David Lee Roth - Eat 'Em and Smile (Warner Bros.) 1986
In my opinion, David Lee Roth was a big part of the charism of Van Halen. However, despite my loving Roth's showmanship and charisma, I didn't care for David's first solo outing "Crazy From the Heat". It was a ridiculous comedy send up full of show tunes and show off rock star nonsense. After leaving Van Halen, David must have realized that this wouldn't keep him in the lime light very long, so he decided to beat Van Halen at their own game. David hired guitarist Steve Vai, bassist Billy Sheehan, and drummer Gregg Bisonette, all veteran musicians and well known names for this disc. . .and what a disc it is!. Without a doubt, "Eat 'Em and Smile" is Roth's greatest solo album as it contains the most solid songs and the least lounge pieces. "Shy Boy" is re-recorded version of Billy Sheehan's track from Talas. Personally I feel this version blows away the original. Other standout cuts are "Yankee Rose", "Tabacco Road" and "Big Trouble." "That's Life" unfortunately showcases Dave's lounge singer persona, but even this track seems to work on this CD.
I was fortunate enough to see this line-up at the War Memorial Auditorium in Rochester, NY. They put on quite a performance. Too bad it was short lived as David and his ego decided he was better suited for red velvet and lounge tunes. I still have the tour book from this show.
I loved "Eat 'Em and Smile". To this day, two decades later I still think it's a great record and much better than anything Dave's former band would record without him. "Skyscraper" was the follow-up and despite a good single in "Just Like Paradise", this album just didn't have the same momentum. Something lacks here, despite the presence of super-talents like Vai, Sheehan and Bissonette. I suppose the fact that all these guys had mega-egos had something to do with it. Sheehan was gone before the album even hit the shelves to form Mr. Big. Vai sounds like he is flying on auto pilot. The urgency is not longer present. Whereas Roth had something to prove on "Eat 'Em and Smile" he too seems to be on autopilot here, despite some relatively good vocal performances. However, despite the disappointment, there are some shining moments. "Hot Dog and a Shake" would have fit perfectly on a Van Halen record. This song also features one fine guitar solo from Vai. Also, "Stand Up" is a good track. I think this song would have been even better with a rawer more guitar heavy production. Unfortunately the entire CD suffers from overpolished production, something that killed many albums in the late 80's. What's worse is that things would only get worse from here on out. Never again would Roth touch the greatness of his Van Halen days or "Eat 'Em And Smile." Roth is a personality in search of a great band. How sad that Van Halen would be a great band in search of a personality. Too bad that success and massive egos would prevent a once great band from being all they could be. What we are left with is "Eat 'Em And Smile" and "Skyscraper", two of Roth's finest albums without his former band.
David Lee Roth - A Little Ain't Enough (Warner Bros) 1991
1. "A Lil' Ain't
Blues, horns, red velvet and coctail lounges. That's the image I get when listening to this CD. To be quite honest, Dave's solo material has never been of any real interest to me, except for "Eat 'Em and Smile", which is basically a Van Halen record without Alex, Eddie and Micheal Anthony. However, when I found a cheap used copy of this I decided to snag it just because Jason Becker (Cacaphony) was the guitarist. Certainly Jason shines, especially in his guitar solos (esp. "Showtime"), but overall it is Dave's show and I don't think he was at his best here. Good guitar solos aside, the songs are just not of that outstanding calibur that made "Eat 'Em and Smile" or even "Crazy from the Heat" so energetic and memorable. I think Bob Rock may have polished all the grit and grind out of 'ol Dave as well. With a bit more edge this disc might have been better. Otherwise, for me at least, this is a lukewarm CD.
David Lee Roth - Your Filthy Little Mouth (Reprise) 1994
David Lee Roth's 1994 album starts off as one might expect from Diamond Dave. "She's My Machine" is a typical, Roth-rocker. The song has flair and personality, but is terribly deceptive as a single. For the most part the rest of the album seems to be a retreat from the hard rock and heavy metal Dave was known for. The follow-up track "Everybody's Got The Monkey" is corny but decent enough sog and "Big Train" isn't bad either. The remainder of the album seems to be a band searching for an identity. I suppose in '94 Roth's style of ego-injected, pomp rock wasn't in vogue. As such, Dave was trying to adapt or at least experiment and show some versatility. What we are left with are songs like "Cheatin' Heart Cafe", a blues-rockin' duet with country artist Travis Tritt and "Hey, You Never Know" which is has bit of a bluesy country flare as well. There are jazz fusion undertones on "Sunburn" and "Experience". The later is actually a sassy number that would have fit on Dave's 1985 EP "Crazy from the Heat". "No Big 'Ting" is reggae-inspired track complete with a horn section. Frankly I don't think this song experiment worked all that well. "You're Breathin' It" is kickin' rocker with the David Lee Roth strut that we saw on "Eat 'Em and Smile". "Night Life" is smokey club blues cover of a Willie Nelson song. The album ends with a weird hip-hop/funk inspired remix of "You're Breathin' It".
Dave's lyrics have never been pure poetry or thought-provoking. David Lee Roth was always about having fun and letting loose. In the musically depressed 1990's, no one wants "fun" in their lyrics. It was all about self-pity and being "dark". With this release the mostly self-conscious lyrics are an attempt to present a more mature rocker. Of course, this is David Lee Roth, so the sexual undertones are sprinkled throughout, even if they aren't as apparent as they were in years past.
Roth's band on this album was Terry Kilgore (guitar), Tony Beard (drums) and former Frehley's Comet bassist John Reagan.
DLR Band (Wawazat!! Records) 1998