David Lee Roth & Steve Vai
David Lee Roth & Steve Vai
David Lee Roth

Eat 'Em and Smile David Lee Roth - Eat 'Em and Smile (Warner Bros.) 1986

1. "Yankee Rose" (3:47) 
2. "Shy Boy" (3:23) 
3. "I'm Easy" (2:03)  
4. "Ladies' Nite in Buffalo?" (4:08)  
5. "Goin' Crazy!" (3:21)  
6. "Tobacco Road" (2:27)  
7. "Elephant Gun" (2:23)  
8. "Big Trouble" (3:56)  
9. "Bump and Grind" (2:42)  
10. "That's Life" (2:29)

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.

Skyscraper David Lee Roth - Skyscraper (Warner Bros.) 1988

1. "Knucklebones" (3:18)
2. "Just Like Paradise" (4:03)
3. "The Bottom Line" (3:37)
4. "Skyscraper" (3:38)
5. "Damn Good" (5:49)
6. "Hot Dog and a Shake" (3:19)
7. "Stand Up" (4:39)
8. "Hina" (4:40)
9. "Perfect Timing " (3:41)
10. "Two Fools a Minute" (4:28)

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.

A Little Ain't Enough David Lee Roth - A Little Ain't Enough (Warner Bros) 1991

1. "A Lil' Ain't Enough" (4:41)
2. "Shoot It" (4:13)
3. "Lady Luck" (4:41)
4. "Hammerhead Shark" (3:34)
5. "Tell the Truth" (5:18)
6. "Baby's on Fire" (3:22)
7. "40 Below" (4:54)
8. "Sensible Shoes" (5:09)
9. "Last Call" (3:22)
10. "The Dogtown Shuffle" (4:58)
11. "It's Showtime!" (3:46)
12. "Drop in the Bucket" (5:07)

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.

Filthy Little Mouth David Lee Roth - Your Filthy Little Mouth (Reprise) 1994

1.      She's My Machine (3:53)
2.      Everybody's Got The Monkey (3:01)
3.      Big Train (4:14)
4.      Experience (5:54)
5.      A Little Luck (4:40)
6.      Cheatin' Heart Cafe (4:06)
7.      Hey, You Never Know (2:46)
8.      No Big 'Ting (4:51)
9.      You're Breathin' It (3:46)
10.     Your Filthy Little Mouth (3:02)
11.     Land's Edge (3:12)
12.     Night Life (3:35)
13.     Sunburn (4:42)
14.     You're Breathin' It [Urban NYC Mix] (4:12)

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 DLR Band (Wawazat!! Records) 1998

1.      Slam Dunk! (2:37)
2.      Blacklight (3:41)
3.      Counter-Blast (3:15)
4.      Lose The Dress (Keep The Shoes) (3:13)
5.      Little Texas (3:20)
6.      King Of The Hill (3:53)
7.      Going Places (5:19)
8.      Wa Wa Zat!! (2:54)
9.      Relentless  (3:31)
10.     Indeedido (3:11)
11.     Right Tool For The Job (3:24)
12.     Tight (4:09)
13.     Weekend With The Babysitter (3:36)
14.     Black Sand (5:20)

"My game is better than ever, winners, they come and go, legends, they're forever," Dave self-righteously boasts on "Slam Dunk!", the opening track of his 1998 solo album. David Lee Roth is indeed a rock and roll legend. His legacy can be heard in an entire decade of music. He was never the best singer in the world, but what he lacked in technical ability he made up for with personality, showmanship and charisma. As well, he's always surrounded himself with top-rate musicians. He was definitely one of the kings of the 80's. However, in the musically depressed 1990's, Roth was way out of his element. Good time rock and roll and singing songs about the size of your appendages was no longer the 'in' thing. In 1998 Roth released his independently recorded DLR Band CD, in which he sticks to his musical guns. For the most part, the music stays within the classic Van Halen sound. There are a few songs, such as "Blacklight", where Dave attempts a more 1990's sound. These songs really don't work well at all. However, others, like the hard rock shuffle of "Slam Dunk!" and the mean street heavy metal of "Wa Wa Zat!!" are perfectly suited for Roth's voice and good-time personality. I also found the Zep-inspired "Going Places" to be an interesting song. Imagine Roth fronting Zep? It doesn't sound like it could work, but it does for this one song. "Black Sand" has a bit of an acoustic Zep-vibe as well and is a nice way to end this CD.

Unfortunately, much of the material here sounds like unfinished Van Halen demos. Overall, the musicianship is quite good. There are some absolutely smokin' guitar solos peppered throughout this CD. Guitarist John Lowery (Two) lays down some choice licks, mimicking Eddie Van Halen at times. (Check out "Weekend With the Baby Sitter" for a perfect example.) However, good guitar solos don't necessarily make for good songs, and that is what is truly lacking on this album. Whether on his own or with Van Halen, Dave has always been the king of the simple, catchy chorus. You couldn't walk away from a Van Halen song or a track off "Eat 'Em and Smile" without it echoing through your brain. However, that is just not the case with this collection, save for a handful of songs. The demo quality is also enhanced by an absolutely flaccid and lifeless recording, which is unfortunate for a man of Dave's stature.

Despite the production problems and my complaints about the lack of hooks, I applaud Roth for going back to his hard rock roots in a time when this sort good times rock was considered dead. There are a some good songs on this album and it's certainly not the travesty some have made it out to be.

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