This guy sucks compared to that Yngwe fellah...now HE's somethin' else!.
Eddie Van Halen would've made one hell of a good prog guitarist. Can you imagine him playing in front of, say, Bill Bruford and Chris Squire? And singing by, ohhh, Peter Gabriel? And your choice of whoever on keyboards? Wow. What a band that would've been. Well, life turns out differently than our fever dreams (fortunately, or that huge toothy bug would still be trying to graw my wedding ring off) and supergroups never turn out how they're supposed to. So instead we get Eddie Van Halen as a hard-partying, riff-rockin', heavy drinkin', solo smilin', finger flashin', whammy bar divin' (I'll stop) musical soul of A) One of the best pure rock bands ever, of any age and also (B) A compromised pop rock band which turned into an imitator of the derivative bands that originally imitated the band in (A). A dropoff in musical quality has rarely been seen in modern rock music the level of which befell Van Halen in the late 1980s. From the forefront of hard rock innovation, attitude, and popularity to the forefront of....ummm...popularity. But we'll get to trashing OU812 in good time, just you wait. There's plenty of great music to talk about before Merle Haggard joined the band.
Van Halen of course, is named after its guitarist, Eddie, and his younger brother, drummer Alex. It also includes the Luckiest Man in Rock, almost singularly untalented bass player Michael Anthony. And you may have heard of original singer David Lee Roth, a goofy, spasmodic, cheesy, powerful, and hilarious clown of a lead singer that HAS to be considered one of the geniuses of the species. Then later, as you may well have been told by your local pastor, Sammy Hagar took over vocal chores....though we'll discuss the relative merits and shortcomings of The Red Rocker later on. Then in 1996 Hagar was forced out and replaced by Roth (for a few days) and then Gary Cherone, formerly of Extreme and now formerly of Van Halen.
But enough history. Time to get down to business and address seven years of some of the best albums money can buy.
Van Halen - Warner Bros. 1978
A classic of hard rock music, and not for the reasons you might think (Michael Anthony's glute muscles, you were thinking, weren't you?)(They are nice and firm.)(Fag.)
Nah really, you probably think this is great because of Eddie Van Halen's Grand New Guitar Technique and how our man created the first completely new rock guitar style since Hendrix or (fill in the blank here) , and the first one in recent memory that wasn't derivative of the blues at all. Ehh, I don't really buy into all of that 'new technique' business. Listen to enough prog rock and you'll really start getting the idea that all that tapping, dive-bombing, and pick scratching had been done before, somewhere, by somebody (or more likely, several different people). Anyway, Eddie Van Halen was the first one who did all that stuff in a purely Dumb Hard Rock atmosphere. Made it sound respectable, worthy of study, academic. And exciting, too. And, unless Excitement has recently been elected an emotion, almost devoid of emotional content. Van Halen's solos frequently sound way too cold and academic. More frigid than a Baptist Prom Queen. But worthy of more 'Wow's' than any other guitar work I've heard in a long time. In short, a lot of 'rock grimace and air guitar' moments, and not too many 'crying like a baby because of his great tone' moments.
Anyway, it's not because of either of that, but because Van Halen as a band were one of The great Fun Party Bands (mostly thanks to Roth) at a time when such things were not necessarily considered very cool. Of course, in the late 70's you had your Southern Boogie party bands, and you might count AC/DC and Aerosmith, but Van Halen was fun and completely new and had enough enthusiasm you knock your socks off without ever coming close to being serious about what they were doing. Here was finally a band that totally sounded like High School, with its raging hormones, drunken stupidity, and pranksterish hooliganism, all wrapped up in a well made and easily sold package.
Enough about describing the band, let's talk about the record. It's flat out one of my favorite records by anybody. Realise that there's no theme here, its really just a bunch of riff rockers, and a few of the tracks really tank. But I love the whole record, and the quick, balls out drive of the dang thing just wipes all those naggin 'Hey! I think maybe that cool bitchin riff might not be as original and earth-shatteringly melodic as something by Yes' complaints clear from my skull. It's Rock 'n' roll music, that's all. It just happens to be played better than 99% of other rock 'n' roll bands do it. We start out with 'Runnin' With the Devil', an 'Im a Bad Bad Boy' sort of song where you get to hear all of the Van Halen cliches introduced to you one at a time. Roth's high-pitched yelps, Anthony's one note bass lines, quiet verse/loud chorus dynamics, band vocal harmonies, dive bombs, and that thing where the band comes totally alive for the Eddie solo. Its the prototype Van Halen (early VH, anyway). If you don't totally bang your head and jump around, look elsewhere, for Van Halen is not for you.
Then it's 'Eruption', Eddie Van Halen's 2 minute solo guitar spot where he challenges for the title of speediest guitar player ever. And I think he may have won. Its amazing, but it is only a guitar solo. I personally like the feedback dive at the end more than all the finger twiddling, but that's just me and my monkey. You?
Listen, the rest is similar, but similarly great. 'You Really Got Me' might be considered sacrilege by a Ray Davies disciple, especially since it's Party Hard Rock instead of Party Proto Punk, but it never did me any harm. It also starts the trend of the Van Halen-ized cover song, all of which sound pretty similar to this one, which is, Suprise! Pretty similar to Van Halen songs in general! The speedier 'Ain't Talkin' About Love' is another winner, a much darker song than 'Runnin', even, and Roth really lets himself hang out on this one. His Jive Talkin' Fool stage persona really works on record as well, especially on the 'I've Been to the Edge' part. What this guy had was a dumptruck load of charisma, which allows him to put good songs into the stratosphere and save lame songs from the trash bin. 'I'm the One' is a really fast generic boogie, which I guess becomes less generic because of the totally wigged out speediness of the dang thing. It's all just a rah-rah lovin'-the-audience song, but as a rave up it works. Again, it's no great shakes songwriting wise, but who cares? Its great rock, and there's an absolutely suprising doo-wop part that any other band (or lead singer) would never had the genius to come up with. Then the groovin 'Janie's Cryin', which you may know from Mr. Tone Loc's 1989 smash hit song 'I Steal Van Halen Riffs Because Otherwise I Would Never Get On the Radio, and Anyway, None of My 10-Year Old Pop Rap Listeners Will Ever Get Within 10 Miles of Van Halen 1 So I'm Safe to Bugger Rodents and Eat My Own Boogers'.
The only song I really don't like is 'Atomic Punk', which sounds way too serious to be a joke, but if I convince myself Roth is fooling around with us, it's great. Those creeping suspicions that this was an 'early' composition and is meant to be taken perfectly seriously can ruin it though. But hey, listen to that Michael Anthony thump. I thought maybe the man only had one finger on his left hand or something. He still blows goats, at least according to me. 'Feel Your Love Tonight' is a bit too light on the radar, but don't take it like the song doesn't kick ass, for it does, in an Aerosmith sort of way. Really. Or Guns 'n' Roses. Doesn't that instrumental part around the guitar solo sound like Guns 'n' Roses? Wow. A new revelation on my Van Halen record I've listened to a million times. 'Little Dreamer' is all Roth, with a bit of a decent riff and cool 'Oooh' harmonies. Those VH'ers really used to be able to sing, you know?
Shit, this review is very, very long. But who cares? Let's just skip talking about the last two songs, even though they're pretty decent (and show other, interesting but sillier, sides of the band) and say: Buy this Record! You won't be disappointed unless you think way too much.
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Joe H. - Rating: A
Definate A (or 9 out of 10) here. Just outstanding songs. "Runnin with the devil", "Im the one", "Eruption", the cover of "you've really got me now" all absolute classic songs. I think this is 'Halen at their peak, but Fair Warning is an album that i agree, should get the A+.
Tony Souza Rating: A
I guess I have to grade this so by VH's standard's this is the best they ever did. Van Halen to me is the equivalent of Mad magazine -- only not as mature. It's something you like when you were younger, but as you grow older, they (especially Roth) becomes, well, meaningless. I do have to give them some respect though. I remember when this album first came out, it was fresh sounding and new and EVH had a style all his own. It's not my favorite guitar style, but he deserves the accolades he gets. I always thought Alex Van Halen's drumming was underrated too. He's very good. Anthony, though, has got to be the most unimaginative bass player is the history of rock. Roth had the perfect voice for this kind of music, but even back then I thought he was too much of a jerk-off. His schtick becomes tiresome after awhile. I like this band, but don't love it.
Dressed to Kill - Bootleg 1977.
One fine way to hear the live band in its early, post debut album days. Recorded in Pasadena, December 20 1977, this cruddy sounding (but popular! and not too badly sounding!) bootleg shows how way-out cool these boys were on stage at this time. Eddie is extremely inspired. He's all over the place! This album blows the doors off Right Here, Right Now for damn sure. And Roth is funny doing his borscht-belt black preacher man schtick on his between song banter. What a charismatic, funny, likable lead singer with long hair! All the best songs off of the first album (hell, almost the entire thing) and some of the wonderful tunes off of II they already had ready to go. And that title wittingly refers to Gene Simmons, and some demos VH recorded for him that are entertainingly included here.
Hey! Go to your local bootlegger and ask for this album, home slice! And get some more nacho chips while you're out!
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Halen II - Warner Bros. 1979
Somehow this record is a wee bit inferior to the first one, even though it's taken from the same batch of songs (hell, most of the riffs on the first 3 or 4 records were all written in 1977, so maybe that says something). Simply put, if you liked the first one, and could stand another cover tune (Carole King's 'You're No Good', which is given a sort of dumb treatment) and somewhat more intense (but not necessarily better, just, umm....darker!) sounding songs, you'll dig the shit outta this shit, I promise you. You'll dance to 'Dance the Night Away' which has to be best senior prom song ever. I wish they'd played it at mine. Instead we got a bunch of country and...eesh, Billy Joel. I was born some 13 years too late, I guess. Oh yeah right, they had Billy Joel 13 years ago too, so maybe I'm just dammed to a personal hell of my own making.
Crap, I dunno. There's a cool 'dark' vibe on here, like we're really serious about partying and screwing chicks. Like there's some danger or fast automobiles involved or something. Not like 'Ain't Talkin About Love'-I'm a bastard sort of darkness. Maybe the riffs are just a bit less good. Maybe there's too much similarity between songs 3 to 6 which makes the middle of the album a bit too generic of a Van Halen listen. Then there's the cool Spainsh guitar tap-a-thon 'Spanish Fly', the 'Louie Louie' riff rewrite (but Dark!) 'D.O.A.', then two funner ending songs called 'Women in Love' and 'Beautiful Girls' which leave thing on a lighter note. And that last one isn't dark at all, just happy as my wife after a foot rub. And the whole shebang's only like 30 seconds long, so there isn't a lot of wasted space on here. Its almost like a punk album or something in that regard. A bunch of great rock songs. And a great dance song. And a great, umm, acoustic guitar workout. If there is such a thing. Hey and there's no silliness like 'Ice Cream Man' here....its all Van Halen rockers all the time.
And ummm....darker. Jesus. That sounds so stupid after the 15th time. This album doesn't though!
Wasn't that a witty turn of phrase? Aren't I just a wit like Mr. Oscar Wilde?
I mean without the other man's penis inserted in my rectum, of course.
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Children First - Warner Bros. 1980
Third time around for this same schtick could have begun to grate, but only if you listen to all these albums in a row. And I get the impression that they tried to make to make this one more extreme than the first two were too, like how the dirty 'Everybody Wants Some' is pretty long but jungle boogie rocks so hard my teeth dance around, even with that disco thing that Michael Anthony does on the bass. 'And The Cradle Will Rock'...and Van Halen will write a really simple riff that somehow doesn't sound dumb. This one's gotta have one of the most surprising moments in VH history as Eddie starts out doing a tapping tiddle but slows down and, well, take it from me, Roth says something funny. Then Eddie plays his superfast solo. What a song. Theme song to all the cigarette-pack rolled into the t-shirt sleeve kids we all knew at one time or another. Or how 'Fools' lasts forever, contains Roth's patented Janis Joplin impersonation, has about a hundred different false opening sections, then finally shows its true face as, Wow! a by the numbers Van Halen stomp track! Or how 'Romeo's Delight' is about a thousand miles an hour, or how 'Tora! Tora!' is a 40 seconds of tape noise, and then a bunch of Black Sabbath riffing. Or how 'Loss of Control' sounds like a lost track from Kill 'Em All if David Lee Roth ate James Hetfield alive and got stoned out of his mind snorting his powdered bones before doing the vocal. Or how 'Take Your Whisky Home' steals directly from late 70's ZZ Top albums, but in a good 'Jesus Just Left Chicago' sort of way. Or how 'Could This Be Magic' is all acoustic for the first time ever. And twenties-style slide blues, too. Or how 'In a Simple Rhyme' is a really melodic wide-open rocker that sounds like nothing else they ever did, and works with its slow parts and everything. Or how Michael Anthony's bass sounds like Geddy Lee's here.
Hey, don't claim they didn't ever try to do anything new. They were a dumb rock band but they weren't dumb.
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Terrence Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: Holy shit. This was the best album VH ever did. Mostly because it's dark and different. The last 3 songs don't do it for me which is a shame, but all the other songs are so bitchin' it makes up for it. Go figure. Sammy Hagar ruined Van Halen. Classic Van Halen was the shit. Whoever likes Sammy Hagar sucks corporate dick and probably enjoys Justin Timberlake's music.
Matt Your Rating: B
Any Short Comments?: Some real good stuff here Capn, but I dunno if it's really worth an A.
Wait! Wait! Let me explain! Sure, you have such timeless kickass classics like "And The Cradle Will Rock," "Everybody Wants Some," "Take Your Whiskey Home," and "In A Simple Rhyme," but some of the stuff on here is completely unlistenable shit. "Loss Of Control" may have that hilarious chorus with Diamond Dave yelping "Loss of Control! Loss of Control! Loss of Control!" in this absurdly high silly voice, but the song itself is...ehh...rather unfocused and lame. "Romeo Delight" is WAY too repetitive, and "Fools" may have that goofy drawn-out introduction, but the loose arrangement (I know VH were never the most disciplined band but it bugs me here for some reason) and totally bogus vocals (one of the few times where Diamond Dave's antics get truly annoying) all but ruin it for me. "Could This Be Magic" is "Ice Cream Man II" and about as entertaining (which is a good thing since I liked Ice Cream Man). But what the fuck is with "Tora! Tora!"? It has no real purpose at all and ties with "Strung Out" as the most pointless and boring instrumental in VH's career. Okay, the Black Sabbath riffing was kind of neat, but who wants to listen to random tape noise? Not me.
Overall, like I said before, there are some real good ones on here, but I think the filler make this the weakest of the Dave-era along with Diver Down. The guys sounded much better with Fair Warning the following year since they actually got down to business and took things a tad more seriously, but on this one I can't help but feel as if they're recycling the debut for the third time and running out of ideas. Still, it's a good record, and one that I don't mind playing pretty often.
However, I don't think this is anywhere near VH's best, and I actually think 5150 and F.U.C.K. are better overall albums than this one (though it's certainly better than Balance, OU812 or 3....yuck!).
Your Rating: B+
Any Short Comments?: Actually, Capn, on second thought, Fools is a good track. I was thinking of Romeo Delight when I said Fools was an annoying song. The album still isn't better than a B+ though.
Warning - Warner Bros. 1981
Spare your 'this is inferior' comments. I think it's extremely inspired. Do we really want a fourth freakin' VH party record in a row? I don't. I want something new at this point, after listening to all the others one after another (which ain't that difficult to do, lemme tell you...these first 6 records can be listened to back to back with no adverse reactions). Its a concept record, of sorts, about aggression, anger, crime, and gritting your teeth really hard so you get headaches. 'A gun is real easy in this desparate part of town'? What kind of party is he at? Jesus but Eddie Van sounds harder than usual on this record as well. He tears through his riffs like he's possessed...I think this should be the album that guitar fans should study rather than trying to copy every freaking note of 'Eruption' in the exact perfect order. It's angry. 'Dirty Movies' has cool sloppy parts and an opening lick I couldn't dream of being able to play. It's also pretty maybe....but mostly it's just dark and unforgiving. This record's got a depressed disco called 'Push Comes to Shove' which is about the last chance the rhythm section ever took. And its got hooks, a lot of 'em, 'Unchained' being probably the best one. And some heavy, dirty synths that hint at the future...but only if you can imagine a future in which this band does 'Right Here, Right Now'. Jesus Christ, I sure can't. Those frigged-up synths eat my pacemaker right out of my chest. Porn? Violence? What a depressing world we live in, at least according to Roth and Van Halen. Hagar wants us to think everything would be great if we Just Would Think More Positively. Fuck that noise. VH knew the truth 10 years before that pile of crap.
Can you imagine an entire album where Eddie Van Halen doesn't smile during any of the solos, and David Lee Roth's leering sounds scary and slimy rather than funny and clownish? The fact that this album works is testament to the power (at least in 1981) of our principles' ability to adapt themselves. They had the guts (remember they had everything to lose at this time...they were on the top, sales wise) to put out something that fans certainly couldn't squeeze a load of laughs out of. This isn't dark like the ghouls and goblins and mythologizing of Iron Maiden or even the brain scream of Judas Priest. It's also not dark like the 'dangerous' sounding parts of VHII. It's dark like the Stooges or passing out in a pool of vomit. Like that.
One high peak of Van Halen, but don't expect me to want to feel this kind of 'dark' too often. A good album to listen to when you want to bash your neighbor's face in for letting her dog crap on your Welcome mat. Or you feel like drinking Night Train until you can't feel your lips.
Your Rating: B-
Any Short Comments?: I really think this album is depressingly dull, except for Unchained, So This Is Love, and Hear About It Later. One Foot Out the Door is possibly the worst Van Halen song of all time (excluding anything off 3, of course).
Oh, and what the fuck, pray tell, is Sunday Afternoon in the Park all about? I was surprised that you did not mention this song. Before I first heard it I thought it would be a nice, mellow acoustic piece of some sort, and instead it's the scariest fucking two minutes of music I have ever heard! You know how you feel about Intruder? That is how I feel about this song! It's amazing how two minutes of creepy synth and a boring rhythm section can be so damn scary! I can never listen to this thing before I go to bed, otherwise I have nightmares and shit.
You were right on about the "darkness" of this record. Unchained almost sounds like Iron Maiden or something. Still, I don't think this recording ranks anywhere near the best of the Van Halen albums.
Since it is Van Halen, however, I'll give it a B-.
Your Rating: C-
Any Short Comments?: Why is this album so "great?" Other than Unchained, this is a hookless failure. One Foot Out the Door is, besides How Many Say I and Big Fat Money, the worst song Van Halen has ever done. This album is extremely overrated. If you want real Van Halen go with anything else from the Dave era, along with 5150, 0U812, and For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. Don't believe all the hype that has been heaved upon this album. Buy it only if you want to complete your VH collection, but prepare to be underwhelmed. That is what I would say if this was my review page.
(Capn's Response: And if it was your review page, I'd write really irritating letters to YOU stating how much F.U.C.K. and OU812 make me want to throw up my pork chop dinner whenever Sammy Hagar's distorto-whine of a voice cranks up on some godawful line like 'I Can't Stop Loving You...No Matter What You Say Or Do...OOOHH!...I Can't Stop Loving You!' Even if what you say about there not being any hooks here (bullshit), at least Fair Warning has HEAVY guitars and songs about violence and sex, not 7th grade love-note messages.)
Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: agreed - this is one of the ballsiest rock albums ever created by anyone. i'll agree somewhat with the one comment that it may be "hookless" - which is what makes it fucking brilliant - this album doesn't wash over you like pop-rock (not that there's anything wrong with that), this album grabs you by the nuts and MAKES you listen - LISTEN - to it. It's not background rock. The mix is perfect. Eddie's guitar sounds so nasty due to him tuning his low E string down about 18 octaves for most of these songs way before your trendy late 90s nu-metal compression-rich douchebags with ooo-i'm-so-scary tinted contact lenses started hip-hopping their way around the music scene.
This album even with the relative collective wet shit of the last 2 tracks is an epiphany to the rock world which should have shaken up wannabe guitarists everywhere into not forming the Motley Crue/Poison/Warrants of the world and putting a little thought into the hard rock genre. As you mention, this band played dumb but they knew what they were doing (except Michael of course. i can hear Ed in the studio..."uh, Mike, why don't you go in that corner, thump a low D and here have another swig outta my bottle of Jack...ya dumbass. oh, i like your background vocals though...keep up the good work.").
I liked the other VH/DLR albums but this one is transcendant. And part of what makes it great is that the next year they jumped right back into the "HEY LET'S PARTYYYYYYYY!!" mode with a 29 minute album full of covers. If you were around at the time and you blinked, you might have missed this.
...and on a final note, the worst VH song and in competition for worst rock song of alltime is "Spanked" - only 10 years separate that song from Mean Street - and the same band (theoretically) recorded them both. wow.
Matt email@example.com Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: Hmmm....I don't know if this is VH's crowning achievement, but it's still real good. My favorite track is Unchained, but there are so many good songs here. That's the only minor gripe I have about this record: the songs are all real good, but there aren't any truly great ones apart from Unchained (of course). I guess it could have benefitted from one more hard rockin' single in the vein of Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love (which would have fit perfectly on this album, by the way), since "So This Is Love?" was the only single off of here. Still, this is one of VH's most consistent albums from start to finish as there are no weak songs on it. This is where the boys got a little more serious about their songwriting, and it's also proof that frustration and anger (which were both running rampant among the members by this time) can actually cause a band to do their best work. As Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue put it, "Conflict creates creativity."
The overall dark mood of this album is another facet that sets it apart from VH's other albums. This is most evident in Ed's angry tone and minor-chord riffing on tracks like Mean Street, Dirty Movies, and Unchained, as well as the incredibly creepy instrumental Sunday Afternoon in The Park, which sounds like it should be on the Halloween soundtrack or something. I heard Ed wrote that song for his wife, which seems a little strange. I guess he must have been pretty mad at her at the time, huh?
So, in conclusion, this is a damn fine album. I'll rate it just below the debut and 1984 as the best of the Roth years, albeit only by a
hair. But it's still A material as far as I'm concerned. This is definitely the hidden gem in VH's catalogue; I'm surprised that it didn't sell more. Guess that's because it caught the fans by surprise since they were probably expecting the "fourth freakin' VH party record in a row," as you put it.
Down - Warner Bros. 1982
A covers record! And for some weird reason, probably the VH record I've heard the most times. Why's that? It's for sure less good than the other Roth-era albums, because it's so silly and Broadway and...dammit...because it has a bunch of covers on it! But golly gee whillikers if those covers don't rule. Did you like 'You Really Got Me' on the first record? Well dig into the obvious Kinks cover 'Where Have All the Good Times Gone?', wherein if you don't mind a little lack of necessity, you'll glom onto this version just fine. Next cover, after a few originals to be described later on, is 'Pretty Woman', which goes to prove that the riff Orbo came up with oh so many aeons ago still holds up to an overdriven Marshall and a blow-dried Jewish Californian freak on vocals. That God-like tone Eddie has on all these old albums...lemme just build a shrine to The Brown Sound right here on the site for you to come and pray to. They cover the song fairly straight, though, no wild-hammered-on solos to ruin the mood here. VH just cover the song about as well as you could imagine. Following a cool echo-drenched lick, 'Dancin' In the Street' must be the weirdest take on this well-worn cover tune I've ever heard. Are those synths? I'm willing to bet they're guitars and this must be the surfingest tune I've ever heard by a non-surf band. Seriously...I have to give it to Jeff Spicoli. I would've hired Van Halen to play my birthday party too. But jeez...around this point you begin to realize this album has waaay too little original material on it. Eddie hardly even solos, not anything compared to the intense ear-searing that was all over Fair Warning, anyhow. Later on down the road is the silly Dixieland swing toon 'Big Bad Bill' that allows Roth to indulge all his worst Broadway tendencies until you just about feel like puking. I know its a joke song, but I can't dig this one bit. Too much stupid clarinet.
The originals are fine, about up to speed for this era of the band, which means they are beyond the wildest dreams of the two later versions of the lineup. 'Hang 'Em High' is 'Romeo's Delight' fast, which means its gooder than Mr. Goodbar, holmes. And it has the line 'He's Listening to the Dead'...for no reason I can find. 'Secrets' and its super pretty guitar-volume-control+echo synth impression intro 'Cathedral' are also both big winners. 'Secrets' is nice and mellow, also real California sounding. The lyrics are especially dumb, but with that happy damn melody I'm willing to excuse anything. David Lee sure can place those doo-wop things effectively in the course of a song. This song is the kind of 'ballad' we could use a whole lot more of...it's snappy, rocking, but light enough to say 'hey baby! Come over here and let me touch those...I won't scare your momma too bad when I come over to meet your parents!' Or something equally as retarded. And another Spanish guitar thing, this one a lot less flashy, a lot more melodic, and hey! a lot better than 'Spanish Fly' off VHII, into 'Little Guitars', which has another fine riff, real anthemic, itchy, and fist beating. Almost Rush-esque. Really pointing the way to 1984 on these originals, I say. If one were to move these 3 originals I just finished praising to the nines onto 1984, you might just have one of the 2 or 3 best hard rock records ever. Bummer this has 'The Full Bug' on it, another ZZ Top blues thing I could do without VH trying. At least it's fast.
I haven't mentioned the instrumental 'Intruder' intro yet....and its my favorite 1:40 of Van Halen I've ever heard. I put on this record for the expressed purpose of hearing only this sometimes. It's also the scariest 1:40 of music I've ever heard. It's simply the rhythm section pounding away and Eddie doing a bunch of grindy feedback, but IT NEVER FAILS TO PUT SHIVERS DOWN MY SPINE!!! Ever! Not once! It sounds like a movie soundtrack to a horror movie or something...the scratching is the freak breaking into the window...the weird squeals that sound like some girl talking...like questions...like 'who's there?'...then the creeping through the hall and the part where it sounds like pleading....AAGGH! Its scarier than a million scary movies and its only 1:40 long! Save me, oh great And then the band seques perfectly into the classic riff of '(Oh) Pretty Woman' like PERFECTLY! This band was very, very very good. Notice the 'was' tense usage there.
Hey and what's with all these marine-type album titles? Women and Children First? Diver Down? What about All Hands on Deck? Or even better All Hands on Mr. Roth's Penis? I'm sure he'd like that.
And they end with a funny acapella 'Happy Trails'. Shit. Two bad songs, a few classic originals, a bunch of decent covers you probably don't really need, and all in all a barrel-load of good fun. Buy it soon.
Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: I take issue with whoever said anything bad about the clarinet part in Big Bad Bill. That was Mr. Van Halen playing that part. Mr. Van Halen as in ed and alex' dad. Take a bong hit dude.
(Capn's Response: Would it make me want to listen to silly woodwind solos too? I thought it just made me think Taco Bueno was the best food in the history of the refried bean.)
1984 - Warner Bros. 1984
Nineteen Eighty Four serves notice that those moves towards pop and use of synths hinted at on Fair Warning and Diver Down weren't just a bunch of blowin' in the wind. They were moving, slowly but surely, into the mainstream. You'll be listening to this record for well over 2 minutes before you even hear your first electric guitar, and even that one is buried under masses of synth pads and anthemic, errr, synth pad riffs. But you'll like what you hear....'cos the hook to 'Jump' is a bull in my underwear china shop. And how the Eddie Van guitar solo sounds completely inferior to the Eddie Van synth solo that immediately follows it. 'Anthemic' is just about the only word I can hang on this piece of synth-heavy hair metal at its genre-defining best. Lemme put it this way, for this kind of music, this song not only pioneered the style, it also made it instantly obsolete. Nothing in pop metal could ever equal 'Jump'.
So your Eddie guitar junkies are probably thinking at this point 'One lousy grafted-on guitar solo? What a fucking loser of a record!', but then there's 'Panama'....which rocks way-out there farther and fatter than anything since, shit, I dunno when. They haven't sounded this alive in awhile. Is this poppified? I don't really hear it, other than in a few dramatic synth whooshes and some great atmospheric production. No, this is just artistic growth. Growth resultant from getting something like Fair Warning out of their system. My theory is that VH listened to the way ZZ Top put deep-80's style production and synths on Eliminator the year before (which earned ZZ Top a few millions in sales and a few million new fans in the process) and learned some lessons from it. Unfortunately, some songs on here are simply below the bar for VH original, like 'Top Jimmy' and 'Drop Dead Legs' for example. The whole song sounds grafted together, like 'here's a riff', 'here's a solo', 'here's a hook line', but the muther don't Hang Together, you know? Like me and Timbaland hang together, down there in the hood, peeps. Shit, was saying 'peeps' ever cool? I remember laughing so hard I spit in the face of the first colored person who said that to me. Did I say colored? I meant 'person of color', of course...
But any nigger could tell you that the riff to 'Drop Dead Legs' is a real winner, and saves the song, at least in my book. And the name of that book? This is The Last Really Great Van Halen Record, so Buy the Shit Outta this Shit! by Ryan C. Atkinson. 'Girl Gone Bad' pushes the prog licks to the limits of Yngwe Malmseteen's bowel capacity, meaning it sounds real proggy metal, mister mister. And 'House of Pain' is just another rocker, with a heavy but below-par riff that sounds like Eddie is copying somebody. Yawn.
Hey? Want drums that sound like a motorcycle? 'Hot For Teacher'! The best boogie track they ever did, and fast! And breathtaking! And funny! What a great song....same goes for its polar opposite 'I'll Wait', which is so new wave it barely qualifies as hard rock at all. Maybe Cars hard rock. This is the song they kept copying for, well, the next 15 years of their career, but never were able to equal the amount of hooky snot in this song. Maybe its 'cos, later on, SOMEONE OTHER THAN ROTH WAS SINGING? Maybe! Roth sure was one talented son of a biatch. I love this song too!
Wow, this album is inconsistent. From the super high Everest best-of band peaks of 'Jump' and 'Panama' and 'I'll Wait' and 'Hot For Teacher' to the ho-hum fruited plain of 'House of Pain' and 'Top Jimmy', this album can be maddening. But its heights are enough to show the unparalleled greatness of this band in lowly 1984. And its lesser songs would be killed for by the likes of Def Leppard or somebody equally as wanting in the talent department. Replace 'Pain', 'Jimmy', and 'Girl' with 'Secrets', 'Little Guitars', and 'Hang 'Em High' from Diver Down and you have yourself an easy A+ album. Make the tape in the comfort of your own home and congratulate yourself on making the best-ever VH album. And send me $15 for the idea so I can buy some more crappy bootlegged CD's and have something to listen to.
Oh yeah, and watch your step from now on when it pertains to Van Halen. It gets shittier than a St. Petersburg sidewalk after a doggie-diarheea epidemic.
firstname.lastname@example.org Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: Man, this one really needed an A+, i mean no one on earth was expecting these guys to put out an album like that one. And all the songs are good, except from Top Jimmy, which yeah it looks like it's lots of peaces put together, but the rest is amazing!!!
5150 - Warner Bros. 1985
Hagar. Sammy fucking Hagar. 'I Can't Drive 55' was his career highlight. The Red Rocker. Sammy Motherfucking Hay-Gar. Gay! Har!
But wait a second! Do this little mind exercise: Imagine you're Eddie Van Halen in 1985 trying to figure out with whom to replace one of the best singers in rock history. Make yourself a list of hard rock vocalists that might have taken the job. I personally found myself quickly running into such luminous names like David Coverdale and Ronnie James Dio. Holy Lord I'm glad they didn't choose one of those clowns. Makes choosing Sammy sound a bit less like a rank idea. Sure he isn't any Alice Cooper (that was a fun variant), but he also isn't any Dee Snyder.
That said, getting Hagar was still much worse of an idea than folding the band completely or becoming a Mariachi group or something. (Wouldn't Michael Anthony would look Bitchin with one of those huge Mexican bass guitars?) But hey, our boys wanted to Rock!
Or err...play a bunch of Pop Metal with Synthesizers! Yeah! Whoo! Wherever do I queue up to buy my $35 Gold Disc Remaster?
I need to address something here. A lot of (professional) reviewers (who get paid for doing something we do for free)(and do a lot better) like to praise Sammy's voice talents to the nines while criticizing Roth's as lacking in technical ability. I have to put in my opinion here that THAT IS A STEAMING LOAD OF WEEVIL-INFESTED GIRAFFE SHIT! Sammy can hardly sing at all! He squeezes the notes out like he's pinching off a really dense turd. Roth was classic! And he had more charisma than I have penis, and that's a lot, friends and neighbors! Sammy has as much charisma as your neighborhood Jehovah's Witness after a good 20mg of Valium and some hi-larious Family Circus cartoon readings. He replaces winking irony with earnest banality, humor with pun, and ass kicking with ass licking. And he can't yelp at all....just have a listen to him try to cover Roth's VH songs on the live album and tell me I ain't right.
Hey! I haven't actually said anything about the album yet after all this ranting and raving about Sammy Hagar. I guess it's all because, for once, I actually care a lot about a band and feel bad they dropped the ball like they did.
But this album ain't half bad! Maybe because it was written years before Sammy ever showed up, and came out so fast and good simply because Eddie had a few days alone to sort through some old jam tapes and pull together some decent riffs before Sammy showed up and fouled them all up. Ed didn't even care much about the lyrical content. As I read it, as long as the band wasn't making Diver Down II, Eddie was one happy alcoholic Dutch guitar hero.
So, I had a really cool review here and then my damn Windows tanked so I lost it all. So fuck it, I'm not going to write it again right now. I'll just do a summary: 'Why Can't This Be Love?' is a great track with superb synths. The rockers 'Good Enough' and 'Get it Up' showcase Eddie's new guitar tone, which, unsurprisingly blows my ass with chorus effects. But he does all the old tricks, so it's cool. 'Dreams' is a fast poppy track with lots of airy synths, and it's stupid, but I like it 'cos it sounds sorta like 'I'll Wait'. Eddie's a more inspired synth player than guitar player now. And the fast rocker '5150' is alright and has an un-annoying Sammy. The rest of the songs blow out loud. Except Alex. His drumming is neat on this album.
Fuck Microsoft. Fuck Sammy-led Van Halen. This is too much disappointment all at once.
I disagree with your comments on Hagar, although I will admit it was funny that you said he squeezed the notes out like pinching off a dense turd. I think that it was incredible for the guys to come up with such a great record after 1984 and DLR leaving. Only one thing: Why didn't you comment on the last track, Inside? Just kidding.
OU812 - Warner Bros. 1988
The opening track, 'A Apolitical Blues', is unlistenable bullshit sloppy blues. Unlistenable. Horrible. An affront. Terrible. *Click!* the fast-forward button. There ya go...*Click!*. 'Afu (Naturally Wired)' introduces us to the worst snare drum sound known to modern man. And I'm asking myself...where is the hook? I don't hear one, just a bunch of crap and tempo changes and Sammy. Boy, Eddie's new guitar tone sure makes him sound like a wimp. Makes him sound faceless. Is this supposed to be 'extra heavy' the way he does those sorta-speed metal tricks there? At least he can still tap like a champ after 10 years, but since I can tap and I play guitar like shit, maybe it's not such a great achievement anymore. Oh yeah, 'Black and Blue', I've heard this before. But I also remember I didn't like its bluesy bends and totally unfunky backing vocals then either. Okay, so it's maybe not that awful, and retains some energy...I'll let you twist my arm. Hey, you know what Van Hagar has begun to do? My least favorite trick in the book: extending song running times for no good reason at all. Listen, VH1 never did that, and they could have if they'd wanted to. This band has no good reason to have any of these songs be over 3:30 in length whatsoever, but still regularly extends to over 5 minutes, 6 minutes. It's awful and makes simply lame songs turn annoying and maddening. And difficult to finish. *Click!* 'Cabo Wabo' is a bit funky, and I enjoy the solo and the singing (!), but 6:30? Why in the hell does this song go on so long and do absolutely nothing? And why is Alex hitting that crash cymbal so much? Aggh! No more...*click!* 'Feels So Good' is like a lighter 'Love Walks In' from 5150, a song which was plenty light to begin with. This song is simply cloying. Those synths that still sounded so clear and inspired on the last one are long gone too. There's simply no instrumental prowess on this song at all...everything is as subdued and poppy as possible, without any 'sharp edges' that may scare off potential 12 year old girls. Eesh. Lightweight shit. Even the guitar solo sounds mailed-in at this point. 'Suhgut!' And jeez, 'Source of Infection' is a lot of thrashing and bashing, but to what end? A few cool Eddie-isms done better on his earlier albums? A bunch of tricky fast rhythms? Some truly retarded screaming by Sammy? Spare me. And 'Sucker in a 3 Piece' thankfully excuses the tempo changes in favor of a straight ahead song that sounds so similar to VH's other Sammy-era straight ahead hard tunes, I can't tell a single thing that may distinguish it. The hardy-har lyrics, possibly?
Okay okay, I'll buy 'Finish What Ya Started'. If you are going to be light you may as well be catchy. I like Eddie's guitar clean now more than distorted, anyway. Twang! Twang! I like just about everything about this track. The backup vocals, the open, clear sound, even Sammy's alright, because he refrains from wailing. And that descending guitar line lick he does is neato. Way to go. And I can even get into the pseudo-proggy vibe of 'Mine All Mine', even if those tinkly synths are way loud. The drumming is all over the place, too. 'When It's Love' is another song, which you may have gathered, with the word 'love' in the title, and it sure sounds a lot like 'Why Can This Be Love?' without the cool synth part. Without a cool riff, to be more sure about the matter. But I will admit that it's catchy and, though I wouldn't listen to it in front of friends with good musical taste, is almost the best thing on the album.
Woof. This album is so close in sound and quality to the lesser lights on 5150, it makes the whole thing simply redundant. And expendable. So 'Finish What Ya Started' and 'When It's Love' are fine tracks. And you may find one or two other songs you don't hate on here. Sounds like a B- to me!
Though the album title is cool. OU:812 points! That's right! Boomer Sooner! Gonna repeat this year, y'all!
Unlawful Carnal Knowledge - Warner Bros. 1991
I'm not even going to mention the stupid album title. But the album I'll talk about a little bit. Definitely more hard rocking, that's for sure. Not too much of an improvement, though, as this record signals Eddie's total surrender of any claim he ever had to being a groundbreaker. He's content to lay back behind his chorused 5150 guitar sound and crank out riff after riff. Oh, he may use a drill here and there ('Poundcake'), but is that really something 'groundbreaking'? Or even 'musical'? I say its just a bunch of noise and a stupid idea in addition...how many 13 year olds screwed up their band new guitars' finishes by emulating Eddie but forgetting to take out the drill bit first? I knew one! Frigging moron's in jail now, I think, 12 years later.
A bunch of these songs fall into the straight ahead category, being the least odious type of VH song to be found on 5150 and OU812. 'Poundcake' even qualifies as being an unqualified good Van Halen song, no reservations. Got a vocal hook and funny lyrics and everything. And even though the piano part sounds really weak during the opening, I dig 'Right Now' mostly for the drumming and for the organ (yeah! There's an organ there!) even though the lyrics sorta make me want to puke on Sammy's toothbrush so he knows what level of bile he rose in me.
Only by the 5th song 'Pleasure Dome' do we have something other than basic, mid-tempo four-on-the-floor. Not like its any good at all, though. I think its ugly, and Sammy sure stinks it up and makes it sound like one of his old-fashioned solo tracks from '83 or something. And anyway, wasn't 'Pleasure Dome' the title to Frankie Goes to Hollywood's debut album that year? Is Sammy writing a fan letter? "Dear guy with the moustache and the leather pants. I'll 'Relax' if you will....call Sammy at...."
Oh yeah, and those rat bastard long running times are back. Only 2 out of 10 songs fall below the 4 minute mark! 'Pleasure Dome', probably the least deserving song on here, gets stretched out to damn near seven minutes! 6 minutes of 'In 'n' Out'! That's 20% of the entire running time of Van Halen I, for yo mama's sake! Only 5 songs would've fit on Women and Children First if they all were the same length as 'In 'n' Out', which blows! And so do 'Man on a Mission' and 'The Dream is Over'! All three of those songs are terrible! Actually, since all the songs on here so closely resemble one another (besides 'Pleasure Dome', 'Right Now', and '316', a whopping 13 minutes of the 51 minute record) this thing sounds like 38 minutes of one of the duller, but yet not annoying, tracks off OU812. Does that sound good to you? Oh, and '316' is merely 1:29 of some stupid clean electric guitar that sounds like me. Eddie intros used to be about flash, or fear, or something....what the hell is this about?
Sigh. By far the dullest Van Halen album yet. I can't recommend this to friends unless they're friends I don't care for anymore.
Any Short Comments?: For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge has to be the best Van Halen album there is. How can you hate Sammy Hagar's music so much. His music is much better than classic Van Halen's Music. By the way, how could you give Van Halen III a D while you give Diver Down an A. Diver Down is the worst Van Halen album by far
Your Rating: B+
Any Short Comments?: For your information, 316 was written for Eddie's then newborn son, Wolfgang. March (3) 16th, 1991 was Wolfgang's date of birth, so it was a tribute to him. Oh, and Spanked is the worst song Van Halen ever did, hands down.
Any Short Comments?: This album isn't that bad. I'll admit that Pleasure Dome, Man On A Mission, and In N Out all suck major dongs, but Right Now, Poundcake, and Top of The World (why didn't you mention that?) are all some of the best songs VH has ever done, at least in the Sammy-era.
It's a little silly for you to be reviewing Van Hagar, though, since almost everybody hates them anyway.
BB Your Rating: B
Any Short Comments?: If it were not for "Spanked" I'd give it an A. As for running times, if you want perfectly cropped 3 minute songs, listen to the radio. As for the singer, who cares - it's the music that's important (musicians generaly understand this concept as opposed to most listeners). But on a side note, I scratched my head when they picked up Sammy in the first place. I damn near fell out over Cherone though. All in all it is musicians being good at what they do, except for spanked.
Right Here Right Now - Warner Bros. 1993
This is the mammoth double live set we always new was lurking somewhere deep in the rotten, darkened bowels of Michael Anthony. A real monster containing damn near all of FUCK, a solo set by each member of the band, nearly no Roth-era songs (four), and more Sammy than you can shake a dead horse at. Gosh. Well, its about 10 miles long and you want me to talk about it, huh? It starts out with a 'Poundcake' complete with power drill and harmonics and everything. And, simply, that song is great. Actually the FUCK songs are much better with Eddie's way-out live guitar sound. Especially if you have it loud enough to enjoy the fact that Sammy's so far back there in the mix you'll probably miss him entirely. The loudest fucking thing of all is Alex's crash cymbal! Why the fuck is it so loud? Ask the Dutchman, 'cos I dunno. Who's that screaming at the beginning of 'Ain't Talkin About Love'? Way to strain those ovaries, man! All the Roth-era songs remind me of how much I wish I were listening to my Dressed to Kill bootleg from 1977. Sigh. Anyway, those days are gone and now its 1993 and let's be happy Eddie still plays the song (mostly) well. And Sammy sure can't rap to the audience ('Panama') or scream (all the other songs) worth a putrid crapola.
Ever noticed how close the Sammy-era ballads sound to one another? 'When It's Love', 'Dreams', 'Love Walks In', 'Is This Love?', 'Every Rose Has Its Thorn'....dammit...got off track there. I can't even tell any of those apart from each other, except maybe that 'Dreams' doesn't suck as bad. They cover 'Won't Get Fooled Again', badly. The synth part just can't be duplicated by a guitar and a drunken Eddie Van Halen, and he's just not wild or pissed off enough to play the rest of the song with the same amount of conviction. And the rest of the band, all respects to Alex (but you too), just aren't even able to do it justice.
And the solo spots? They go on forever, in case you were wondering. And the drum one, too, but its not that bad. Eddie's is, of course, worth the price of admission. I'll note especially the 'Cathedral' part. It's excellent to finally have a document that shows Eddie can play like this live. I mean, we always knew he could, but there may have been some question on the matter. And Anthony's is actually interesting. Sammy, well...he plays acoustic and...god damn, I hate Sammy Hagar. He ruined an excellent band. Why do we have to hear 'One Way to Rock'? AAAGH!
So, Christ. You have a whole mess of Sammy-era VH on these two discs. A lot of it is flat-out boring, some of it is surprisingly good. Some of it is an affront to the name of the band. You make the call. Its also really long. Like my boinger. And my penis as well. What the hell is a boinger anyway and how do I remove it from the end of my penis?
Matt Your Rating: A-
Any Short Comments?: I will suggest a couple of things that could have made this album even better.
1)Shorter solos. Alex's drum solo is pretty damn good, but 9:38?( and yes, you were right on about that damn crash cymbal). Eddie's solo was amazing, but it took up 11 and a half fucking minutes!
2)More Roth era tunes. Where the fuck is Runnin with the Devil? Or, And the Cradle Will Rock? What about Hot For Teacher? Do we really need Spanked, In N Out, or Man on a Mission?!?!?!?!
3)The Roth era songs should have been FINISHED. I found it annoying to have Cabo Wabo in the middle of You Really Got Me, or to have Sammy stop Panama so he could "rap" to the audience.
Balance - 1995
Ed stopped his booze habit and cut off all his cool hair during the preparation of this record, and I propose that the shock of being able to finally see and understand what had happened to his band in a clear manner scared him so much he forgot to play on this record. That's what I want to believe. Because this album is FUCK minus 'Poundcake' or 'Right Now', minus any of the hooks that made parts of that album interesting at all. This album is simply boring, dull, uncatchy, unimpressive, and un-Eddie. The rhythm section pounds along in its most 'standard VH' mode, except maybe for the drum solo 'Doin Time', which makes me feel like I am being imprisoned on a bad late VH-album. Where are the riffs? Where are the solos? Where are the vocal hooks? The best line on the damn record is 'I can't stop loving you, no matter what you say or do...'.
I like the opening to 'Take Me Back (Deja Vu)' okay too, but then it goes into 'usual sucky boring heavy' mode and ruins the feeling. Why can't these guys differentiate themselves anymore? VH albums used to have boogie, blues, electronic tunes, all kinds of stuff on 'em. Now they just have Distorted Riff Pop Hard Rock Tune after Distorted Pop Hard Rock Tune. And it's tiresome.
Pass this by.
Keith email@example.com Your Rating: B+
Any Short Comments?: I really can see where some people are turned off from Balance, but I really think it's a much stronger album then you give it credit for. I think Aftershock, Don't Tell Me, Seventh Seal, and
Take Me Back are all really good songs that don't get a tone of credit. And this is the only Sammy album I really can listen to all the way through. Not to say that I don't enjoy the other albums, but this is
probably my favorite, as shocking as it may seem to some.
Matt Your Rating: D+
Any Short Comments?: This album is a despicable failure. VH seemed to be trying to court the grunge crowd on this one..eesch....bad move guys.
If it's any indication as to just how bad this record is, "Can't Stop Loving You" is the best song on here. "The Seventh Seal" is also pretty good with Eddie's new echoey guitar sound (but where the hell is the solo?), and "Baluchiterium"
(whatever the hell that's supposed to mean) is a very pleasant instrumental that sounds like something ripped from Steve Vai's Passion and Warfare album. But the rest of this is pure garbage. Boring, unlistenable and, as you said, dull. I wish VH had tried to rock out a little more instead of trying to keep up with the likes of Soundgarden and Stone Temple Pilots by playing all this depressing, in-one-ear-and-out-the-other
shit like "Don't Tell Me (What Love Can Do)." Oh well, I guess this goes to show they were, sadly, well past their prime. Oh yeah, and what the hell is "Strung Out" supposed to be? A guy taking a piano apart? I mean, really, Ed, I know you had just quit drinking and were getting used to a different lifestyle, but COME ON. You can certainly do better than that! Then again, it's not like 1995 was a very good year for music anyway. "Jagged Little Pill," anyone?
Van Halen Vol. 1 - Warner Brothers 1997
Not long enough. That's the final word on this Best of album that is evenly split between Roth and Sammy-era VH, plus two more David Lee Roth tunes recorded after Sammy left (or was kicked out, as I personally like to believe) and before David Lee Roth was fired because he made such a fool of himself at an awards show that Eddie hired the lead singer of Extreme as revenge. Yeah! That'll show you, Dave! We don't need any charisma in this band, dammit! Bring on the blandness and facelessness!
Whatever, the tunes: From '77-'84 'Eruption', 'Ain't Talkin', 'Devil', 'Dance', 'Cradle', 'Unchained', 'Jump', and 'Panama'. Where's 'Hot For Teacher' , 'I'll Wait' or 'You Really Got Me' or anything from Diver Down, you ask? Right there in those albums you should have bought back when I told you, fool! Now pull out Women and Children like a good boy and get cracking!
From '85-'96: 'Why Can't This Be Love' (excellent), 'Dreams' (fine), 'When It's Love' (blah), 'Poundcake' (good), 'Right Now' (decent), 'Can't Stop Loving You' (generic), and 'Humans Being' from the soundtrack to Twister, which is actually just fine with me. Where's 'Runaround', or 'Finish What Ya Started', or 'Best of Both Worlds'? Well, you'll have to wait for Vol II I guess, 'cos I sure can't recommend buying the albums they go with just to get those songs. (Maybe 5150 if you find it cheap, or better yet, free).
And the important part, the new Roth tunes. 'Can't Get This Stuff No More' sounds like something off of Women and Children First! Oh yeah, if you haven't heard Dave's voice lately you might be surprised at its new gruffness and total lack of high 'screaming' range, but it's still great to hear that charismatic growl in front of VH after 10+ years. Eddie gives a nice solo, and the words are dumb but who cares? It's great! 'Me Wise Magic' has a nice dramatic opening we haven't heard the likes of in a long time, and Roth's new low gravelly voice really shows its limits, unfortunately. When he strains for that high stuff its quite painful. He simply can't scream anymore. Must've broke that muscle back in '89 or so. But the 'Don't you trust me?' chorus part is neat. In general the song needs a catchier riff to kick MY ass. You? And why doesn't Eddie play synth anymore? This song screams out for some synth back there!
Hey! Buy this and all the Roth albums and consider yourself a lucky individual you never wasted $15.99 on OU812! You can wait for 'Finish What You Started' to show up on the next installment. Be patient. Or download it from the Net. Just don't give any more money to support Sammy's out of control Suck habit.
Halen III - Warner Brothers 1998.
Hmmm...the question before us now is not 'How good is this album?' but 'Is this album as bad as people say it is?', unfortunate as it may seem. See, in 1996 when they had Roth all back in the band recording songs and everything, everyone thought this was the second coming and started dusting off their Monsters of Rock Tour 1983 shirts for the upcoming humongous reunion tour. Well, as we all know it ended as soon as it began and soon enough Eddie went out and found just about the worst vocalist he could have chosen outside of Tom Jones or the lead singers of 4 Non Blondes or Crash Test Dummies. Gary Cherone. The dude from Extreme. The dude from Extreme!!
Aww man I never listened to Extreme (only that awful 'More Than Words' nonsense), but isn't it enough to know that this band tanked it in 1992? That whatever voice this guy has, apparently it hasn't been used in front of a decent sized audience in 6 years? It's like putting Isiah Thomas in a jersey and starting him on the Knicks! But wait, Isiah was really excellent several years ago and Cherone always sucked. Hmm....crap. I can't think of any old talentless basketball players because I hate the game. Oh well, sure enough you get my point, metaphors be damned.
And this was a prime example of a chance wasted. Eddie broke out of his Sammy-inspired musical shell sometime in 1996 and started playing well again. You can even hear some remnants of this on this album...if you can hear past Cherone's tuneless blathering, that is. Belting might be a more fitting word. Murdering the accepted rules of western melody, harmony and timbre might be another choice. Cacophonously Snuffing Out the Wounded Remnants of Van Halen's Career might be the most apt of all.
It comes right up there on the second song on the album, 'Without You', he just starts blasting away in his best Sammy Hagar impersonation. All systems Hagar. Tunefulness? Nope! Decent Screaming? Huh uh! Listen, he's awful all the time on this record, and I'm going to deduct plenty of points because of the unlistenability of most of what comes out of the speakers. Even the backup vocals are ugly, and that's never happened. I'm not even mentioning the lyrics (absolutely unbearable).
But let's at least try to ignore it and listen to the music a bit. 'Neworld' is a neat Eddie acoustic instrumental, the first one he's attempted in I don't know how many years. Cheers, Ed! And the music on most of these tunes is about 1000 times more alive than the last, oh, 3 or 4 VH studio albums. Not more original, or even better, but certainly taking more chances. Ed's trying a lot of new things here and there, and doing a good job of manipulating noise again. Squeals, squeaks, squawks, scratches and other cool alliterations emit from his guitar like we'd forgotten he knew how to do. Of course, the rhythm section is still as boring as ever. Didn't they try to shake it up some in the mid-80's? Jerky tempos and stuff? They attempt it again but the result is, um, sorta distasteful. You aren't going to find any hooks on this record, either. Not a single one. But that's usually the singer's job, and we aren't supposed to mention that.
The intros to 'From Afar' and 'Josephine' are good, but haven't I heard them before? And the first song is ugly and unlistenable, while the second one is lamer than a drunken quadroplegic and also gratingly ugly. 'Dirty Water Dog' has a neat new clean guitar tone I've never heard, but very little quality songwriting. Our light song here, 'Once', is lightly electronic influenced, and might have been good if....if it didn't descend into an inexcusably long outtake from the 'Miami Vice' soundtrack, among other things. In which Eddie dicks around aimlessly way too much. The flop single 'Fire in the Hole' is catchy and has a great ol' riff and another cool new Eddie tone, but is that disgusting imagery or what? Not that I can understand what that fool is up there blathering about, but hey, I'm supposed to ignore him. Like I'm ignoring the lyric sheet, you know what I mean? 'Ballot or the Bullet' has another good riff, and, if you include the intro 'Primary', has no singing on it for about 2 minutes! A nice 2 minutes it is, too. And the closing Ed-sung piano piece 'How Many Say I' makes me wish Ed would cut the crap and simply release a solo album. Fucking do it, man! We'd all buy it, I swear! Release another crap album with some shitty vocalist and I know I'm not going to run to the store for it. Beat that cancer and go into your studio all alone, maybe bring your brother. Okay?
Oh yeah, and those long ass running times are back, too, so these songs go on and on and on long after they've ceased to be interesting at all. 8:32 for 'Year to the Day' ? And what could be the explanation for that, exactly? What is the burning issue here that couldn't be covered in less than 4 minutes? Or 1 minute? This album is a joke.
Okay, here's the rating system I'm going to use. Musically this is about equal to 5150. Lyrically and vocally (thus, in terms of listenability) it's an F. If an F is a grade of 50% and a B is 80%, average them together, add a point for effort and (almost) sparing us an exercise in trendy electronica, and you get...
Something that is appreciably worse than any of the Sammy Hagar albums, despite the efforts of Eddie Van Halen. Sad.
I read your Van Halen album reviews. Go back to sucking DLR's shriveled dick you fucking whiny pussy. You're still pissed off that your band from the 80's broke up and had a better, more talented singer take over and have more success, while DLR's career went to shit. You fucking jealous, retarded dumbass. You're so depressed because DLR is a joke now and won't ever be back in Van Halen because he fucked up the last two times he tried to come back. What a pathetic loser. Your pieces of shit reviews are nothing but put-downs of Sammy and Gary because there hasn't been anything good to say about Dave since 1984, where your head is right now. Get a life moron!!! Goey Anderson
I somehow stumbled upon your page after I typed the phrase "I hate Sammy Hagar" on Goggle. (Don't ask!) Read your Van Halen discography. No music critic has ever put into words what I feel about the whole DLR/VH/SH thing. Your reviews are dead on........I mean dead on. You've noticed the things that I've noticed in every VH record ever released. Great job.
much love.....much love
Your Rating: D+
Any Short Comments?: Boy, does this album suck. I couldn't agree more that this is the nadir of VH's career, and because of this they haven't even released anything since. I was thinking that maybe they should just forget about Sammy, Dave, et al. and become an instrumental trio. Christ, I could get a kick out of seeing that in concert. "Eruption" alone would be worth the expense.
The only good songs on this whole damn record are Fire in the Hole and Without You. These tracks are as close as VH gets to their classic sound. Sure, they're far from original (I always thought that the riff of Fire in the Hole sounded a lot like the riff to Cabo Wabo), but both are excellent rockers despite Cherone's flat tire-esque wailing and asinine lyrics. I found out that Fire in the Hole is about going to the dentist. What the eff??
Oh, and one other thing. Why do you bash Sammy and Gary so much? Not that they didn't suck, because Hagar did at times and Cherone did all the time, but why do you blame them? I hate the fact that you talk about them as if THEY ruined Van Halen. Lest we forget that every Hagar-era studio album peaked at Number 1 on the album charts, while none of the albums from the Dave-era did? Besides, both Sammy and Gary were HIRED. If you hate them, fine, but if you want to blame anybody for it, it should be Eddie and Alex since they are the ones who hired the aforementioned two.
And by the way, your whole basketball player analogy about Cherone was a simile, not a metaphor. :-)
/"Lest we forget that every Hagar-era studio album
peaked at Number 1 on the album charts?"/ As if that bogus chart means
Facts are, Roth era VH has OUTSOLD the Hagar era almost 3 to 1!
Eat that, and smile.
BB Your Rating: D-
Any Short Comments?: Cherone didn't suck this bad in Extreme, and he SUCKED then! Sorry can't get past the pathetic vocals. YUK
firstname.lastname@example.org Your Rating: D
Any Short Comments?: Sure gary chrome sucked majorly on this album (and on "more than words"), but i seriously suggest you check out Extreme's "III Sides to Every Story", as it is a brilliant album that shows that (besides having great gutar work from a oviously eddie van halen influenced gutarist) Gary sucked only most of the time, and not all of the time.
(Capn's Response: I'll have to take your word for it until I review Extreme myself. But I have to finish my Taste of Honey and Mr. Mister reviews first. Try back in 2048.)
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