Van Halen II

Van Halen

Warner Brothers Records, 1979

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


In all the time we've been online here at The Daily Vault, I honestly can't believe someone hasn't tackled Van Halen II, the follow-up to Eddie Van Halen and crew's landmark debut set.

Maybe it's because only one or two songs get any regular airplay from this 1979 release. Maybe it's because people fear hearing an example of the "sophomore slump," or they're afraid this album won't live up to the high standards that were set on Van Halen. Maybe -- just maybe -- we've been so busy we just haven't gotten around to it.

Does this disc live up to what David Lee Roth and company laid out on their first effort? No -- and anyone who expected those kinds of fireworks two times in a row has to be fooling themselves. This disc comes close to those highs, but the band does fall a little short. Frankly, with the experimentation they do on this disc, I'd rather have them fall short and take chances.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

What kinds of chances do Van Halen take? For one thing, there's the ubiquitous guitar solo "Spanish Fly," on which Eddie Van Halen proves he can work magic on any fretboard, electric or acoustic. (If anything, hearing this made me want to hear Van Halen explore the world of acoustic guitars a little more.) You also have the band taking the risk of covering Linda Ronstadt's "You're No Good" -- a curious choice to follow up their take on The Kinks's "You Really Got Me."

If all this weren't enough, Van Halen dares to tackle a slower -- not quite, but close to ballad-like -- track on "Women In Love," and doing a respectable job on it. There's also the suggestion that Van Halen were starting to branch out into commercial hard rock -- "Dance The Night Away" and "Beautiful Girls," the two songs that receive any significant airplay, being the prime examples. (Thanks to Saturday Night Live, I can't listen to "Beautiful Girls" without thinking of the commercial spoof featuring a gay-themed beer. Proof positive that television is warping the minds of today's youth.)

If you're ready to write Van Halen II off as a commercial effort, think again. Many of the songs on this release aren't necessarily aimed for the radio, instead challenging the listener to break out of their own musical tunnel vision. Songs like "Outta Love Again" (with its stacatto guitar solo), "Light Up The Sky" and "D.O.A." all push the envelope for Van Halen.

Does everything work? Honestly, no. "Somebody Get Me A Doctor" and "Bottoms Up" both fall short of the mark, not living up to the kind of song people were expecting from Van Halen even this early in their career. And as much as I like the way Michael Anthony's bass solo was featured in its opening, "You're No Good" just doesn't work as a cover selection. (I also would have dropped the thumping bass in the start -- too reminiscent of "Running With The Devil.")

But Van Halen II succeeds because they didn't follow Van Halen note-for-note. When a song succeeds, it resonates in the listener's memory. When a song fails, it fails triumphantly, having dared to take a musical chance that the group now felt comfortable with. It might not be the most recognized of Van Halen's releases, but Van Halen II proves to be a worthy follow-up.

Rating: B+

User Rating: A-



© 2001 Christopher Thelen 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 Records, and is used for informational purposes only.