It was all over for Van Halen. After a lengthy and productive career, first with singer David Lee Roth, then with singer Sammy Hagar, the Van Halen brothers decided to take a permanent break (for the most part) from making great music. Hence, this album.
It was not a very good scenario at hand. Sammy Hagar and Eddie Van Halen were sick of each other and David Lee Roth went back into the band after some seriously bad incidents, for a very short period of time. This culminated with the disastrous 1996 MTV Awards incident. Singer Gary Cherone, not exactly suited to Van Halen, then entered the scene later on in the year.
Still, this compilation is essential in anyone’s rock collection, and you can finally hear in a one disc album Eddie’s journey through the world of music, and his own so-called “tone chasing.”
Let’s dive in and have a listen.
We begin with the amazing instrumental from Eddie Van Halen himself, Eruption. It introduced Eddie to the world of music way back in 1978, and utilises a bunch of excellent guitar techniques. It is truly timeless, even today. The end part of the instrumental is super spacey.
Next up is the rifftastic Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love which quickly became a live favourite, and you can see why. The rhythm and structure of this song is fantastic, and David Lee Roth howls all over it in an awesome way. Essential listening.
Runnin’ With The Devil is a loud and interesting ode to rebellion, but is very catchy and memorable. It is pure rock music, delivered for guitar addicts and other rock fans alike. Kick back and enjoy. It’s a classic tune.
Dance The Night Away is very much a tune for the ladies who are Van Halen fans, or so it sounds. In any case, it is a great pop song and hasn’t aged much at all. It’s a great listen, even today. The mid section in particular is fantastic, a rewarding listen.
The next piece, the unusual And The Cradle Will Rock… is about a high school dropout, mixed in with a Wurlitzer played through Eddie Van Halen’s Marshall stack. It’s heavy, hard and hitting. A true classic from early Van Halen, and a must listen. The guitar solo is fantastic.
A live favourite is next. Unchained is a pretty cool guitar based piece which is great to hear, with some fantastically performed flange based effects from Eddie Van Halen on the guitar riff. It’s the best song from Fair Warning, and fits nicely on this compilation here. The slowdown in the midsection has a twist, give it a listen to hear what that is, it’s a good surprise.
Jump undeniably was the band’s biggest hit ever, so it suits it being here on this compilation. It’s a great sounding, synth driven pop song and broke Van Halen into the mainstream upon release. A great song indeed.
Panama is hard rock zone, sounding a lot like AC/DC. But it is undeniably Van Halen, and still sounds brilliant today. Some of Eddie Van Halen’s best guitar playing is here, and he sounds like he is on fire here. It’s a fantastic out there, rock tune. Awesome listening.
Van Hagar begins with Why Can’t This Be Love. It has funky synth playing by Eddie Van Halen, Sammy Hagar’s unique voice and a singalong chorus. Not a bad way to begin in Van Halen’s Sammy Hagar era. It’s one of the best songs from this time period.
The next song, Dreams deserves its place on the compilation here as it is a magnificent song. Although sounding rather dated, it is a very uplifting and melodic piece, driven by keyboard and piano songs. When the chorus arrives, prepare to be mind blown. It’s fantastic and awesome. The guitar solo is very good and just a little quirky as well.
When It’s Love is one of the best songs from the OU812 era of Van Halen. It is beautiful, melodic, poppy and catchy. It still sounds killer today, The backing vocals are terrific here, and the rest of the song does well too. The guitar solo is mindblowingly good, a great and must listen of the Van Hagar era.
Poundcake begins the For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge era with a power drill being applied to Eddie Van Halen’s guitar. It then launches into a decent rock song about an ideal woman that Sammy Hagar enjoys seeing. It’s a superb piece, and worth listening to. Some great guitar playing is here. The outro is mindblowingly great too.
The next song, Right Now, although is a good song, has dated very badly. It’s actually quite possibly one of the most overrated Van Halen songs ever, although that is subject to debate. It just falls flat, and sounds melodramatic in not a very good way. Worth avoiding if you can.
The next song Can’t Stop Lovin’ You is more of the same, but better than the previous song on this compilation. It’s an acoustic based ballad from the Balance record, and works quite well. A nice change from the mediocrity of the previous song.
Humans Being is the first of three songs recorded specifically for this album. This is the last song that the group recorded with Sammy Hagar before going back to David Lee Roth for the next two songs. It sounds pretty awful though, and definitely could have been bettered. Obviously the tension here didn’t help the band one bit. The song however, is redeemed by an awesome scream towards the end of this song.
Can’t Get This Stuff No More brings David Lee Roth back for two songs. This is the first of them both, and sounds really great. “Got me a date with a supermodel, I know I’ll make it fuck!” sings David Lee Roth. It’s an upbeat and fantastic song, totally underrated in Van Halen’s back catalogue. You can’t get this stuff no more, indeed. It’s a breath of fresh air in Van Halen’s back catalogue. The outro is subtle and nice, good effort.
The last song on this compilation is Me Wise Magic. It’s a heavy, riff driven piece that is just as good as the previous song. There are some unusual scales and sounds here from Eddie Van Halen, and some semi-Sammy Hagarish singing from David Lee Roth. Still, it’s a great song, and we finish our sonic journey on a high note. Eddie shreds away wonderfully here.
This album is a great listen, although it is not totally definitive of Van Halen and their music, being only a single disc album to show off their vast back catalogue. Still, it journeys from the early Frankenstrat style pieces to Eddie’s customised Peavey set up. A must have for Van Halen nerds, and for fans of rock in general.
If you liked the article and would like to support the author in his musical review quest, please donate to show your support. Thank you for your consideration. Chris Airey