Van Halen – Balance (1995)

It seemingly was all over for Van Halen at this point. Some of the rot had set into the band. It went way back to 1985 when show master singer David Lee Roth had left the band. Then Sammy Hagar arrived, splitting the fan base. Their output slowed from then on in.

If that weren’t enough, Sammy Hagar and Eddie Van Halen were constantly fighting. There was also Eddie’s claim he was “clean and sober” at the time, which wasn’t exactly true. He was drinking constantly and on painkillers as his hips were shot, and taking other drugs as well. Everyone inside of the Van Halen circle were unsure about their future.

But Balance is a decent record. Okay, it is not Van Halen’s best by any measure. But Eddie’s tone sounds great here, better so than any other “Van Hagar” record that was recorded. His constant evolution of tone and sonic ability still shines through this record, and the rest of the band sound empowered because of this. It’s a good, but not great listen. So let’s hear it.

The Seventh Seal begins with wind chimes and the freakiest Buddhist chanting that you will ever hear, before crashing into an okay rock song that dates back to the very early days of Van Halen. The guitar riff by Eddie Van Halen is pretty good though, and the whole thing sounds different. It’s a better piece off this recording. The lyrics on this one, are very biblical. A nice effort.

Can’t Stop Lovin’ You follows. It was one of the singles off the album. It seems rather soppy in approach, even for a “Van Hagar” song. It still affects one emotionally, but we cannot but help think that these songs could be better done. But still, it’s a good flashback tune anyway. Nice vocal harmonies here though.

The next song is the polarising Don’t Tell Me (What Love Can Do). It was originally designed to be a vastly different song, but Eddie Van Halen disliked the original. So this version comes across as a badass piece, despite it being originally written in memory of Kurt Cobain after his suicide. Strange, but a fairly ordinary song anyway, despite the intention of the song.

After that, we go to Amsterdam. Sammy Hagar, being a bit of a pothead, no doubt loved this song as sort of ritualistic piece. But, it has some great riffs and playing by the band in general. It’s a more cheerful uptempo number by Van Halen, and one of the better songs on the album. It’s about the city in Europe where all the tourists go to smoke pot. A good effort here.

Big Fat Money is a song about desiring money. It’s a great uptempo rock number which paces very quickly. Alex Van Halen shines on here, and there is a jazz guitar solo in the middle. Nice to hear, even if the song is rather rubbish anyway. At least it is positive and fun.

Strung Out is a short instrumental that was recorded years before Balance was. It’s Eddie doing a muck around on a piano. Rather unnecessary for this album, doesn’t need to be here at all. But hey, at least it is short. It segues into the next song.

The piano driven Not Enough is a song about love being not enough from another person. It’s a rather depressing listen, but a good one. It has a great line in the song: “Because my heart will always be…yours honestly.” It was a hit single at the time, and is no doubt a good listen, even if it feels uncomfortable to listen to throughout.

The following song, Aftershock, is more or less a continuation of the previous song. It has some pretty sweet guitar playing by Eddie Van Halen. It sounds as though the band were about to fall apart, even on this recording. Still, it’s a great number to here, and there are some great guitar tapping and harmonics here. Nice.

Doin’ Time is an Alex Van Halen drum solo. It’s actually pretty good, although unlike his live stuff, didn’t go on for 20 minutes or longer. It’s just a short and decent piece with a variety of different drums and drum sounds here. A nice change from the other songs.

Baluchiterium is another instrumental. Plenty of instrumentals on this album, it is here mainly to show off Eddie Van Halen’s playing here. It’s a good listen, and the outro in particular is very psychedelic. Just an interesting and quality piece by the group, although Sammy Hagar is missing here, mysteriously.

The next song, Take Me Back (Deja Vu) is about reliving a good time that is being sorely missed. It relates this experience to memories about a certain place, “Some desert island off Morocco”. It has an acoustic guitar in it, too. A nice number from the group here on the album.

The last song on the album, Feelin’ is a good way to finish off this album.  It has some good playing by Eddie Van Halen, but you can kind of hear that the band were sick of each other at this point. Still, it rocks hard.

The album which was considered a balanced effort by the group (hence the title of the album) went to #1 and was the last real effort by Van Halen for many years. Still, it is a good listen and shows that Van Halen still had a few musical tricks up their sleeve. Ironically, the album artwork was changed in Japan due to it being considered offensive. It is still a good listen, although not a great one.

7/10

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