While still a member of Van Halen, singer/frontman David Lee Roth took long-time VH producer Ted Templeman into the studio with a roster of top session men of the day (Eddie Martinez, Dean Parks, Willie Weeks etc.) and recorded this covers EP – an unusual move at the time for a major-label act. Despite Van Halen’s huge success as a heavy rock/metal band (these were the days when metal and heavy rock were interchangeable terms – in any case, at their heaviest, VH were very heavy indeed), this collection is a mix of blues, vaudeville and light 60’s psych-pop, most reminiscent of much of the covers-heavy Diver Down album which isn’t usually regarded as a VH fan favourite. Roth was clearly pleased with the phrase Crazy From The Heat which he recycled in the chorus of later single Goin’ Crazy! and then as the title for his excellent 1997 memoir. The E.P. itself went on to be a success, undoubtedly hastening Dave’s departure from Van Halen.
The two ‘hit’ tracks here, famously backed with lavish Roth-directed videos, are The Beach Boys’ California Girls (featuring backing vocals from Carl Wilson and Christopher Cross) and Louis Prima’s medley of Just a Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody. Sure, there’s some dodgy 80s production decisions to wade through but Dave’s rambunctious delivery ensures that those tunes still raise a smile. The big numbers are bookended by opener Easy Street, which had been a minor hit for The Edgar Winter Group in the 70s (Winter himself guests on three of the tracks here and is given a ‘special thanks’ credit) and The Lovin’ Spoonful’s Coconut Grove. In truth it’s both of these tunes that fare best now – the first a jazzy blues-rock number, a perfect fit for Dave’s voice, and Coconut Grove, with its psychedelic origins shining through the 80’s synth arrangement and showing an uncharacteristically mellow side to Roth he’s rarely displayed since.
I picked this one up for buttons online. It’s easy enough to track down in most formats – still in print on CD, I think – and if you can get it at a reasonable enough price it’s a fun, worthwhile, sub-thirteen minute listen.