Tag Archives: Album

Van Halen III

Often considered to be the worst album by the group, Van Halen 3 could have avoided by many means to be that. It was an ill thought idea at the time and represented a turn of the worst for the band.

Were Van Halen thinking straight around this time?

Picture courtesy http://www.vhnd.com/2009/03/17/van-halen-iii-released-11-years-ago-today/

Before I even begin to review this, there are some main flaws with this album. For starters, the group had a lack of focus after the exit of David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar from the group. There was an air of uncertainty about the future of Van Halen and led to apathy in terms of the effort from the group.

Secondly, Eddie Van Halen himself was on a downward spiral personally and musically. His drinking was becoming uncontrollable, a battle that lasted for another decade or so. Also Eddie was assertive in a bad way creative control over all band members, with bad results. Michael Anthony in particular was hurt by some of the creative measures that Eddie Van Halen used on this album. His backing vocals were not used on any song on this album.

Eddie Van Halen and Alex Van Halen were primarily to blame for this poor recording.

Picture courtesy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnWCHt8-Pc0

Another reason is the production and mixing. Mike Post was assigned to do the production on this album, and although it sounds more variable and somewhat more interesting than your typical Van Halen album, it sounds really like a mockery of what Van Halen represented to fans. Also, the mix sounds lo-fi and there are no separation between the instruments at all, making it sound very scratchy in general. More effort could have been used to remedy this problem.

And lastly, Gary Cherone is not suited to Van Halen per se. Indeed, if time had permitted, Van Halen could have selected a better singer for the group to fit them musically. Although Gary was no doubt the most decently behaved of the Van Halen singers, his singing is not the greatest.

Even the single, ‘Without You’ barely charted.

Picture courtesy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lT8RdKN8u9w

So that aside, let’s have a look at the record…

The record starts off with ‘Neworld’ a nice but unimpressive composition. It has some nice harmonics and that is about it. From this point, you realise that the recording is ill thought out.

It leads into ‘Without You’. This is probably the best song off the recording, but still, pales in comparison to what Van Halen were even a few years before. The guitars could have sounded better with some proper mixing, but then again, it is not that good regardless. Not a good start to the recording. Is it Eddie Van Halen progressing or regressing musically? Who knows?

A similar song follows with a poor attempt at social conscience style lyrics, ‘One I Want’. It is neither catchy nor very listenable and makes the stomach churn. Many people would have turned off the recording by this point. The solo is okay though.

In the past Eddie Van Halen would had made his instrument speak. Van Halen III does not do justice to the wonderful Peavey Wolfgang.

Picture courtesy http://www.themusiczoo.com/product/15493/1998-Peavey-EVH-Wolfgang-USA-Electric-Guitar-Transparent-Blue—Used-/

The next song begins with a U2 like guitar part that persists with annoyance throughout the song. The song itself is a drag, and Gary Cherone does fall into the abyss of unsuitable singing for the song. ‘From Afar’ sounds nothing like it should. Disappointing.

Another throwaway track, ‘Dirty Water Dog’ is next. It does not make sense to add this to an already ordinary recording, and just seems like filler. The lyrics don’t make sense either.

Gary Cherone, although a nice guy in relation to Van Halen, struggles on this recording to sound like a Van Halen singer.

Picture courtesy http://www.hollywood.com/celebrities/these-bands-shouldnt-have-kept-going-60232889/

‘Once’ is depressingly bad. There is no joy in this Van Halen song like there was in Van Halen songs of the past. Worth skipping if you listen to this recording.

The next song, ‘Fire In The Hole’, is marginally better. It seems semi-catchy but the mix does not hold the song up well. A good riff and interesting solo for this record but otherwise not really impressive.

‘Josephina’ is a fairly ordinary attempt at a ballad by Van Halen. It does not seem normal for a group like Van Halen to do this sort of thing, and Gary Cherone’s attempt at emotional singing falls flat. Still, a better effort than otherwise expected.

The tour to support this album failed in America, although was successful internationally.

Picture courtesy http://olho.nu/van-halen/history/bio_gary.htm

The overly long, ‘Year To The Day’ is too long and too depressing for any Van Halen fan to really enjoy. Some editing and rewriting would have helped this song, along with the rest of the album itself.

‘Primary’ follows, a coral sitar instrumental. Although unnecessary, it does sound different to the record, a poor attempt at injecting freshness into Van Halen. Okay, but nothing more.

‘Ballot Or The Bullet’ would be listenable, but it sounds terrible. Politics and Van Halen do not mix, and this song is proof of it.

Van Halen were aware that they were running out of breath musically, and disbanded for a long time after this album was released.

Picture courtesy http://www.vhnd.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Van_Halen_1998_Gary_Cherone.jpg

The last song on the recording is by far the worst Van Halen song ever recorded. ‘How Many Say I’ is Eddie Van Halen’s plea to the world to understand his alcoholic mess of a mind. In particular, it seems like a plea to his wife Valerie Bertinelli, who he divorced with three years later. Eddie taking lead vocals is not a good idea, considering he is not a gifted singer. And it has no guitars and is very depressing. A truly bad finish to this record.

The worst part about this record, technically speaking, is that it lacks the power, consistency and innovation of the Brown Sound that resounded so well in previous times. The Peavey Wolfgang could have been better represented on this recording.

Eddie Van Halen was on the decline for a long period of time from the release of this album onwards. It was their last proper album for 14 years.

Picture courtesy https://www.flickr.com/photos/43908441@N00/5296953525

But the whole album itself needed a desperate rethink. Van Halen were about to experience a series of losses and personal troubles for nearly a decade. This album, unless you really wish to complete the Brown Sound in your head, must be avoided at all costs. A disaster. None of the songs were placed on the Best Of Both Worlds compilation, proving the need to forget this album.

Van Halen: Best Of Volume One

As previously discussed, the first Van Halen compilation came along with the rotation of singers. Yet, despite this, how does it sound?

It was a shame that for this particular compilation only one disc was released. Van Halen had more than enough material to fill up two discs of songs, but regrettably only chose one instead. There are many tracks that could have made it onto another disc which would have been amazing.

The two new songs with David Lee Roth were amazing.

Picture courtesy http://www.vhnd.com/2014/09/04/van-halens-original-lineup-presents-mtv-award/

Still, there is a fairly good selection here of music by Van Halen. It begins with ‘Eruption’, leading all the way to ‘Panama’ (or ‘Hot For Teacher’ if you had the Japanese copy of this album) for the first David Lee Roth era. Once that is over, very much the hit singles from the Sammy Hagar era are here. And yes, many fans were aware of these songs yet for a one disc compilation it strikingly sounds well chosen.

Then we have the new tracks. ‘Humans Being’ is very much of one the worst “Van Hagar” tracks you will hear. It is a dirge like song, only redeemed by the loud, prolonged scream at the end of the song. A poor effort indeed.

It is really hard to know what Van Halen and Eddie Van Halen himself were really thinking around this time.

Picture courtesy http://www.guitarplayer.com/news/1024/eddie-van-halen-performs-jimi-hendrixs-fire-and-little-wing–video/52965

Then we get two brand new David Lee Roth songs, ‘Can’t Get This Stuff No More’ is very cool indeed. “Got a date with a supermodel, I know I can make it…” begins Dave on the first new song. It sounds wonderful and fresh, something that Balance seems to lack. Not bad.

More catchy though is ‘Me Wise Magic’. A full on, rhythmic tune with style, it is an underrated gem out of the Van Halen cannon. Eddie Van Halen uses some cool licks on his new Peavey Wolfgang here, and it does justice indeed.

Eddie Van Halen really does show his Brown Sound progression on this particular album.

Picture courtesy http://atlasicons.photoshelter.com/gallery/EDDIE-VAN-HALEN-1996/G0000wb.BUOeMwgk/C0000YdNgrVtpTBs

The good thing about this compilation, regardless of it needing to be more inclusive, is that we can clearly hear for the first time Eddie Van Halen’s Brown Sound transition throughout the years. From the first Frankenstrat on ‘Eruption’ to his Peavey gear on ‘Me Wise Magic’, somehow upon listening one gets the feeling that this is exactly what Eddie desired to show listeners. He seemed very content with showing the difference in sound and tone over the years.

The bad thing about this compilation though is that it does fall short of a truly amazing listen by being too selective of some songs and also needs more of them. After the fade out of the last track, you may sit there and feel left out of what could have been much more.

There could have and should have been another disc of Van Halen material. Yet, despite this, this album is absolutely essential to understanding the Brown Sound progression over the years.

Picture courtesy http://www.covershut.com/cover-tags/Van-Halen-Best-Of-Volume-1-1996.html

It is the better of the two compilations though, and is a must for those who wish to understand the Brown Sound in a logical progression. A photo of Eddie’s Peavey Wolfgang is in the booklet. Unfortunately, nobody saw the future at the time, which is exactly what this compilation was for.

Balance

By the time the middle of the 1990s had arrived, the once powerfully influential Van Halen had come to a messy situation.

Anything was but well in Van Halen in the Balance era.

Picture courtesy http://www.vhnd.com/2015/01/27/20-years-ago-van-halens-secret-gig-in-holland-videos-photos-interviews/

Firstly, trends were changing. As Van Halen were seen as closely stylistically bound to and influential on Hair Metal, that genre had totally vanished from the mainstream. Instead, Grunge had taken over hold of the American Rock market and although Kurt Cobain had committed suicide less than a year before the release of Balance, it was still omnipresent on the radio as such. Other trends from Britain, such as Britpop and various genres of Electronic Music were seemingly out to derail the band.

Secondly, things were not so rosy within the Van Halen camp itself. Fights were now commonplace, although behind the scenes, and Eddie Van Halen had been taken hostage by various demons, namely alcohol. His drinking, along with an increasingly poor relationship with Sammy Hagar were having negative results on the band.

Although it did not seem like it at the time, Eddie Van Halen was beginning to struggle with a full blown alcohol addiction.

Picture courtesy http://www.vhnd.com/2009/03/11/14th-anniversary-of-the-balance-tour/

So in 1994 the band returned to the studio. They had not gigged since the year before, perhaps an indication of how bad things really were for the band. They enlisted producer Bruce Fairbairn to produce the record, and the resulting album was released in January 1995. The name of the album came from the resulting effort of a band that no longer were getting along.

The result was another #1 on the U.S. Album Charts and sold 3 million copies worldwide. Although sonically heavier and more cohesive, many fans believe this album to be weaker than other Sammy Hagar era Van Halen recordings. It was really the beginning of the end of normal band activity by Van Halen.

Van Halen had been through internal issues previously with singer David Lee Roth. The question was how much longer the band could hold things together.

Picture courtesy http://www.pasadena.edu/about/history/alumni/vanhalen/vanhalen.cfm

But how does it sound?

Balance kicks off with “The Seventh Seal”, an interesting sonic pastiche written before Van Halen had a contract. It begins with the freakiest Buddhist chanting you will ever hear, before entering into an okay rock song. Although you can hear that classic riff sounding amazing by Eddie Van Halen’s Ernie Ball Music Man EVH Model and Peavey 5150 amplifiers, it is somewhat lacking as a whole. Sammy Hagar questions spiritual beliefs from the go: ‘Walk me down to the wishing well, help me find that miracle’. But still, although interesting, it sounds rather weak for a song otherwise.

The hit single, “Can’t Stop Lovin’ You” is clearly a Sammy Hagar track. It talks deeply about love and sounds very poppy, but in such a way that many older Van Halen fans would certainly not appreciate. Still, not a bad song but overwhelming soppy in relation to its message.

“Can’t Stop Lovin’ You” showed a certain sort of maturity from the band that David Lee Roth era Van Halen were unable to express properly.

Picture courtesy http://tfile.me/forum/viewtopic.php?t=546133

Following up is “Don’t Tell Me (What Love Can Do)”. By this point, the listener could be forgiven for thinking this album would be like an early album by The Beatles, entirely devoted to love songs. Eddie uses his old Marshall here and the difference in tone is barely noticeable, but apart from good riffing, nothing special here.

‘Light ‘em up!’ begins “Amsterdam”, a song for the Van Halen fans, about smoking dope in said city. It is surprisingly a stronger moment on the album, and is definitely worth listening to, as it is rather humourous. A better effort overall.

Quite possibly the worst song on the entire album follows. “Big Fat Money” is all about just that, seemingly proof of the only reason that Sammy Hagar was still remaining in Van Halen at this point. Although pacey, it is rubbish and could have been removed from the album for another, better track.

Although under pressure from shifting trends in music, some of the sounds on Balance are the most forward thinking sounds that Eddie Van Halen had created yet.

Picture courtesy http://2fast2die.com/2011/04/eddie-van-halen-a-front-row-eruption/

“Strung Out”, an instrumental follows that was recorded over ten years earlier for a Valerie Bertinelli (Eddie’s ex-wife) film that Eddie Van Halen recorded some music for. It sounds just like the title, and although not exactly necessary, it makes a welcome change from the loud, heavy rock of the previous songs.

The following song, “Not Enough” refers to the idea that love is simply not enough and was another hit single for Van Halen. In one of the most touching moments of Van Halen Sammy Hagar sings in a very emotional way at the peak of the song, ‘My heart will always be, yours honestly’. It demands listening and is a very touching song, although too soppy for some David Lee Roth fans.

“Can’t Stop Lovin’ You” and “Not Enough” sound like a blueprint from Van Halen that they had planned to visit, but never did.

Picture courtesy http://hairbangersradio.ning.com/video/van-halen-not-enough

“Aftershock” is an okay sort of song. There are some nice elements of guitar work from Eddie Van Halen here, particularly in the intro and the solo as well. However, like the rest of the album, one feels rather unsatisfied while listening through this song.

The first instrumental, “Doin’ Time” finally gives Alex Van Halen an album held instrumental and is musically varied and interesting, although live shows indicated his skills were falling behind younger, more energetic contemporaries. Still, a good effort.

If things had been better for Van Halen, the sonic trajectory that was developed on Balance could have been elaborated on in the future.

Picture courtesy http://www.vhnd.com/balance-tour/

“Baluchitherium” was originally intended to be a proper song, yet the band decided to record it without vocals. It was probably a wise decision and shows off some of Eddie’s skills with reverse guitars, effects and a lot of interesting guitar techniques instead. Quite a fascinating listen.

One of the more underrated songs of “Van Hagar”, “Take Me Back (Déjà vu)” begins with psychedelic wind chimes, leading into an acoustic ballad about memories of good times. A good song and better than many of the other songs on the album, although not a single.

Sammy Hagar and Eddie Van Halen’s relationship deteriorated rapidly from around this era onwards.

Picture courtesy http://www.guitarplayer.ru/old/vanhalen/

“Feelin’” is outro filler and although Eddie Van Halen plays well, this song is really nothing special.

So Balance on balance is rather unbalanced for a Van Halen effort. The band promptly begun touring again in 1995 but before Van Halen began to seriously fall apart. Their issues became public and ugly to all involved, including fans. Still, an okay record that managed to be released before the worst occurred.

Regardless of any band issues, Eddie was still progressing in the search for the perfect sound and tone of his guitar gear.

Picture courtesy https://www.pinterest.com/Jackamino/5150/

References:

  1. Van Halen News Desk. 2015. Balance. http://www.vhnd.com/balance/

Live: Right Here Right Now

According to internal Warner Bros. sources, the former record label of Van Halen, David Lee Roth was threatening legal action over the idea that a compilation should be released to include material from the era of the first Van Halen albums (1978-1984) along with DLR solo songs. Understandably this would have not been a brilliant marketing decision for “Van Hagar”. The band, although beginning to suffer from problems internally, did not want to show this commercially. Sammy Hagar era Van Halen were here to stay, it seems. Sammy Hagar would only sing Roth era songs live, not recreate them in the studio simply for the purpose of one angry man.

David Lee Roth was still angry about Van Halen.

Picture courtesy http://societyofrock.com/10-times-david-lee-roth-was-actually-really-really-cool-photos

Warner Bros. then came up with an idea that worked for every party involved, which was to release a live album and video based on the motion that some of David Lee Roth era Van Halen songs were covered. It managed to keep everybody satisfied.

The video was filmed over two nights: May 14 and May 15 1992. It was shortly aired on radio afterwards as the “Cabo Wabo Radio Festival” on the 20th of August that year, and was well received. The video and album were released in early 1993.

Although commercially a success for a live album, this album was strategic self-harm for Van Halen, beginning to suffer once again from internal issues.

Picture courtesy http://www.kensettlephotos.com/gallery/

However, although the album reached the charts and sold well, it is not really live per se. Sammy Hagar in his autobiography mentioned in particular that the process of re-recording some parts of the album was overly extensive and laborious, and further weakened his relationship with the rest of the band, particularly with Eddie Van Halen. These sorts of problems only worsened over time.

Let’s observe firstly the live album, then the video itself. The live album itself does sound heavily edited. It is hard not to feel annoyed or disappointed at the production involved as it sounds like a mishmash of too much editing, low/loud crowd noise and in general a lackluster effort of mixing. Indeed, if people like Sammy Hagar are to be believed, then it is not really at all a live album. Yes, there are two discs of Van Halen songs. But most of them are from the For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge era with little variety otherwise. Somewhat lacking overall, although even so, not the worst of Van Halen. Still, it is worth purchasing if you have the patience to sit through two discs of Van Halen songs, a feat that fans can appreciate.

Regardless of any over-editing, Live: Right Here Right Now does sound sonically fantastic.

Picture courtesy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vwx3pmXuOIk

The live video is quite a lot better. Although again, some blame can be shifted to the people who edited it, and director Mitch Sinoway for choosing to mix the two nights not so seemingly blended, it is a good, not great representation of Van Halen mark II.

So, what are the highlights? After watching the video and listening to the CD, there are some very good moments. “Poundcake” is awesome live. And it does not take a genius to realise by the following track, “Judgement Day” that Eddie Van Halen had really achieved a huge step forward in his guitar sound and tone with his Ernie Ball Music Man EVH Model and Peavey 5150 amp rig. It is undeniably powerful and awesome.

Eddie Van Halen sounds as though he is on fire on this recording.

PPicture courtesy https://www.flickr.com/photos/43908441@N00/6287630815

There are other highlights, such as Alex Van Halen’s “Drum Solo” (although probably a bit too long), the live version of “Spanked” and of course, Eddie’s guitar solo “316”, which combines a series of structured passages that Eddie had perfected over the years into a live setting. Brilliant. And Sammy Hagar does prove himself to be a great singer with “Eagles Fly”.

But there are some poorer moments too, most notably the over-the-top and ridiculous “Bass Solo” by Michael Anthony. Watching it the first time makes a little bit of sense, but repeated plays on either video or audio format makes you seriously wonder the purpose of it. It is theatrical, yes. But very unmusical. The fact that the live video covers every single song from For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge is very disappointing as well.

Regardless of anything, the F.U.C.K. tour of 1992-1993 was one of the most successful Van Halen tours and Live: Right Here Right Now is a good representation of that.

Picture courtesy http://www.eddievanhalen.com/forum/van-halen-news/concerts-and-gigs/695703

So overall, a mixed effort by Van Halen. Shortly afterwards the worst would occur to the once powerful and seemingly cohesive group. However, regardless of that, Live: Right Here Right Now is good Van Halen fun.

You can watch the entire concert film here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdBqQ_ZA2Os

References:

  1. Van Halen News Desk. 2013. Live: Right Here Right Now. http://www.vhnd.com/live-right-here-right-now/

OU812

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.

Picture courtesy http://eil.com/shop/moreinfo.asp?catalogid=519286

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.

Picture courtesy http://www.weissguygallery.com/images/galleries/VAN%20HALEN/

“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.

Picture courtesy https://www.pinterest.com/fmpackerfan/van-halen/

“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.

Picture courtesy http://www.rockmusictimeline.com/1988gallery.html

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

References:

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/

Love Walks In/Live Without A Net

The time had come for Van Halen to recognise how popular they were becoming. They had already built up a huge fan base intentionally and at home in the United States. In response to this, Van Halen decided to record themselves playing over two nights in New Haven, Connecticut in 1986.

The result was not considered an official release, but amongst Van Halen fans is considered so. The Live Without A Net video was released in 1987, along with a live album called Love Walks In.

Eddie Van Halen and Sammy Hagar seemed to get along well around this time.

Picture courtesy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32pqVtsQaCA

In retrospect, there seems to be some overly generous editing on the Live Without A Net video. Indeed, purists may find that this is not a real representation of Van Halen. Watching the DVD and listening to the album give somewhat different results. It does seem that the video itself was a mish-mash of editing, paving the way for the “semi-live” album Live: Right Here Right Now in 1993. In particular, Sammy Hagar’s vocals do not sound as powerful or as good as the vocals on the video.

Regardless of this, Live Without A Net can just show you how on top of their game Van Halen were around this time. The fact was that despite the personnel changes and some of the difficulties surrounding doing so, Van Halen were (and are) capable of creating a great show with great tunes.

The best pieces are the opening tunes, such as “There’s Only One Way to Rock”. But the individual solos are a show-stopper. In particular, Eddie Van Halen’s solo is one to watch with fascination. Years and years of practice and playing, along with his awesome Kramer 5150 guitar show truly a man who was unbeatable at his craft. It is truly fantastic to watch.

Eddie Van Halen is a star on Live Without A Net.

Picture courtesy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDOFIttS69I

But the whole video is worth adding to anybody’s collection. Regardless of any editing that may have been undertaken, it is definitely a must watch for the Van Halen fan.

The album, on the other hand, does seem to take a flipside to this live recording. It is not as good, although it does include “Good Enough” as the opening track, it simply pales in comparison to the video itself, perhaps proof of some obvious editing here. Unlike the video, it seems that it is only worth seeking out if you are really keen on Van Halen. But still, this is part of the Van Halen story, and enough to generate interest.

In short, although there are mixed results with these two offerings from Van Halen, Live Without A Net and Love Walks In are fun, entertaining and exciting Van Halen moments, and more proof of the band’s capability to hold it all together after the departure of David Lee Roth.

Eddie also used the Steinberger 5150 extensively on Live Without A Net.

Picture courtesy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xnS4jX9samo 

You can watch the Live Without A Net video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wIWLNBPS2r8

5150

“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.

Picture courtesy https://www.pinterest.com/norseman72/worlds-best-guitarists/

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.

Picture courtesy https://www.pinterest.com/pin/356558495469932752/

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.

Picture courtesy http://pennycan.createaforum.com/music/van-halen-discography-(the-sammy-hagar-years)/