The time had come for a new album by Van Halen. Given that their output had diminished somewhat during the Sammy Hagar era, this is one of their better albums of this era and marked a sort of turnaround comeback for the group after three years of fans waiting for the next Van Halen album. The album went to #1 in the United States alone and sold well.
Van Halen were back and ready to rock.
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The name came from Sammy Hagar and the original idea was to call it FUCK alone as a protest against American censorship. The idea to call it For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge came after a discussion that Sammy Hagar had with a professional boxer about the history of the profanity and used the proper term as the name of the record.
The prolonged period in which the record was worked on, for about a year, delivered some of the best songs and songwriting from the Sammy Hagar era Van Halen. The band enlisted two producers for the record: Andy Johns and Ted Templeman. It was a strange mixture that delivered a more cohesive sound than the previous Van Halen recording.
The Ernie Ball guitar that Eddie Van Halen designed sings on this album.
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The record starts oddly, with near silence for the first ten seconds. Then Eddie makes his new Ernie Ball guitar start with “Poundcake” by a power drill placed onto it. This curiously, was done using a Makita drill that was left in the studio to fix Eddie’s Soldano SLO 100 amplifier. The song itself is a great piece of work that talks about an ideal woman for the listener to take in.
“Judgement Day” is next up, which sounds very upbeat, yet has Sammy Hagar talking about inner feelings concerning faith and religion. “Tell me why…should I care or even try?” he asks in relation to this matter. Some of Eddie’s best whammy work is here, and the solo is really good as well.
Surprisingly, although humorous, “Spanked”, or at least this version of it, seems a letdown. It does have some killer vocal work by Sammy Hagar, but falls flat sonically. Despite that, the rhythm work of Michael Anthony and Alex Van Halen sounds very cohesive on this song.
Andy Johns was the main producer of this album and ensured a good effort overall.
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“Runaround” is just awesome. In retrospect, it sounds like a party tune, yet there is a great vocal delivery on the bridge, proving that Sammy Hagar himself is quite an expert vocalist. It certainly was a hit single, and still is a fan favourite.
The biggest let down on this recording is “Pleasure Dome”. Despite this being another showcase for Alex Van Halen, it simply falls flat and does not seem listenable apart from that. It goes well over five minutes and is really only worth hearing once.
Eddie Van Halen was now focusing on his sound down to every individual aspect of its creation.
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“In ‘N’ Out” follows, which is much better. It talks about wage slavery, and seems pseudo-political. But Sammy and Eddie both keep this song well alive, and it has some really fantastic vocal work from Sammy Hagar, proving that age does not need to destroy a fantastic voice.
“Man On A Mission” is good, but seems nothing too special. But still, the background vocals of Michael Anthony and Eddie Van Halen keep this song going well. Another song about finding the ultimate girl, perhaps the theme of this record.
The next track, “The Dream Is Over” is very underrated. This is what makes the song come more alive upon listening to it today. When the midsection hits, with Sammy Hagar screaming, “It’s a rip off…” you will appreciate the song more. A good effort.
Sammy Hagar really excels all expectations on this recording.
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One of Van Halen’s most memorable tracks, “Right Now” was a big hit for Van Halen and does still sound moving. Some of the best lyrics from this album are here and it is memorable, and very good indeed.
“316” the instrumental pastiche by Eddie Van Halen is a simple, lovely sounding acoustic piece that Eddie wrote years earlier. Due to the arrival of his then newly born son Wolfgang Van Halen, he devoted it to him on this recording. It does sound very romantic, and is a welcome change from the vocals/guitar/bass/drums of the other songs on the record.
Eddie was still coming up with fresh ways of approaching music.
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The last track ”Top Of The World” is a definite encore number, using the outro riff from “Jump” as the main riff on the song, although not noticeably so. It sounds positive and makes you feel like the most confident person in the world after listening to it. A very good effort.
So, in retrospect, the album went three times platinum and put Van Halen back into the game. However, from this period onwards, undercurrent issues began to emerge from within the band which would later eat themselves up. But at this point, Van Halen were indeed doing well and had made a great record for their fans to appreciate.
This recording was one of the better recordings of the “Van Hagar” era.
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- Van Halen News Desk. 2015. Sammy Hagar Marks ‘For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge’ Anniversary With Retrospective Video. http://www.vhnd.com/2015/06/18/sammy-hagar-marks-for-unlawful-carnal-knowledge-anniversary-retrospective-video/
- Van Halen News Desk. 2013. This Day In 1991: Van Halen Performed “Poundcake” on the VMAs. http://www.vhnd.com/2013/09/05/this-day-in-1991-van-halen-performed-poundcake-on-the-vmas/