hagar jams with a group of robots!  “Hands and Knees” was an odd choice for a first single, being a dark and slow mood tune.  The video guaranteed attention, and still garners a chuckle today (albeit a sad one, knowing these guys aren’t pals anymore).  I love Michael Anthony’s huge brick of a cell phone.  The video was better than the song, though it does have a killer of a chorus.  It’s clear if you listen that Eddie Van Halen is one damn fine bassist too.  Are you surprised?

One thing about this album, though:  it’s really commercial.  Like way, way more pop even than 5150.  It’s no surprise that some writers like the esteemed Martin Popoff have slagged this album.  The production has an airy 80’s feel, not enough oomph.  The opening track “When the Hammer Falls” is a hard rocker, but it could have been thicker with more meat.  Not that it would have helped too much.  The chorus on this one is pretty weak, which is too bad since the riff is good enough for rock and roll.

The second single, which Van Halen used to let Sammy play live acoustically, is “Give to Live”.  Van Halen’s version can be found on 1993’s Live: Right here, right now.  Hagar’s studio original is unabashedly pop, bombastic…and good.  I admit I still enjoy this very cheesy ballad.  Hagar is rarely profound, and neither is “Give to Live”, but it’s a nice song indeed.

A shitty synth (?) horn section urinates all over “Boy’s Night Out”. Speaking of synth, “Returning Home” is all but unpalatable. This is one of Sammy’s UFO yarns, a story of a guy returning back to Earth to find it wrecked. “I saw the ruins, once the smoke cleared, once upon returning home.” It’s just sunk by all this terrible synthesizer junk and programming. The UFO has crashed into the damn mountain!

ALIENS

The second side surprisingly opened with some blues jamming:  “Standin’ at the Same Old Crossroads”.  And that would be Sammy on the slide guitar.  “Crossroads” leads directly into “Privacy”, a “Radar Love” re-write that is better than “Radar Love”.  Maybe I’m just sick of “Radar Love”, but “Privacy” has some smoking playing on it, proving again that Hagar is actually a pretty badass soloist.  Side two on a whole is actually much better than the first.  “Back Into You” is a vintage-style Hagar radio rocker.  Journey must have wished they wrote “Back Into You”.  The keyboard overdubs aren’t necessary but hey, it was the 80’s and this is a great little AOR rocker.

Another tune that Hagar played live with Van Halen was “Eagles Fly”.  He actually presented the song to the band for 5150, but it was turned down.  A live Van Halen version can be found on the 1993 single for “Jump (Live)”.  He did it acoustically on stage, but the studio version is bombastic and big like “Give to Live” is.  It’s a pretty impressive tune, for pop rock.   David Lauser’s drumming makes the song, I’m a sucker for that rat-a-tat-tat!

The album ends on a ho-hum note, the soul-funk of “What They Gonna Say Now”, sort of this album’s “Inside” to close it out.  Just not good enough.  If you want to hear Eddie Van Halen playing bass up close and personal, he’s very audible here, but he’s not a flash bassist.  He plays with the groove for the song.

It’s tempting to think of this album as a collection of tracks that were not right for Van Halen, and that’s mostly true.  A lot of it, however, just wasn’t good enough for Van Halen.  “What They Gonna Say Now” could have been a Van Halen track, but it would have been the weakest tune on 5150 if so.

2.5/5 stars

DVD REVIEW: Superbad (2007)

SUPERBAD (2007 Columbia unrated extended edition)

Directed by Greg Mottola

While the Apatow Company’s best films are behind them now, in 2007 they were coming off the dual hits 40 Year old Virgin, and Knocked Up.  Those films featured a core of recurring actors, including Bill Hader, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, James Franco and the whole gang that we are all familiar with today.  Then, this kind of comedy was fresh.  Today, Superbad is the only Apatow I can still watch regularly and laugh like it’s the first time.

I love a movie with a great rock soundtrack, and Superbad features Van Halen (“Panama”), Motorhead (“Ace of Spades”), and Ted Nugent (“Stranglehold”).  There’s even The Roots! Even better, and incorporated into the comedy, is the Guess Who’s “These Eyes” as performed by Michael Cera.  It is a case 0f mistaken identity and Cera’s character Evan is in a spot.  I’m cracking up thinking about it. “He’s Jimmy’s brother, the guy! The singer! He’s the guy with the beautiful voice that I was telling you about!” And then, “My brother came all the way from Scottsdale Arizona to be here tonight. And you’re not going to sing for him? You sing, and sing good!” The last song I would have chosen to sing under such circumstances would have been “These Eyes”, but that’s why this is a comedy movie.

Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera) are highschool versions of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who wrote this movie, but were too old to play the parts. It’s the end of highschool, and together with their friend Fogell aka “McLovin” (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who absolutely nails it in his film debut), they aim to score some liquor for a party. Once they have booze, they will be like heroes to Jules (Emma Stone) and Becca (Martha MacIsaac) at the party, and possibly score some coitus. McLovin has the fake ID, but acquiring the alcohol is only the first of many stumbling blocks.

Seth Rogen and Bill Hader play incompetent cops, but their intentionally stupid scenes will make you groan rather than laugh. Bad decisions by all the characters may have you shaking your head asking “why?”, but you have to put your mind in the hormones of a highschool kid aiming to get his first touchy feely. Guys do stupid things not unlike the people in this movie. I know guys who’ve done things like this when they were kids. I’ve made plenty of stupid decisions while chasing someone of the fairer sex. Granted, I’ve never been hit by a car and then talked into not calling the cops in exchange for going to a badass party where I can steal some booze. That exact situation has never happened to me or anyone I know. But it’s fucking hilarious.

The most enjoyable comedy usually comes from the banter between Hill and Cera. Their blunt vulgarity has a certain art to it. I can still quote lines from this movie, and people know which ones I’m talking about. “Something like 8% of kids do it, but whatever.”

In this film, Seth and Evan are going to different colleges and there is a tension between the two characters over this.  Both of them feel differently about it, and this is the most relateable part of the movie.  The end of highschool feels like the top of the world for a brief moment, but then in the fall friendships split up, sometimes forever (until Facebook came along anyway).  Superbad  is basically a movie about two guys trying to get some, but the tension in the friendship is ultimately what drives the story to its conclusion.  Cera and Hill are funny indeed, but the friendship they portray seems real.

The unrated edition is loaded to the gills with bonus features, and honestly a good chunk of them are worth checking out. You can skip the “Cop Car Confessions”, but definitely watch “Everyone Hates Michael Cera – The Unfortunate True Story”. And of course, don’t miss “The Music of Superbad” either. Bootsy Collins and Lyle Workman put together an unexpectedly cool soundtrack.

4/5 stars

#433.9: Top 15 on the 15th (by Iron Tom Sharpe)

NOTE:  Because of the three Top 15 on the 15th posts today, there will be no posting for Wednesday.  A directory to all the Top 15 on the 15th posts can be found here.  Browse them all!

Getting More Tale #433.9 presents: A worldwide online event!
THE TOP 15 ON THE 15th – Guest shot by Iron Tom Sharpe

Latest to throw his hat into the Top 15 on the 15th ring is Iron Tom Sharpe, Meaford’s Greatest Athlete. One of the most knowledgeable rock fans in the country, Iron Tom is a national treasure. He is a former Record Store owner, and one of the Jedi masters who instructed me.

His message to me upon completion of his list: “Fuck that was tough…and I know I left off some big ones…I just know it…Ah fuck, The D! Max!”

There may be no Tenacious D, and there may be no Max Webster. But here is one kick-ass #Top15onthe15th.

 

WARP15. The Sword – Warp Riders

MASTER14. Metallica – Master of Puppets

PERFECT13. Deep Purple – Perfect Strangers

BONGO12. Frank Zappa – Bongo Fury

PHYSICAL11. Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti

SKY10. Kyuss – Sky Valley

FAIR9. Van Halen – Fair Warning

PHASES8. Willie Nelson – Phases and Stages

CLOSE7. Yes – Close to the Edge

POWERSLAVE6. Iron Maiden – Powerslave

ACTION'5. Fu Manchu – The Action Is Go

ALRIGHT4. Steve Earle – I Feel Alright

MISPLACED3. Marillion – Misplaced Childhood

II2. Queen – Queen II

MOVING1. Rush – Moving Pictures

 

 

Almost made it:

  • Orange Goblin – Time Traveling Blues
  • Crosby Stills & Nash – CSN
  • Pink Floyd – Animals
  • Motorhead – Another Perfect Day
  • Black Sabbath – Heaven and Hell

 

And finally…an extra bonus.  Iron Tom’s Top 5 Live!

5. Iron Maiden – Live After Death

4. Jimi Hendrix – Band Of Gypsys

3. Supertramp – Paris

2. Dire Straits – Alchemy Live

1. Eric Clapton – Just One Night

#433: Top 15 on the 15th (by LeBrain)

15

Getting More Tale #433 presents: A worldwide online event!
THE TOP 15 ON THE 15th

This is an event spanning many sites and writers in the World Wide Web today!  I will link to as many as possible.  A few months ago, the challenge was thrown down to all comers:  List your top 15 albums of all time!  The date September 15 was chosen for the deadline.

Hashtag it:  #top15onthe15th

You might have to wait for some of these to go live, but here are the links I have so far:

J at Resurrection Songs – Top 15 on the 15th
Uncle Meat – Top 15 on the 15th
Iron Tom Sharpe – Top 15 on the 15th
James at the KMA – Top 15 on the 15th
Sarca at Caught me Gaming – My Top 15 Music Albums of All Time
Deke at Arena Rock – DeKEs All Time Top 15 (Kinda,Sorta)
Geoff at the 1001 – Top 15 Albums
Aaron at the KMA – Top 15 on the 15th
Danica at Living a Beautiful Life – My Top 15 Albums of All Time
1537 from 1537 – Top 15 Books About Music
We Left This World Today – 15 is not enough…
Andytallman from A Hole in the Head – Top 15 Albums of All Time
Pop Culture Forays – Top 15 Albums
Brian from Boppin’s Blog – Top 15 on the 15th
Ovidiu Boar at Tangled Up In Music – Top 15 on the 15th
80sMetalMan – My Top 15 Albums
Jimmy at kingcrimsonblog – Top 15 on the 15th
Another Bad Conversation – My Top 15 on the 15th
Nick from Nick Green’s Reviews – Top 15 on the 15th
Zack at The Audible Stew – #top15onthe15th
Quirky T at The Guitar Train – The Guitar Train’s Top 15 Albums
Ian at The 80s didn’t suck – Top 15 Albums (Plus 54 Others)


Oh, how I loathe lists! Readers seem to love “Top Whatever” lists; different kinds, but I sure do hate making them.

However, I don’t like doing things in half-measures either. So for this, the Top 15 on the 15th, I’ve gone one step beyond. Not only do you get my Top 15 on the 15th, but also a list of the Top 15 tracks to listen to from these 15 amazing albums.

As of today, here are my Top 15. These will change periodically, probably tomorrow, and again the day after. See why I hate lists?  In the end I decided that I wanted to fairly represent some of my favourite artists.  But enough whining from me — let’s rock.  Spin these little bastards for a good time!

LEATHER15. Judas Priest – Hell Bent for Leather (Killing Machine)

VACATIONS14. Max Webster – A Million Vacations

NEWS13. Queen – News of the World

SCHOOL12. Alice Cooper – School’s Out

BEATLES11. The Beatles – The Beatles (The White Album)

JOHNNY10. Thin Lizzy – Johnny the Fox

HOUSES9. Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy

SAN8. Johnny Cash – At San Quentin

ANGEL7. Faith No More – Angel Dust

MOVING6. Rush – Moving Pictures

19845. Van Halen – 1984

Let’s stop here for a moment.  The thing about my top albums list is, the top four never change.  Four of these five albums have been in my top five for a long as I can remember making lists for.  The order may change, but that top four have been my top four, forever.  They are indelibly heat-stamped onto my grey matter.  These are as much a part of me as my left arm!

PIECE4. Iron Maiden – Piece of Mind

HOTTER3. Kiss – Hotter Than Hell

FIREBALL2. Deep Purple – Fireball

BORN1. Black Sabbath – Born Again

Right there are 15 incredible collections of music, both studio and live. But let’s not fool ourselves. Nobody is going to listen to all 15 of those albums just because some guy on the internet who goes by the name of “LeBrain” said so. I have chosen to distill these 15 amazing records down into 15 key tracks. I’m sure nobody needs an introduction to the big hits, so here are tracks you may not have heard. If you have ever cared about rock music, then you need to listen to these Top 15 Songs from the Top 15 Albums, on the 15th!

1. Rush – “Vital Signs”

2. Black Sabbath – “Disturbing the Priest”

3. Queen – “It’s Late”

4. Iron Maiden – “Where Eagles Dare”

5. The Beatles – “Dear Prudence”

6. Johnny Cash – “San Quentin”


“If any of the guards are still speakin’ to me, can I get a glass of water?”

7. Led Zeppelin – “The Ocean”

8. Thin Lizzy – “Massacre”

9. Alice Cooper – “Gutter Cat vs. the Jets”

10. Deep Purple – “Fools”

11. Iron Maiden – “Revelations”

12. Judas Priest – “The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)”

13. Alice Cooper – “My Stars”

14. Queen – “Spread Your Wings”

15. Deep Purple – “No No No”

Astute readers will realize that one singer appears on two albums. Ian Gillan was fronting Black Sabbath in ’83 for Born Again, and of course is best known as Deep Purple’s lead howler. Does this double appearance make Ian Gillan the greatest rock vocalist of all time? No. But the greatest does appear, with Queen on News of the World – Freddie Mercury!

REVIEW: David Lee Roth – Eat ‘Em and Smile (1986)

Scan_20150728DAVID LEE ROTH – Eat ‘Em and Smile (1986 Warner)

1986 was the year it all went down. If you were a Van Halen fan, it was time to choose.

Of course, nobody really had to choose between Van Hagar and David Lee Roth. It’s not like every fan had only $10 to spend on albums that year. Fans did choose anyway, and even today almost 30 years later, we still argue about who’s best: Diamond Dave or the Red Rocker?

No matter who you sided with, there is no question that David Lee Roth stormed into 1986 with a killer new band and album.

Steve Vai! That’s enough right there to make for an incendiary band — just ask David Coverdale. Before Little Stevie Vai was a household name, he had earned the respect of Frank Zappa who hired him on after Joe’s Garage. He made his Zappa debut on Tinseltown Rebellion, before being snagged by Graham Bonnet in 1985 for Alcatrazz’s Disturbing the Peace. In that band, he had the unenviable task of replacing a Swedish guitar player you may have heard of called Yngwie J. Malmsteen. Needless to say, Steve Vai was already experienced in filling big shoes by the time David Lee Roth made contact.

Billy Sheehan! A lot of people think he’s the world’s greatest bass player, period. Eight finger lead bass, baby! Three albums with Talas didn’t do much in terms of sales, but the material was strong enough that one song was re-recorded for the Roth album.

Gregg Bissonette! Once you learn how to properly spell his name, you will recognize Bissonette on loads of album credits. Joe Satriani come to mind? How about Spinal Tap? For your information, Gregg Bissonette is still alive, and is still the current Spinal Tap drummer.

Combine those three virtuosos with the greatest frontman of all time, and you have best new band of 1986.

Van Halen’s 5150 came out in March, going to #1. That’s a hard act to follow. Eat ‘Em and Smile, however, ending up standing the test of time. I would argue that even though it’s not Van Halen, it’s still the best Van Halen album since 1984….

As if to say “Eddie who?”, the album opens with Steve Vai’s trademark talking guitar. I’m talkin’ about-a-“Yankee Rose”! Here’s the shot heard ’round the world indeed. Lyrically, musically, and instrumentally, this song truly is the spiritual successor to classic Van Halen. David Lee was still in prime voice, and does he ever pour it on! Sassy as ever, Roth sounds exactly how he should: the showman in the rock and roll circus. And let’s not forget Billy and Gregg. Sheehan’s slinky bass on the outro is space age groove.

“Shyboy” is an atomic bomb. Billy brought in this song from Talas, but there is no question that Dave’s version is vastly superior. I have no idea how Vai makes his guitar create these sounds. When he goes into syncopation with Billy on the fastest solo of all time, your head may be blown clean off. Please, do not attempt to listen to “Shyboy” in the car, without testing it at home first. As Steve’s guitar flickers from left to right, Billy’s bass is the fastest, baddest groove on record. “Shyboy” is of such high quality that I do not think any self-respecting rock fan can live without it. Virtually every trick that Steve had at the time was in this one song.

One thing that was special about Van-Halen-with-Dave was their fearlessness in doing odd covers, such as “Big Bad Bill” or “Oh Pretty Woman”. Dave took that with him, and included oldie swing covers like “I’m Easy”. Horn laden and with Steve’s expert licks, it should be no surprise that they nail this one. It’s much in the spirit of Dave’s solo EP, Crazy From the Heat, only better.

Perhaps the most outstanding song on Eat ‘Em and Smile would be “Ladies Nite in Buffalo?” Dave has always said he loves disco and dance music. This is the most perfect melding of that world with rock. Vai is rarely so funky, and there is no question that Dave has the vibe right. Smooth and steamy, “Ladies Nite in Buffalo?” is a tune perfectly in synch with activities of the nocturnal persuasion. Who else but Dave would be perfect to deliver this message?

“Goin’ Crazy” was a great track to make into one of Dave’s typically high flying music videos. It’s party rock time, with a tropical vibe. “Goin’ Grazy” worked particularly well when Dave re-released it in Spanish, as “¡Loco del calor!”. I used to consider this tune a bit of a throwaway, but it has certainly endeared itself over the years. Another meticulously perfect Vai solo doesn’t hurt, and Billy’s bass popping helps end side one on an up note.

Now there is a story here that needs to be told. Billy Sheehan was in Canadian progressive rock band Max Webster for “about three weeks” according to lead singer Kim Mitchell. Upon joining Dave’s band, he introduced them to Kim Mitchell’s solo track “Kids In Action”, which they decided to cover. Bill called Kim up to ask him for the lyrics, because they couldn’t quite make them all out. Kim supplied the words, and Dave recorded the song. However, it was dropped at the 11th hour, for another cover — “Tobacco Road”. David Lee Roth’s version of “Kids In Action” has yet to be released or even bootlegged. Not that I am complaining about “Tobacco Road”, another old cover! Yet again, the reliably awesome Steve Vai just sells it. There is no question that the whole song just smokes, but getting to hear Stevie playing this old blues?  Pretty damn cool.

That’s nothing. You thought “Shyboy” was fast? Check out “Elephant Gun”! Billy’s fingers didn’t fall off, but mine would have. “I’ll protect you baby with my Elephant Gun”, claims Dave. Nudge, wink! Steve Vai’s been known to write blazing fast songs, and “Elephant Gun” is so fast it’s almost showing off. Wisely though, things get slow and nocturnal once again on “Big Trouble”. That’s a title Dave recycled from an old unused Van Halen song. (That song became “Big River” on A Different Kind of Truth.) Steve’s guitar melodies and solo on this are particularly celestial. Roth uses his speaking voice, spinning a tale as only he can. “Bump and Grind” is a perfectly acceptable album track, a sleaze rocker as only Dave can do. If I am interpreting the lyrics correctly, Dave is a dance instructor in this one. “Shake it slowly, and do that Bump and Grind”.

Much like “Happy Trails” ended Diver Down on a jokey note, Dave ends his first solo album with a cover: “That’s Life”, the song that Sinatra made famous. Coming from the guy who did “Just a Gigolo”, we know he can do that kind of thing very well. The first time I heard the album years ago, I shrugged and said, “Another one?” Now, older and fatter, I sez it’s all good! Zop-bop-doop-zooby-dooby-doo indeed. Funny thing though. When I think of Diver Down, I think of a fun but fairly shallow album of half covers. When I think of Eat ‘Em and Smile, I don’t question the integrity of it. I don’t know why I seem to hold that double standard.

In this writer’s humble opinion, Eat ‘Em and Smile was David Lee Roth’s finest moment as a solo artist. It was not nearly as well known as 5150, OU812, or any of Van Hagar’s albums, and that is almost criminal. The talent in this band, pound for pound, outweighed anybody else going at the time, including Van Halen. Shame they couldn’t make it last.

5/5 stars

#407: Summertime

SHIRTS

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#407: Summertime

I’ve always been a summer guy.  I was born in July.  I don’t like the snow.  My spirits are stronger and moods happier in the summer.  Summer holidays were glorious days to be spent at the cottage.  The beach, swimming, new music, no school…plus my birthday.  My whole year revolved around July and August!

Working at the Record Store in the summer was fun.  The sun pouring through the windows, opening the door and letting the breeze in…it was wonderful.  Not to mention that, as a single male, I didn’t mind female customers coming in dressed for summer.

Of course summer wasn’t all peaches and cream.  It meant the return of the infamous “No Shirts, No Shoes, No Service” sign and its enforcement thereof.   I hated having to kick people out for coming in with no shirt, but it had to be done.

Me: “Hey, do you mind putting on a shirt in the store?”

Him: “Why, are you serving food here?”

No, it’s just that I don’t want to have to watch the bead of sweat dripping off your nipple ring.

T-Rev made a different sign.  His said:

Because highschool is free,
And Jerry Springer does not work here,
Shoes and Shirts must be worn in store.

But I don’t know if he ever hung it up.  I hope he did.

People with no shoes were just as bad, particularly the Barefoot DJ who tried to fight us for his human rights to walk around with no shoes on.  All I know is that I had standing orders to kick him out, human rights be damned.  You can do whatever you want out there, but inside the store where insurance companies tell us what to do, you gotta obey the rules!  (If a CD case fell off the shelf and broke, and he stepped on a piece and cut his foot, he could sue.  And CD cases fell of the shelf and shattered every day.)

Because we had these big glass windows, sometimes the heat in the summer would get to be too much.  It was like a greenhouse.  There was always a constant battle over the air conditioning level, and it seemed we could never arrive at a compromise that made everyone comfortable.  My final summer at the store (2005), it was so hot inside that I tended to leave the big overhead counter lights off.  It made it harder for me to inspect incoming CDs for quality, but it also kept me from sweating all over them.

Summer album releases were memorable.  Metallica’s Load (June 4 1996) was the soundtrack to that summer for me.  In store, in car, it didn’t matter.  Load saw a lot of store play.  I’m quite fond of Load, and I’m sure the fact that it was Metallica that could be played in-store had a lot to do with that.  The same summer, Kiss were out there on their reunion tour, and I had their You Wanted the Best live compilation (June 25 1996) to keep me company at work.

I expect summer 2015 to rock just as much.  I don’t know what my album for the summer will be this year, but Van Halen’s Tokyo Dome Live in Concert is a contender.  I’ve already shorn my mane to cope with the summer heat.

Still, when it comes to summertime, I truthfully think Sammy Hagar said it best:

“We made it through the cold
And that freezin’ snow is gettin’ old, hey!

Woo! Summer nights and my radio
(Ah-ah) Well that’s all we need, baby. Don’tcha know?
We celebrate when the gang’s all here
(Ah-ah) Ah, hot summer nights, that’s my time of the year-ow!”

Have a great summer everyone!

#395: Dutch Boy

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#395: Dutch Boy

As kids in the 1980s growing up in Kitchener, we would buy our music anywhere we could find it.  A lot of mine came from the mall: stores like Zellers and A&A Records.  Other places to find music included Hi-Way Market on Weber Street.  That place was incredible.  They had the largest toy section I’d ever seen, and every Christmas a professional Lego builder would put together a giant display.  None of these places exist anymore.

Another place that carried a small section of music was actually Dutch Boy Food Markets, just down the street from Hi-Way Market.  It too is long gone, but I have many memories of that place.  It had a small music section, but they also sold food, toys and clothing.  It was considered a supermarket but it had a little bit of everything.  My dad remembers buying many of my beloved G.I. Joe figures at that store.  He also says that we bought our Atari 2600 there.  That Atari still works today.  I think we got it in 1982.  My aunt actually used to work at a Dutch Boy location (not the same one) in Waterloo.

My friend Bob used to go there frequently.  I used to think it was because he was Dutch, but it probably had more to do with the fact that one of the Kitchener stores was within biking distance.

One afternoon in early ’88, we hopped on our bikes and hit Dutch Boy to check out the music section.  This “new” band called Whitesnake had been in our ears lately, but we only knew two albums:  Slide It In and Whitesnake/1987.  I didn’t even know they had any albums out before Slide It In at that point.  You can imagine our surprise when we found numerous other Whitesnake titles at Dutch Boy:  Snakebite, Trouble, Lovehunter, Come An’ Get It, Saints & Sinners, and Live…in the Heart of the City.  All reissued by Geffen, all on cassette.

WHITESNAKE FRONT

“Woah!” Bob exclaimed.  “Whitesnake!  Is this the same band?”

“No it can’t be.” I said.  “They’re only supposed to have two albums!”

Each of us grabbed a mitt full of Whitesnake cassettes and began examining them for more details.

This Whitesnake and our Whitesnake were both on Geffen.  This Whitesnake shared the same logo that was found on Slide It In.  It had to be the same band after all.  I explained this to Bob.

“This is the same Whitesnake,” I said.  “Look…they are using the same logo.”

“Yeah,” he replied, “but have you ever seen that guy before?”  He pointed to Mickey Moody on the cover of the live album.  He sure didn’t look like anybody I knew from Whitesnake, but it was impossible to ignore the evidence.

MOODY

“I think,” concluded Bob, “that Whitesnake are another band that had albums out before we heard of them.”  That happened from time to time.  We would discover a “new” band like White Lion or Europe, only to find that they had some little-known earlier albums.  It made it both frustrating and exciting to try and collect albums.

We both started collecting the earlier Whitesnake music.  Bob was first, picking up Saints & Sinners at Dutch Boy.  He brought the tape over one afternoon for me to copy. We loved the original version of “Here I Go Again”, as well as “Crying in the Rain”.  Later on, I added Snakebite and Come An’ Get It to my collection.  I enjoyed the earlier, more rock & roll sounds of these previously unknown Whitesnake tapes.

I’m not sure exactly when Dutch Boy closed, but I do remember the last album I bought there.  It was now spring 1990, and I had a CD player by then.  Once again Dutch Boy did not disappoint.  I found a Van Halen disc there that I had never seen before on any format other than vinyl.  The album was Fair Warning.   Since it was the most “rare” Van Halen I had found so far, I chose to buy it.  It came to about $24 with tax, a lot of money for an album that was barely half an hour long.  It should go without saying that Fair Warning was one of the best purchases that my young self ever made.

Too bad Dutch Boy had to shut its doors.  It was a good store and I hear a lot of fond memories of it from others.  Do you remember?

DUTCH BOY