As recently revealed by our friends at The Second Disc, a new David Lee Roth compilation CD/DVD is forthcoming. Having taken a look at the track listing, I am underwhelmed to say the least.
Now as anyone who reads my site regularly — and shouldn’t you be? — can tell you, I’m a huge Dave fan. So I guess it’s up to me to take a stab at a DLR compilation of my own. Here then are my picks for the 15 best Diamond Dave tracks, covering his entire solo career.
#1. “Yankee Rose”
It’s easy to forget after all these years, but when Eat ‘Em and Smile was released in 1986 it seemed as if Dave would do just fine without the rest of Van Halen. And really, hard rock didn’t get much better than “Yankee Rose” in the mid-’80s. The crack band Dave assembled here — Steve Vai, Billy Sheehan, and Gregg Bissonette — could certainly stand toe to toe with Eddie’s band.
Oh yeah, and the video is still fucking great after all these years. “Gimme a bottle of anything… and a glazed donut… TO GO!”
#2. “Just Like Paradise”
Call it overly slick and poppy if you want, but “Just Like Paradise” has a lot going for it. Vai turns in another effortless guitar performance, the song sounds breezy and fun despite being a bit overproduced, and it’s got a chorus that just won’t quit.
#3. “Damn Good”
This track finds Dave in an uncommonly introspective frame of mind, as he looks back fondly at some unspecified time in his life. It’s hard not to look at the lyrics to “Damn Good” — featuring some fantastic acoustic guitar from Vai — and not assume Dave’s looking wistfully back at his time in Van Halen. I’d like to think that’s the case, but I don’t know if he was yet feeling very charitable toward Eddie and Alex only three years or so after he left the group.
#4. “A Lil’ Ain’t Enough”
Co-written with Robbie “C’est La Vie” Nevil, this was one of Roth’s last high-profile singles before the career doldrums of the ’90s set in. This song and album feature the phenomenal skills of then 20-year-old guitarist Jason Becker, who was forced to leave the group after being diagnosed with ALS prior to the start of the supporting tour in 1991. Jason, fortunately, is still with us and this album serves as a lasting testament to his ability.
For all the rumors about Dave leaving Van Halen because Eddie wanted to feature more keyboards, it seems odd that Skyscraper was such a keyboard-heavy record. But in the midst of a lot of lite metal came this relatively experimental song, one of my very favorites.
#6. “Slam Dunk!”
Following the commercial bombing of Your Filthy Little Mouth and the botched 1996 Van Halen reunion, Dave likely felt the need to reassert himself musically once again. And with the DLR Band album he did just that. Featured on this blistering track are John 5 on guitar and Ray Luzier on drums.
#7. “Black Sand”
Co-written with longtime collaborator Terry Kilgore, this brilliantly closes out the DLR Band record. I always enjoy Dave’s more laid back and atmospheric songs, and wish he’d do more of them.
#8. “Drop in the Bucket”
Here’s another great album closer, this one from A Little Ain’t Enough. Has there ever been another vocalist fortunate enough to work with as many fantastic guitarists as Diamond Dave? Oh, and notice the booming drums? That’s a hallmark of a Bob Rock-produced record.
#9. “Stay While the Night Is Young”
Dave is no stranger to cover songs, and this rendition of a Savoy Brown classic from the Diamond Dave LP is probably my favorite of his. It stays true to the original while still feeling very much like a Dave track. It’s a little slicker, but in the very best way possible. I couldn’t find a YouTube clip but if you have Spotify you can check it out here.
#10. “Ladies’ Nite In Buffalo?”
If anyone can tell me what the hell inspired the name of this song, please let me know in the comments.
#11. “It’s Showtime!”
Some of Dave’s funniest lyrics married to some searing music. It’s difficult to accept that we will only ever get two Roth/Becker co-writes. The stuff they could’ve done together makes for one of music’s great what-ifs.
#12. “Big Trouble”
Even when I have no idea what the hell Dave is singing about, he still makes things fascinating.
#13. “Land’s Edge”
For as much flack as Your Filthy Little Mouth gets, I think it represents a positive turning point in Dave’s career. It’s when he learned to start turning down the volume on his rock clown act and start indulging in his more philosophical side. As a result, this album contains possibly his best lyrics ever.
Songs like this are what keep Skyscraper from being just a little too goofy and disposable. Sometimes serious Dave is a good thing.
This isn’t necessarily the 15th ranked song on this list, but I think it’s a perfect way to close things out. It also happens to be another one of Dave’s strong album closers, from the Your Filthy Little Mouth album. Sit back and soak up the sun, my friends.