As the eighties drew to a close, the time had come for yet another album by the now commercially successful Van Halen. This time, the album called OU812 was packed full of tunes ready for Van Halen and Sammy Hagar fans alike.
This album, like its predecessor, was a commercial success, reaching #1 in the U.S. Critically however, it was seen as weaker than 5150 in general by critics. Sonically as well, it was the end of Eddie’s traditional setup with his Marshall Superlead amplifier, prompting him to entirely rethink his setup over the next few years.
The “Van Hagar” era was well and truly underway with OU812.
Picture courtesy http://www.vhnd.com/2010/01/07/the-recording-of-ou812-in-sammy-hagars-words/
But, the question is, are the songs there? Of course! There were several hit singles from the album. To begin with, let’s look at a track by track in depth analysis of the album.
The first track, “Mine All Mine” is a dark, deep song about questioning one’s faith within oneself. The line, “You’ve got Allah in the east, you’ve got Jesus in the west, Christ! What’s a man to do?” creates a feeling that one is soul searching, or at least in Sammy Hagar’s case. With a funky synth line, this track is very catchy.
The first song of the album that was worked on, “When It’s Love” is a catchy pop tune that may leave David Lee Roth fans asking, “What?!”. Indeed, it is light years away from anything done with the former lead singer. Still, it is a great song, and well worth listening to. A classic single indeed.
“When It’s Love” is a great Sammy Hagar era Van Halen song.
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Following up is “A.F.U. (Naturally Wired)”. This song has some well-structured and interesting sections to it. It has some well varied and interesting work from Eddie and Alex Van Halen whilst Sammy Hagar has some wonderful vocal work on top of it. This is a very underrated piece from “Van Hagar”.
“Cabo Wabo” is a slow, jam like song which probably goes on far too long. Although some sections of it are indeed, catchy, it is a poor effort. It just goes on a bit, which makes it difficult to listen to after the first time.
The following number, “Source Of Infection” is rather throwaway fun. Still, it is rather catchy nonetheless. Enjoyable listening.
Sammy Hagar and Eddie Van Halen got along so well at this point they lived next door to each other, proof of their stable relationship at the time.
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“Feels So Good” follows and is a good piece about finding love lost. Still, compared to some of the other numbers on the album, it seems very much weaker. But this is the strength of OU812. Even the weaker cuts are listenable, not a bad thing in itself.
Next up is, “Finish What Ya Started” is a more interesting touch from Van Halen. Nonetheless, it is humourous enough to engage listeners in its “we have all been there” type story. A good variety of instrumentation exists on this track, with Sammy Hagar playing acoustic guitar.
This is the last traditional “Brown Sound” album that Van Halen created.
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“Black And Blue” follows, a rather bland piece of work. Funnily enough, it was a hit single for the group, but still seems weaker than other Van Halen songs. It seemed that the quality of Van Halen mark II was not as strong as Van Halen mark I, a shame in itself in some ways.
On the other hand, “Sucker In A 3 Piece” is based on a Sammy Hagar real life story, humourous and interesting nonetheless. Obviously referring to jealousy, it captures a side of male sexual desire often unseen in real life. Well worth listening to.
Van Halen were still creating great songs, and were very popular at this point.
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The last track is a throwaway cover suggested by recording engineer Donn Landee. “A Apolitical Blues” is just that and seems humourous in retrospect. Admittedly, it is filler, but good filler at that. Humourous.
So, in retrospect, how does OU812 fare? Fairly well. Although some songs on the album are fairly weak, it delivered more or less the same outcome as 5150. Still, some of the sonic output by Eddie Van Halen is less powerful than before. Was it the end of the Brown Sound? Some agree so…
This is the last Van Halen album to feature Eddie’s Marshall Superlead, which was wearing out after years of use in the studio and onstage.
Picture courtesy http://guitarvillage.uk.com/product/9857-279/Marshall-JMP-1959-Super-Lead-Head-Pre-Owned-1972-VG-100-Watts.aspx
1. Popoff, Martin. The Recording of OU812 in Sammy Hagar’s Words. http://www.vhnd.com/2010/01/07/the-recording-of-ou812-in-sammy-hagars-words/
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