“Hello baby!” is where the 5150 album begins, introducing the Sammy Hagar era Van Halen. This album is important in the Van Halen back catalogue, as it changed Van Halen, their sound and their overall perspective of the music for many years to come. It was also their first #1 album in the U.S. prompting a huge amount of interest in the band from this point onwards.
Van Halen seemed refreshed and ahead of the competition early on with Sammy Hagar.
Picture courtesy http://1979rock.blogspot.com.au/2012/07/1986-vanhagar-5150.html
In retrospect, this album is not dissimilar from its previous counterpart 1984, which sounds almost musically similar. It was the effort of pure luck for Van Halen. Without the contribution of Sammy Hagar and the new producers (Mick Jones, Donn Landee), this album would have been nothing.
“Good Enough” kicks off the album, a catchy, humourous tale of food and sex. The sound here is not as good as the sound on previous albums, as the group had lost Ted Templeman as overall producer. However, Eddie’s playing is fantastic here, sounding like he really loves shredding away on his Kramer 5150.
Eddie reached his peak of excellence in terms of his guitar playing on the 1984 and 5150 albums, and was much more confident with his skills as a result.
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Following up is the hit single, “Why Can’t This Be Love?” This song is synth heavy, with the guitars taking a back step to the electronic sounds. In retrospect, this song sounds very dated. But at the time, it was killer. It is still catchy enough and listenable regardless.
The next song, “Get Up” is one of the worst Sammy Hagar era Van Halen songs recorded. Strangely enough, the boys decided to place this onto the album anyway and even play it live. It is the first of two songs where Eddie used the Steinberger 5150 on it. But apart from some pacing drum work by Alex Van Halen, it falls short.
Following up is “Dreams”, which is a lot better. This sort of song created a lot of criticism from older David Lee Roth era Van Halen fans who disliked it intensely. Indeed, this song could never have been done with him. Sammy Hagar really hits the higher notes here, and the guitar solo is unusual and interesting, pointing to the fact that Eddie Van Halen wanted to branch out further with the sound of Van Halen at this time.
Sammy Hagar is still a great singer, and his role as the second lead singer for Van Halen boosted his career to new heights.
Picture courtesy http://www.rollingstone.com/music/pictures/sammy-hagar-a-history-in-photos-20110301/1986-0094850
A singalong number, “Summer Nights” follows using with Ed using the Steinberger 5150. It is very catchy and comes as a feel good song. There is some understated playing by Eddie Van Halen on this number, and still sounds fresh today.
“Best of Both Worlds” follows and sounds wonderfully awesome. Using the Kramer 5150, Eddie changes his playing subtly. Gone are the loud hard rock solos of old, instead a more thought out, methodical approach to his playing is here. A wonderful number indeed.
There was something miraculous of being able to change lead singer in a great rock and roll band, and still put out great music as well.
Picture courtesy http://www.vhnd.com/2013/03/27/27-years-ago-today-van-halens-first-concert-with-sammy-hagar-as-frontman/
Sounding somewhat different, “Love Walks In” is a spacey, keyboard driven song about aliens in love. Although seemingly strange nowadays, it was keeping with the fashion of the time of science fiction. With catchy melodies and an uplifting solo by Eddie Van Halen, it is essential for “Van Hagar” fans. A must.
“5150” is the next song, a more stripped down rock/pop song about the compromise of love. It really is a touching sort of song. You can imagine David Lee Roth sniggering and rolling his eyes to this piece. But that is not the point. It is emotional and uplifting, in a way that David Lee Roth era Van Halen never could be…
Eddie Van Halen was evolving musically, and the 5150 album sounds very different to anything David Lee Roth era Van Halen ever offered.
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And speaking of David Lee Roth, the throwaway “Inside” is a direct dig by the band about their former singer. Although perhaps unnecessary, it has some interesting lyrics and samples of chatter (including somebody shouting not-so-discreetly “Alimony!”) which proves that the band were not going to water down any attacks towards David Lee Roth. How quickly things can change…
The reason why this album was so successful was the fact that during the Sammy Hagar era, Van Halen were now mainstream. The sounds (screaming vocals, shredding guitars, thumping basslines, electronic drums and keyboards) plus the fact that everybody knew them for the single “Jump” put Van Halen in the spotlight. Musically, the album seems a little weaker than otherwise hoped for. Still, Van Halen were happy to create music in a newer style and were not looking back.
The era commonly dubbed “Van Hagar”, although different from the David Lee Roth era Van Halen, was very successful, and proof that change is sometimes not a bad thing.
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