Album review: David Lee Roth, Skyscraper (1988)


By Steve Newton

Old Diamond Dave had his hands full surpassing his 1986 LP Eat ‘Em and Smile, but with this new one, Skyscraper, he’s certainly done just that. In his first endeavour as producer Roth has come up with a brilliantly played and varied hard-rock album that should turn out to be one of the year’s very best.

As he did on his previous album with “Yankee Rose”, Dave starts things off at 100 mph with the super-charged rocker “Knucklebones”. Just in case you weren’t aware, Roth’s band is the best one going nowadays. Guitarist Steve Vai, bassist Billy Sheehan and drummer Gregg Bissonette pull out all the stops on the opening track, and are in fine form throughout.

After “Knucklebones” comes “Just Like Paradise”, a more commercial-sounding piece (along the lines of “Goin’ Crazy”) that sports Roth’s typically insightful lyrics. “Rockin’ steady in her daddy’s car/She got the stereo with the big guitars/And that’s all right (all right).” Not exactly Dylan, but it sounds right comin’ from Roth.

“The Bottom Line” is a speedy scorcher reminiscent of the last record’s “Shyboy”, featuring a mind-boggling bass solo by Sheehan. “Skyscraper” is a bit of a departure for Dave, with funky underpinnings and a lot of echoey vocal effects. Vai, who played the devil’s guitarist in the blues movie Crossroads, sounds as possessed as ever on this one.

Side one ends off with “Damn Good”, another switch for Roth, who appears to have reached some sort of creative peak (although a lot of credit must go to Vai, who co-wrote this track, and five others, together with Roth). “Damn Good” is a lazy acoustic guitar showcase that calls to mind the Doobie Brothers during their “Black Water” period.

The second side of Skyscraper continues with more of the superb sounds heard on the first. “Hot Dog and a Shake” is another rabid rocker, lit white-hot by Vai’s tasty flash effects and knock-Eddie-on-his-ass Valen Halen licks. “Stand Up” is a thumping funk-rocker featuring more of Vai’s incendiary stringwork; it’s like a cross between the Brothers Johnson and Scorpions, if you can imagine that. “Hina” and “Perfect Timing” are my least favourite tracks on the record, but that’s only because I like the other ones so much.

The closing tune, “Two Fools a Minute”, is jazzed up by a Steve Vai horn arrangement, and includes some more incredible bass-diddling from Sheehan. It’s a bit of a nod to the swinging big-band sound that brought Dave to solo fame with his reworking of “Just a Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody”.

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