After parting ways with Van Halen under disputed circumstances in 1985, David Lee Roth returned with his first solo LP a year later. Roth had previously released a solo effort of lounge covers called Crazy From The Heat. However, for the new album, Roth rejected another set of all lounge covers and returned to a rock sound similar to his style with Van Halen. Roth hired as his new backing band three powerhouse musicians, Billy Sheehan (later of Mr. Big), Gregg Bissonette, and guitarist Steve Vai who had worked previously with Frank Zappa.
The album was a straight-forward hard rock album and was a critical and commercial success, with Rolling Stone, among others, saying nothing on the album was as slick as any of the singles from Van Halen's 5150 album and much more "trashy fun." In a nod to his previous solo effort, there are two lounge songs included, "That's Life" and "I'm Easy". Roth also included a cover of the popular hit "Tobacco Road". The first single, "Yankee Rose" was probably the most well known of Roth's solo songs although "Goin' Crazy!" also saw limited radio play.
Sonrisa Salvaje is the Spanish version of Eat 'Em and Smile. According to the Van Halen Encyclopedia, the idea to re-record the album in Spanish was the idea of bassist Billy Sheehan, after Sheehan read an article in a magazine which reported that over half the Mexican population was between the ages of 18-27, a prime record buying market. Roth re-cut all his vocals with the help of a Spanish tutor in the studio. He changed around some of the more racier lyrics, so not to offend the more conservative Spanish. According to Sheehan, the album wasn't received well with many people considering it "Gringo Spanish," and any future Spanish-version ideas were dropped. With the exception of the vocals, the basic music tracks are the same as the "Eat 'Em and Smile" version, with the only exception being "Big Trouble", which ends abruptly as opposed to fading out on the English version. Sonrisa Salvaje was originally released on vinyl and cassette, but was deleted almost immediately. A CD version did not appear until 2007. All of the liner notes on the original release were written in Spanish except for the copyright notice and the Dolby noise reduction information on the cassette version. The Spanish version of Tobacco Road and Thats Life were featured on the show My Name is Earl in the episode South of the Border.
A version of "Kids in Action", originally by Kim Mitchell (of Max Webster), was also recorded for this album. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, the song was not included on the release. Apparently, Billy Sheehan was a member of Max Webster for about three weeks, according to Kim Mitchell: "He was in the band for about 3 weeks. He was in a band called Talas out of Buffalo and they would come to Toronto and he’d freak us out, he’s just an insane bass player. He loved our music and was a fan of Max Webster, we sort of became friends and when he’d come to town we’d hang out. I said 'Bill, do you want to join the band?' because Mike was leaving the group, and he agreed. So for about 3 weeks in was in the band and I’ll tell you 'High Class in Borrowed Shoes” and 'Battle Scar' never sounded better but 'Diamonds, Diamonds', you couldn’t have made it sound any worse. He just didn't know how to lay back and be a real soft, sensitive bass player. It was all about this thing that he had which was absolutely incredible, so it didn’t work out. There were no hard feelings and he went on and did really well. I got a call from him one day and he goes 'Hey man I'm in the studio with David Lee Roth, Ted Templeman and Steve Vai and we're covering your tune 'Kids in Action' and we need the words to the second verse'. I was shaking on the phone; this was right after Roth left Van Halen. Then at the last minute it got bumped off the record for “Tobacco Road”, they thought they needed a cover. See there's those darn covers again." There is no known studio version of Roth's cover available to the public.
This is the first of two albums to feature the duo of Steve Vai and Billy Sheehan on guitar and bass. Throughout the album the two would often sync complicated bass lines together with the lead guitar parts, this can be heard on tracks such as "Shyboy" and "Elephant Gun" among many of the other tracks. This is arguably the breakthrough album that brought Steve Vai into the public as a contender with Edward Van Halen, being that he was the previous guitarist who worked with Roth. This album features some of Steve Vai's most prominent guitar work.
|1986||The Billboard 200||4|
|1986||"Goin' Crazy"||Mainstream Rock Tracks||12|
|1986||"Goin' Crazy"||The Billboard Hot 100||66|
|1986||"That's Life"||The Billboard Hot 100||85|
|1986||"Tobacco Road"||Mainstream Rock Tracks||10|
|1986||"Yankee Rose"||Mainstream Rock Tracks||10|
|1986||"Yankee Rose"||The Billboard Hot 100||16|