Editorials

DAVID LEE ROTH WISE MAGIC; LOOKING BACK AT VAN HALEN’S 1996 RECORDINGS WITH DLR

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With a new Van Halen single set to be released tomorrow, it seems like a good time to look back at the only two original songs the band recorded with David Lee Roth since 1984, “Me Wise Magic” and “Can’t Get This Stuff No More,” both of which appeared on 1996’s Best of Van Halen Volume 1 and thereafter caused the DLR/VH relationship to spontaneously combust. At the time, critics and fans alike questioned the band’s motives for the “Volume 1” suffix, and we were kinda right to do so, weren’t we? Since then Warner Bros. and its affiliate labels have pushed out no fewer than 7 other different greatest hits / best of comps, but none of them have had any new songs; go figure.

So what of those two “new” songs from ’96? Axl already opined on them drawing the wrath of many an MS reader; Anso hasn’t told me what he thinks of them but he loves all VH unconditionally like his first teddy bear, so, ya know. Moi?

When “Me Wise Magic” and “Can’t Get This Stuff No More” came out I thought they were fantastic, and listening to them again now for the first time in years I don’t feel any differently. The songs are instantly memorable, EVH’s EVH-isms are top-notch and fresh, and the Bar Mitzvah Band Leader himself is in ace form — you can picture the leg kicks and baton twirls in your mind as he shrieks over Al’s trademark drum tones (Al’s never been the flashiest dude ever but no one else sounds like him). DLR’s low croons in the verses of “Me Wise Magic” are borderline yarls, the only red mark, but give the guy a break… it was 1996, and he makes up for it later in the song anyway.

Considering that the songs on A Different Kind of Truth, set to come out on February 7, are supposed to be culled from classic riffs and song ideas recorded way back in the day, I’m pretty confident they’ll be rockin’… but I’d be confident if they were written from scratch today, too.

-VN

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