Van Halen

Warner Brothers, 1988


REVIEW BY: Bruce Rusk


Behind the dopey title of this album is a decent set of tunes from one of hard rocks' true icons. Van Halen by this point in their career had reached a rung of success and fan devotion nearly equal to their mentors, bands like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. Able to sell out any venue that could hold their teeming throngs of fans, they had become masters of their own collective destiny. What can you say about these guys? It's not rocket science. They just rock their asses off and it works.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The foundation for this recent success is what has to be the cleanest, and probably most successful replacement-singer transition ever, the merger of Van Halen with Sammy Hagar. The resulting album 5150 was a resounding success. Hagar was the perfect combination of talent, star cache, and bad-boy reputation to fill the rather large void left by the departed David Lee Roth. The fans ate it up and MTV couldn't get enough of them. So why tempt fate? The boys left the formula alone for the most part, and came up with a very similar album in OU812.

Hagar had found his foil in Eddie Van Halen. Like his work with Ronnie Montrose before, Hagar always did his best when teamed with a high-caliber axeman, and there is possibly none better than EVH.

Back in full audio spectrum are the synthesizers! Feared by some, loved by many, the synths are here to stay. An intrinsic part of their music now, the keys have helped VH segue further away from their metal roots and more towards the AOR band they would yet become. Fear not though, the spark that launched this rocket is still there. Balls-out rockers like "A.F.U. (Naturally Wired)" and "Source of Infection" prove that in spades.

The now requisite syrupy ballad "When It's Love" is a low point for me, as is the closer, some uninspired blues that sounds like filler. On the other end of the spectrum, one of the standout songs on this album sounds the least like a typical Van Halen song. "Finish What You Started" is a tasty slice of semi-acoustic chicken pickin' that stuck with me from the first listen.

The songs that really propel the album are the party anthems. Hagar's influence is felt hardest in that aspect, and with good results. Sammy reaches into his old Montrose book to lift-a-riff from "Make It Last," and uses it to drive "Cabo Wabo." "Black and Blue" and "Sucker in a 3 Piece" round out a trio of frat-boy specials.

Good rockin' tonight, like the song says. To date this is the best of the Hagar era albums and deserves a re-listen.

Rating: B+

User Rating: B



© 2004 Bruce Rusk and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Warner Brothers, and is used for informational purposes only.