Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Davy Jones: 'Remember me the way you hoped I'd be'

Davy Jones, 66, died today of a heart attack near his home in Florida.
As a young boy growing up in Southern California in the 1960s, The Monkees were one of my first entry points into music — albeit through television.

It was appointment TV for my brother and I on Saturdays to gather round the set and watch the weekly hijinks of the pop sensations, while enjoying the inevitable musical performance of a song near the end.

Davy Jones, as was the case with millions of other Americans, ended up being my favorite Monkee. No offense to the others, he just seemed to bring the most life and joy to the screen — and that resonated with me.

Jones, 66, died earlier today of a heart attack near his home in Indiantown, Fla. The completely unexpected news gave me pause as I fondly recalled my early fascination with The Monkees.

Fortunately, I have a more recent memory of Jones to fall back on. I had the opportunity to do a phone interview with him prior to a local concert on Memorial Day 2010. And also to meet up with him with some members of my family just prior to the show.

The interview, conducted on May 24, 2010, turned out to be one of my favorites. Not because of how I was able to craft the interview or prepare the questions — in fact, I pretty much had to throw my pre-interview notes to the wind as Jones took control from the outset and went off on many unprompted, but interesting, tangents — but just because of the excitement and enthusiasm he still so obviously had for life.

In preparing this interview for publication today — the first time it has been presented in full Q&A format — I was looking for added meaning in his words, in light of his unexpected passing.

I found it right near the end of our interview proper, before the closing small talk. Davy was expressing the joy he felt at meeting people who still recognized him in his journeys, and how it was his philosophy to leave a happy trail wherever he went.

And then he said this:

"Remember me the way you hoped I’d be."

Thanks, Davy. I will.

Note: Interview conducted on May 24, 2010

DAVY JONES: Hey, Doug, how ya doin? This is Davy Jones calling.

DOUG FOX: Hey, I’m doing great, how are you?

JONES: I’m just looking at my things here. I’ve been out on my farm all morning with my horses and I’m sorry I’m late.

DF: Not a problem at all. So you’ve got a few minutes now? Now would be good?

JONES: Sure, sure, sure.

DF: First, is it OK to tape this?

JONES: Sure, yeah, what are you writing for?

DF: You’re doing a concert here Orem, Utah, on Monday, a week from today, so I’m doing an advance for that concert in the newspaper where that town is.

JONES: Cool. We’re actually coming in from different parts of the country. My band, different members come from different places. Next week is going to be a fun week starting off in Utah because we’re then going to go on to Louisville and then up to Chicago, so it’s going to be cool. So we’ll be together to learn some new songs.

DF: You’re going to be learning some?

JONES: Well, you know, we’re going to Japan, so I’ve got a number of songs over there that I don’t do when I’m working. So we’ll just have to spruce up on those, you know.

DF: Do you find that you have to do that often, work new songs into your setlist all the time, and have to go back and relearn them?

JONES: I don’t, you just need to brush up. You pretty much get it after one go through and then it’s on the No. 2 go-through it sounds like we’ve been playing it for a while, you know. It all depends. Just on this one occasion in Japan, it has songs that I’ve performed, and had hits with in Japan, over the last, like, 20 years. So [there’s] a couple of things it might be interesting to include, but yeah, I do do different shows, in a casino, to a stage in the park or to a family audience at Epcot Center, you know what I’m saying? The songs are all there. You know, all the songs are there. You’re still listening to “I’m a Believer,” and “Clarksville” and “Pleasant Valley” — so we’ve got all that going. Then there’s just the rest of the communication that we have with the families and the people, you know, they like good music and they hear good musicians playing it, so I think everybody gets a little happy.

DF: Yes, that’s probably one of the highlights of your show. It’s why people enjoy coming, I imagine, it’s very up, and a happy atmosphere.

JONES: Yeah, you know, we make fun of ourselves, and make fun of life and try to be as normal as you can. Obviously carrying all those songs and having shared them once before, and here they all go again. They keep going and going. I hope that the records being made today are long lasting. It would be nice to have those memories, you know, for these people in 40 years later, like we had it, or I had it, maybe not you, I don’t know how old you are, but it’s an interesting thing. It’s up to me to change my presentation with the occasion. You can’t be everything to everybody all the time, so when I go into a Vegas situation, maybe I’m a little more sort of adult with my delivery. I mean, I’m not a promiscuous person, but sometimes you go on the edge, you know, and let people have to think about certain things. It’s a good thing because the songs cover everything. If you sort of enjoy music, then you’re going to be listening to 10 to 12 songs that you recognize, you know what I mean? So, you’ll know them again. It’s real fun. These musicians are quite excellent, so I’m very lucky to be in [good] company, and obviously we love to come up to Utah. I used to go as a kid up to Alta, Utah, skiing and I’ve had a few friends that lived there in the state. And it’s good, and now we’re going to the park and meet all the families, and have a good old time — and be positive and hopefully meet a couple people. We might stay on an extra day actually. Just like chill and breathe some of that mountain air.

DF: That’ll be good for you! It’s funny how you mention the families coming to the show and things like that, because there’s a local guy who met you back in an airport here in 1968, and he was going into the service, and you ended up signing a concert ticket for him and he took it with him to Vietnam as his good luck memento. He mentioned how much he’s looking forward to coming to the show on Monday night. So things like that really resonate with people.

 JONES: Well, you know, I don’t just pass over those kind of emotions. It’s really difficult. I try to, when I finish, just turn off and just go back to my horses or spend an afternoon just strumming on my guitar, you know, in the sunshine. And when we don’t want to be on the beach, we can go up to Pennsylvania to a lovely old house we have up there and still be able to ride and still be able to enjoy that for two to three months. After 50 years one would think that there is something with a little bit of a schedule going on, you know. It’s awfully hard for me to have sympathy with people in the media, I’m talking about the so-called baby boys and baby girls that come out of nightclubs at 4 in the morning and sort of like make obscene gestures. But why are they there? Why didn’t they just go to Denny’s and have a nice sandwich and then go to bed at 10:30, you know what I mean? Enjoy the day! It all depends what it is. I’m pretty happy in Florida. My wife and I, we’ve been married since August, and we’ve known each other, we worked in children’s theater together. And I think also, it’s the first time I’ve had a companion that’s in the business, and is active and working. So, you know, I know what it feels like to be sometimes waiting for her to come home. My past experiences, I didn’t realize the pressure and the strain and the responsibility. So I’m glad to travel with her. We tend to [share], for the show, a lot of ideas about our performance. She’s a flamenco dancer and has danced all over the world, and so she’s got a lot of rhythm and she knows what she’s doing. So we do some movement things and she dances in my show sometimes, she won’t, unfortunately, be there [in Utah], she’s dancing this week in a festival in Miami. It’s quite a passion. So, unfortunately, she’s not going to make it. But we were there about a year ago, we went to, not this last film festival, but the one before that. I’d done an episode of SpongeBob. They actually viewed, with the screen in front, the screen back and all the actors doing the names and voices and then I pop up. It’s quite interesting, I enjoyed it. But I love the mountains. Obviously a few other people have found that to be good, too. I’m a seasonal person. So, I’m sure you’ve experienced that up there and looking forward to meeting, as I say, people, and just enjoying an afternoon in the park.

DF: Well, here we have two seasons — winter and summer.

JONES: Well, that’s good enough, too. Two out of four is not bad.

DF: The thing is, today it’s totally snowing here if you can believe that.


DF: Yeah, we haven’t had snow for probably about a month, and then today ... but it’s supposed to warm up again so I think your show will be fine, but we are getting snow today.

JONES: Maybe I should go into the blanket business. Somebody’s going to be selling hand warmers or things like that. Hey, it doesn’t matter to us. That’s the difference. It could be 10 or 10,000 people, it doesn’t matter. When I was in the theater, I worked so hard on the matinees, because everybody’s kind of holding back, you know, waiting for the evening show. It felt like that way. Or maybe that’s like the fantasy that you have. You know, they say don’t go a matinee, you’ll only get half a show. But me, I don’t. I enjoy trying to top what I just did. It’ll be fun. It’ll be nice for everybody. Just bring the families and just make sure they all bring their blankets if it’s going to be cold, and we’ll warm you up with some familiar music.

DF: Where do you live, what state?

JONES: I’m in Florida half of the year, and I’m on the road a third of the year, then I’m in Pennsylvania. We have a place just outside of Harrisburg, in Snyder County, and then we have a little place where I’m talking from right now, which is a little further up the state from Hollywood, Florida, where we have our apartment. Just a little further upstate, Indiantown. It’s 20 miles west of Stuart. So we’re inland between Okeechobee Lake and the ocean. And we keep our horses here in the winter. We’ve had two beautiful foals born. Beautiful, two colts.  So we’re looking forward to that. It’s a bit of a passion. I can’t beat ’em with what I’ve got, so we’re going to try to breed a couple and see what happens in a couple of years from now and concentrate on other things.

DF: Well, I think that is something people, unless they’ve done the research on you, probably don’t know ... I know I was surprised at how involved you are with horses. And that I even saw where you said that if you hadn’t got your break in the entertainment industry, you thought you might have ended up as a jockey.

JONES: Yeah, and I’ll probably end up as a trainer one day, but not until I can do it full time. I don’t want to be going on the road, you know, laughing and singing and then calling and finding out how the horse is doing. You know what I mean? I want to be able to get myself into a position where maybe I do do a couple or three or four things a year. I don’t live in Hollywood, California. I’m not walking the beat, you know what I mean? I don’t have high-powered press agents, and agents, and publicists. You know, as Ringo [Starr] said when I asked him about, “Do you have a resume?” He said, “If they don’t know who I am by now, they’ll never know.” And that’s all he said. Aw, screw it man! Let the performance be the thing that speaks, you know? Not some history that people remember you from, you just go on and do it. And they say my ... he’s getting better and better, you know. I mean, that’s what you want to do. You want to entertain them to the point that they’re impressed, you know? It’s a natural thing for us. We’re there and that’s what we do. I was just in Pittsburgh for a couple of days, hosting a PBS special with all kinds of doo-wop groups from the ’60s and ’70s, you know, Paul Revere and Peter Noone and Roger McGuinn and all these people and Sandy, Sandy, ah what’s her face now ... Jackie De Shannon, who wrote some lovely songs back in the ’60s. She was there and we co-hosted this thing together, a PBS fundraising thing, so that was kind of cool. We do things with the Indiantown education coalition. We do a benefit every year in a local place, and we get a couple other people and we raise 20, 30 thousand dollars, and some kid goes to college, you know what I mean? Just quiet little things, commuting and stuff. I was up with Michael Bolton, I did a benefit with him for battered and abused women. He does it every year and has done it for about 20 years. And then the Boys and Girls Club of Florida, and other sorts of things that are able to be sort of shared. But it’s awfully difficult when you’ve got children and grandchildren, you’ve got performances, you’ve got travel ... very rarely are you sitting down at Thanksgiving, you know, eating with everybody else. Memorial Day, you’re rarely there, you know what I mean? And everybody’s celebrating with a glass of vino and you’re sort of like in a hotel lobby waiting to get picked up for the soundcheck.

DF: Right.

JONES: So you can’t grumble. There are ups and downs, there are benefits and setbacks, you’ve just got to be able to balance them all. Some people can’t, and that’s why you get all this bad behavior. It seems like you have to have rehabilitation these days to be famous. It takes years to be able to present yourself, both on stage or you know in print. It doesn’t really matter. You just have to be positive, so that the negativity that you see all the time in television, you know they’ll be researching these things they do and these exposes and stuff. You never saw the stars like Lauren Bacall and Bogart and Mickey Rooney, you didn’t hear scandal, you know what I mean? And they weren’t in your face and filming you going to the bathroom, making obscure situations that we’ve all experienced like Big Brother or something. Well that Big Brother’s going to go to college and you share sort of a dorm and things like that. And then you have to pass each other or say, “Good morning” or then you have to sit in the rec room together or do whatever. But then because they’re being filmed they use bad behavior because that brings attention. You know, all the quiet people, you know what I mean, who are also contributing. So they contribute continually and loud voices become a very unnecessary thing in your life. It’s very difficult, even ... well, even [scoffs], as a writer, you’re a writer, I write, sit down and do stuff, OK. It’s very difficult to have the same needs you had when you were 21. So I go out and have a beer with the boys, and I might have some fish and chips down at the local pub or something, but it’s not something you’re able to frequent because of your schedule and because of commitments and all. So that’s why I think a lot of people run into trouble who have celebrity, and then all of a sudden they don’t have it and then bad behavior brings them back into the forefront, and other unnecessary [things]. Everything can’t be peaches and cream, you know what I’m saying? You’ve got to have a bit of roughness there once in a while. And you see these young people, whether it’s Miley Cyrus or whether it’s, well you remember the days of the Osmonds ... and all that family kind of stuff. Well, people are more Christian than one would imagine. They are more interested in simplifying than one would imagine. The bad news always seems to make headlines, but you know, there are a lot of people with families alive and well and living in America. You know what I mean? It’s unfortunate there are some states that are troubled more than others, and every good intention is sort of given them, and what speed or what rate, I don’t know. But, I mean, I’m lucky. I’m going away this weekend. I’m coming to Utah. I’m going to travel on a plane and people will think, “Hey, you’re Davy Jones, aren’t you?” We try to leave a happy trail. All right? So bad behavior is not associated with who we are. Remember me the way you hoped I’d be. You know what I mean? And that makes it all good. And then the music speaks for itself. Maybe the sun will be shining and it will be nice and warm and we’ll all be just, like, getting some vitamin D. Let’s pray for that, OK?

JONES: Will you be coming to the show?

DF: Yes.

JONES: Well, introduce yourself, and we’ll see what happens. Looking forward to it.

DF: OK, I would love to.

JONES: All the best.

DF: Thank you.

JONES: Goodbye.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

'A Different Kind of Truth' sets Van Halen fans free

Back in the late 1970s and early 80s when Eddie Van Halen was constantly rewriting prevailing wisdom on what people presumed possible to achieve on electric guitar, he used to describe his playing approach as falling down the stairs and landing on his feet.

Applying that same analogy to “A Different Kind of Truth,” Van Halen’s first studio album with lead singer David Lee Roth in 28 years, it sounds like Eddie should update the status of his guitar acrobatics to sliding down the banister, dismounting with a front pike somersault and sticking a perfect landing at the bottom.

As far as classic Van Halen fans are concerned, “A Different Kind of Truth” – pound for pound, perhaps the heaviest VH record ever -- constitutes several giant steps in the right direction.

From the opening guitar growl of "Tattoo” to the sustained 30-plus seconds where he slowly wrings every last bit of fuzz and distortion out of his instrument to close “Beats Workin’,” “A Different Kind of Truth” expertly testifies that Eddie has once again taken his guitar playing “Back to the Future.”

There was a reason, after all, that when Marty McFly needed some serious guitar mojo to forcefully frighten his father into critical action during the popular 1985 Michael J. Fox flick that he did so with a cassette tape labeled “Edward Van Halen.” In its original incarnation, Van Halen always did tend to scare parents while unabashedly encouraging the young at heart to become “Unchained” and “Hot For Teacher” or simply to “Dance the Night Away.”

Classic Van Halen was quite literally a glimpse into rock’s future, as nearly every new album contained at least one reinventing-the-instrument guitar moment. Think “Eruption,” “Spanish Fly,” the “Mean Street” intro, “Cathedral,” and “Little Guitars Intro,” not to mention any number of “How-in-the-world-did-he-do-that?” in-song solos that routinely sent guitarists worldwide scurrying back to the woodshed to learn at the frets of Professor Van Halen.

And sometimes the guitarist trying to learn what the younger Van Halen did was the guitar god himself. When I had the opportunity to interview him in 1998 during the course of the Van Halen III tour where the band was playing a lot of Roth-era songs that hadn’t been played in more than 15 years, Eddie told me that relearning a part of 1978’s “I’m the One” had given him fits.

“It sure blew my mind -- I didn’t realize how much my playing has changed over the years,” he said. “You know, it’s an unconscious thing, but there’s a lick in the beginning that I’m going, ‘Man, how in the hell did I do that?’ And it took me a while to learn.”

“A Different Kind of Truth” is literally Van Halen relearning, revisiting and reclaiming its legacy as the greatest American rock band of all time. Much has been written about the band going back into the vaults and revamping up to seven old demos -- many of them from the unreleased recording sessions financed by KISS bassist Gene Simmons prior to the band’s official debut with Warner Brothers.

While that approach may indeed seem at odds with conventional wisdom, just ask yourself this question: When has Van Halen ever done anything by the book? From a listener’s standpoint, I couldn’t care less if the smoking guitar riffs that billow throughout “A Different Kind of Truth” were written last century, last year or last night. The simple truth is there remains nothing else quite like it in music today.

When discussing “A Different Kind of Truth,” there is no getting around the chip off the old block in the room. As Roth declared during the band’s 2007-08 tour, this edition of Van Halen is three parts original, one part inevitable. The latter half of the equation refers to the addition of Eddie’s son, Wolfgang (21 next month), on bass, following the subtraction of Michael Anthony.

Clearly, Anthony, who had remained a member of the band through all three of its previous lineups, was popular and extremely fan-friendly. His onstage exuberance and background vocal abilities are missed. However, it’s quite likely that were it not for Wolfgang, there would have been no reunion with Roth, no new tours and no new music. The potential to play with his son was likely the main impetus that led Eddie back to rehab, back to the stage and, eventually, back into the studio for the new recording sessions after years of band inactivity – sans a somewhat disastrous reunion tour with second-singer Sammy Hagar in 2004. In that respect, it’s hard to begrudge father and son this unprecedented opportunity.

Yeah, but can he play? The proof is in the creme brulee. Wolfgang is not only locked in step with his uncle, drummer Alex Van Halen, but he adds his own little flourishes throughout the entire record and holds up the bottom end with aplomb. The kid is more than all right. And the rhythm section on this entire record is off-the-rails powerful.

The typical sign of a great album from an established band is if there are three or four tracks that you would want to see in concert. Let’s just say I would be ecstatic if the band played the entire record from top to bottom’s up. Track by track, and there are a blazing baker’s dozen of them, this album ranks right up with the band’s best work.

Here’s my song-by-song breakdown:

“Tattoo” -- The diehard Van Halen camp has not been so split over the merits of a lead single since the release of “Jump.” Half the fanbase seems to love it, while the other half loathes it. I fall into the former group. While it did initially raise some red flags with those who hoped the band would return to its hard rock roots, those fears would prove to be completely unfounded. When the initial reviews started filtering out in advance of the album’s release, I scoffed when many claimed “Tattoo” was the worst song on the record. I now hear their point. I still love the song, with Dave’s lyrical imagery and Eddie’s guitar solo making it already better than most anything else on the radio today. I also like the subtle keyboard in the verse -- the only spot on the album where any keys are apparent — and the “Down in Flames/You’re No Good” volume swell ending.

Favorite lyric: “Swap meet Sally, tramp stamp tat, mousewife to momshell in the time it took to get that new tattoo.”

She’s the Woman” -- While “Tattoo” hints of “Down in Flames,” this is the first track that draws heavily from an earlier demo. Same title and music, completely different lyrics. While on the subject of lyrics, I’ve got to give it up to Roth here. It’s incredible having his gift of gab and wink-and-a-nod sense of humor back in play. This song is a perfect example. The last Hagar-attempted lusty love song with the band was the wholly unappetizing “Up For Breakfast,” and its line upon line of third-grade fruit metaphors (“Cherries on bananas ... honeydew my melon”? Seriously? Gag me with a prune!) But with Dave we get lines like “suburban garage a trois” and “I want to be your knight in shining pickup truck.” Upbeat and fast-paced, this track features a funky feel and Eddie’s trademark between-vocal guitar fills and squeals. This song also answers all questions about Wolfgang’s bass abilities.

Favorite lyric: “The song ain’t dirty it’s really just the way we sing it.” (Reminds me of the famous Jessica Rabbit line from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”: “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.”)

“You and Your Blues” -- At this point in time, I can’t get enough of this song. A syncopated Eddie riff sets the mood and carries the song for the first 15 seconds before Alex and Wolfgang join in mid-first verse. I’m probably not recognizing them all, but Dave name checks at least nine different blues songs in the lyrics. This is Van Halen-style blues, in that you don’t get pulled to a darker, somber place while commiserating with the lyrical point of view. Instead, the upbeat chorus lifts your spirits even while it hammers home the suffering viewpoint. The background vocals also stand out -- checking off another question lingering from Anthony’s departure. I could see this as a potential single.

Favorite lyric: “Ain’t goin’ down to no crossroads, ain’t gonna dust no broom, no evil woman’s got a hold on me, ain’t goin’ to heaven anytime soon.”

“China Town” -- This is as heavy a song as Van Halen has ever recorded. It’s 3 minutes and 12 seconds of pure adrenaline. If you could somehow bottle this, you could put Red Bull and Rockstar out of business. Alex’s drumming throughout this breakneck pace is incredible. Looking for your mind-blowing guitar moment of this album? Check out the last 12 seconds of the song -- as Eddie unleashes a free-falling torrent of notes that just make you shake your head and say, “Wow!” I would love to see the band open its new tour -- which as I write this opens tonight in Louisville -- with this song. Besides, how can you not love a song that begins with the line, “Headless body in a topless bar”?

Favorite lyric: “Heroes aren’t born they’re cornered, and this corner is where we write the story.”

“Blood and Fire” -- Longtime Van Halen fans recognize the main music motif in this song as “Ripley,” an instrumental written by Eddie when he scored the soundtrack to “The Wild Life,” a 1984 movie by Cameron Crowe. Fans have always wondered what it could turn into with lyrics and the full band treatment. Now they know. Lyrically, with its talk of “forgotten empires” and “lost victories long past,” it seems to be an autobiographical nod to the band’s history. Dave even inserts his trademark concert exclamation of “Look at all of the people here tonight!” Speaking of trademarks, this marks the first of several standard spoken mid-song slowdowns (think “Everybody Wants Some!,” “Unchained” and “Panama”) with Dave breaking down the third wall and talking directly to the listener. “Told ya I was coming back. Say you missed me. Say it like you mean it.” The transition from spoken word to over-the-top guitar solo still gives me goosebumps, even after a couple dozen listens. I kind of feel like rating Eddie’s guitar solos is a bit like judging Michael Jordan’s dunks in that even his average takes are on such a higher plane than the competition it’s almost unfair. It’s mostly futile to compare Eddie to others, he’s best compared only to himself. With that in mind, this solo stands up to some of his best work.

Favorite lyric: “Look at all of the people here tonight.” (This line never ceases to put a smile on my face.)

“Bullethead” – So far, I have a real love/like relationship with this song. When I’m scanning the songs on the disc, it’s never one of my first choices to listen to. Yet, when it does come on, invariably I enjoy it. With its blast-from-the-gates guitar squeal, this is another blistering rocker. Musically, it dates back to the Simmons demo, but with new lyrics, albeit the same title. Personally, I place it toward the bottom of this album, but I know many others who rate it near the top. This album tends to invite that very rare phenomenon where opinions are across the board on what the best songs are. I’ve read hundreds of comments, from professional reviews to message boards, listing the best and worst songs on the album, and someone’s treasure is another’s throwaway track. To me, that’s actually the sign of a very good album.

Favorite lyric: “How many roads must a man walk down, before he admits he’s lost?”

 “As Is” -- This song is just a monster! I remember Eddie saying once that before there were lyrics to “Me Wise Magic” he referred to the song as “The Three Faces of Shamus” because of its trio of distinct musical sections. In that case, this song might as well be called “The Five Faces of Shamus” for its handful of abrupt turns and changes of pace. Alex kicks things off with an 18-second drum intro before Eddie and Wolfgang join in, and just when you’re settling into what you expect to be the main groove it all turns upside down with what turns out to really be the song’s main riff. Discerning fans will recognize a striking similarity in the predominant riff to the explosion-of-jam moment he played during his walk-on appearance of “Two and a Half Men” in 2009. (On the show, that was given the tongue-in-cheek title of “Two Burritos and a Root Beer Float.”) Everybody is just firing on all cylinders throughout the song before eventually settling into an ethereal rideout section that eerily endures for more than a minute. Great, great song.

Favorite lyric: “It's not who you squeeze, but who returns once again to squeeze you no doubt, love ’em all I says, let Cupid sort ’em out.”

“Honeybabysweetiedoll” -- There is so much going on musically in this song that I’m still finding amazing things in it with each new playback. It opens up with 30 seconds of guitar wankery and weird sound effects. The main segment is a roiling undertow of a riff that pulls you in and relentlessly pummels you before finally releasing you exhausted at song’s end. Dave handles most of this song in a lower register, half singing, half speaking his way through. The final minute and a half is all instrumental and features a furious solo by Eddie and some guitar playing that has a surprising Mideastern flair.

Favorite lyric: “Stone soul sistah soccer mom, muchacha-miga, cherry bomb.”

“The Trouble With Never” -- Another top flight song that could be a potential single. There’s much to like about this song, from its main verse and chorus to the couple “Alice in Wonderland” references and some nice backing vocals. But my favorite section of the song is the middle, which features a more-than-a-minute-and-a-half departure from the proceedings. It kicks off with a killer, wah-induced guitar solo lasting 45 seconds before easing into another classic Dave-speak breakdown that sets up a thundering reverie before returning to the original chorus. Amazing!

Favorite lyric: “Let’s un-plan the moment, dance the night away, selective amnesia is only a heartbeat away.”

“Outta Space” -- The backstretch of this album is just unbelievable. There is no let-up and no filler. It’s undoubtedly buoyed because three of the final four songs are revamped from a trio of all-time demo favorites -- their explosive main riffs having lost none of their power in the intervening 35-plus years, and, in fact, even gaining more of an edge in the hands of a battle-tested and –scarred Eddie.This song is based on “Let’s Get Rockin’ ” and is flat-out stellar as Dave updates it with his take on overpopulation and political correctness.

Favorite lyric: “Need no polar bear to scare me, no Eskimo to share with me his fate, woo, we outta space. No blog-o-sphere to sell me, no dolphin needs to tell me, no starving kid to make the case.”

“Stay Frosty” -- If “Stay Frosty” weren’t poised to become the catchphrase of 2012 -- Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters has already chanted it like a mantra -- then you could call this “Son of Ice Cream Man.” Completely different song, of course, but the formula is the same -- the only thing missing is Dave dedicating one to the ladies and a hearty “All right, boys!” before the song ramps up from acoustic to power-based boogie blues. Dave’s storytelling talents are in fine form here, transporting the listener on a journey to various religious leaders who offer sage advice along the lines of: “Don’t want them to get your goat, don’t show ’em where it’s hid” and “You want to be a monk, you’ve got to cook a lot of rice.” There are not one, but two high-octane guitar solos, and Alex and Wolfgang keep up the oft-frenetic pace.

Favorite lyric: “Stay Frosty, and there's nothing you can’t handle, far and wide, far as you ramble, trust in Allah, but tie up your camel.”

“Big River” -- Reworked from a fan-favorite demo titled “Big Trouble,” this is another amazing song. It’s almost redundant at this point: The musicianship on here is first-rate. Great catchy tune, with a pair of mind-numbing guitar solos.

Favorite lyric: “Listen to a sea shell, you can hear the sea, listen to a beer glass, that river belongs to me.”

“Beats Workin’ ” -- Top to bottom, this is one of my favorite songs on the album -- a potential party rock anthem for the new generation. Opening with a 45-second setup, the song receives a complete jolt when the extremely catchy main riff (originally from the demo “Put Out the Lights”) explodes onto the scene. This song is vintage Van Halen. Great vocals, blazing guitar with three solos, great backing vocals, heart-thumping rhythms. Not only does this make a great closing number, especially with its exaggerated fadeout, it would also make a fantastic single.

Favorite lyric: “One empty floor, stands between the stage, and the welfare door, heads or tails, of the same bread, coin of the realm, just like the man said.”

In summation: Forget all the infamous backbiting, sniping and animosity between various members throughout the decades. Forgive the years and years of wasted time and lost opportunities. Throw the “No news is good news” slogan to the wind.

Trust your ears. This is the exactly the type of “Truth” that can set long-suffering Van Halen fans free.

After a couple dozen listens, my fur-rising factor rates “A Different Kind of Truth” on a nearly equal hallowed plane as “Van Halen I” and “Fair Warning” -- my two personal favorites based on 35 years of utmost fascination with this little old band from Pasadena.

Ultimately, only time will tell if it stands the test of ...

(Editor’s note: The breakdown segment in “Mean Street” just struck this poor boy down ... )

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