Magna Carta, 2003
REVIEW BY: Mark Millan
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/03/2010
David Lee Roth is without a doubt one of the most energetic and charismatic frontmen in rock history. In his prime, he had it all: looks, voice, image – and if anyone lived the rock lifestyle to its fullest potential, Roth takes the cake. In his wholly entertaining autobiography, Crazy From The Heat, Roth wrote of his many adventures throughout his life as Van Halen frontman and solo rock star, as well as some rather heartfelt anecdotes regarding some truly challenging moments in his life. And although his glory days may be almost twenty years ago, he has kept himself busy and in great shape throughout his “middle years.”
Since the new millennium came upon us, however, Roth has been a bit-player in the music business and even attempted a short-lived retirement. He tried his hand at some serious swing music with his 1998 disc, DLR Band, to little success, and more recently took over shock-jock Howard Stern’s long-running radio gig after Stern departed for the greener pastures of digital radio.
Meanwhile, even another short-lived reunion with Van Halen was only just warmly received. Roth’s live performances were legendary for his aerobic ability and his decadent indulgences, and though those days are long gone, he has retained probably his most powerful weapon: his voice. Yep, Roth’s voice these days is much stronger, grittier, and soulful than it ever was, and it is gloriously represented by his sixth studio album, released seven years ago, Diamond Dave.
With his vocals mixed up front and backed by a heavy-hitting band, Roth turned out one of the best records of his career – not as groundbreaking as early Van Halen, but just as solid nonetheless. This album is a great mix of covers and originals, some delivered in a heavy blues/rock formula and a few pop/rock tracks that work a treat for both singer and the material.
There are a few things that don’t quite work, though, like the awful big-band take on “Bad Habits” and the insipid reworking of the Fab Four’s “Tomorrow Never Knows.” “Stay While The Night Is Young” isn’t exactly unpleasant, but it would have worked better as a rocker instead of the chill-out groove led by Roth’s whispery monotone.
The best cuts by far are the blues/rock covers of some well-known songs that Roth clearly revels in singing. The Doors’ “Soul Kitchen” works a treat, as does Hendrix’s “If 6 Was 9.” Steve Miller’s “Shoo Bop” is another highlight given its laidback, funky arrangement, which is perfect for Roth’s style of delivery. “You Got The Blues, Not Me,” “Ice-Cream Man,” and “Made Up My Mind” all deliver the goods with ease, and when Roth shoots for the stars with a rocking rendition of “She’s Looking Good,” his voice doesn’t fault him and he shows he can still get the job done well enough.
Roth’s own “Thug Pop” is his most fun song for many a year, and his wicked harmonica jam “Medicine Man” adds a cool touch to the proceedings, too. Confidence is the one thing Roth had in bucket loads, and judging his performance here (and the cover shot), he’s still full of it (no pun intended). All in all, this is a very solid set from a guy who still has plenty left in the tank.