It is now widely documented the issues with Sammy Hagar and Van Halen during their time of recording and touring. However, at this point, the band members were all on good terms with each other. According to Sammy Hagar, the band were still on a roll at this point, and this album was recorded fairly quickly after the previous 5150 album. Van Hagar, at least at this point, seemed unstoppable.
Musically, it received mixed reviews. But is there still magic in their music? Let’s find out.
We begin with Mine All Mine, a funky synth-led piece. It’s actually a really good song and discusses the comparison with wider concepts of belief and personal insight. Only Sammy Hagar could write and deliver a song just like this, the previous singer David Lee Roth would have hated this song. There are some great lyrics here after the guitar solo, “You’ve got Allah in the east, you’ve got Jesus in the west. Christ! What’s a man to do?” Really thought-provoking and brilliant. Great song.
The next song was a huge hit single of the time. When It’s Love is a great Van Halen staple and live performances of it proved its excellence. The keyboard and guitars perfectly intertwine into a song that has a much broader appeal than anything the group did with David Lee Roth. The chorus is magnificent, and this is a must-listen for rock fans. A great sounding and beautiful song. The guitar solo is great here too. Nicely performed and well done here. The outro is awesome.
A.F.U. (Naturally Wired) is by far THE underrated Van Hagar song. It starts with pacing drums, before leading into a rifftastic sonic journey. Lyrically, it’s about getting on the road and playing rock and roll with no fear. Sammy Hagar sings excellently here. It’s a two-piece song that is a must-listen for anyone familiar with Van Halen, a truly great gem here. The guitar work is extremely impressive here in the breakdown guitar solo, proving that Eddie Van Halen only ever needed a single pickup guitar to do justice musically. A slice of genius in the form of music.
Cabo Wabo is a Sammy Hagar song with a lot of history in it. Yes, it is crystal clear now (with a little background research) that it is about the place he set up business during his time in Van Halen. Still, although this fits on this album, it is a little long and repetitive. That shouldn’t deter you from listening to this song, although it could have been edited a bit. Good to hear anyway. The harmonies on this piece are really great though.
The next song is a not-so-serious song named, yes, Source Of Infection. Really, this was a little odd for Van Halen. But still, it has some pacing drum work by Alex Van Halen for his brother Eddie to assert authority in terms of his guitar playing. Reportedly in hindsight, Sammy Hagar hates this song. Despite that, it’s a good and enjoyable listen, even to this day. Some brilliant harmonics and shredding are here, and it is well worth hearing for that part of the song alone. Interesting.
The next song is a decent synth ballad. Feels So Good is all about that. The keyboard is heavily prominent here, and Sammy Hagar sings nicely over the top of this music. It mentions sending a message in a bottle to a lover to find them. What a great idea if you do truly love someone. Still, it’s an okay song but sounds a little weaker here compared to everything else so far. It fits well here, regardless.
Finish What Ya Started is actually about unfulfilled sex. It has an interesting history of it being created as a song. It sounds very funky with Eddie Van Halen playing a Fender Stratocaster and some acoustic strumming going on in the background. It was a live favourite, and you can see why. It sounds great, and many Van Halen fans would agree to this. Just pure fun to hear. It has a brilliant call-and-response chorus here, very good indeed.
Black And Blue is a good song designed to be rhythmically in sync with all elements of the music here. It seems to be about rough sex, which is an interesting topic to cover. It doesn’t seem anything special otherwise, unfortunately. It’s not outright bad, it’s just it seems to lack a little bit of the Van Hagar magic we are used to from the 5150 album. Still, it’s worth a listen for a rock song that is just a tad retro.
The next song is driven by heavily fuzz based guitar from Eddie Van Halen. Sucker In A 3 Piece is based on a true story of jealous admiration. Not joking. It’s better than the previous song and rocks hard. This album is definitely listenable, even in the weaker areas. Although this song hasn’t aged well, it’s still good to hear today. The interplay between the guitars and the rest of the song is great. The key change in the middle is pretty interesting too. The outro is not politically correct at all.
The last song is a cover, A Apolitical Blues. To be fair, it is not really necessary on this recording and could have been removed with little complaint from fans. It’s a good bluesy cover, though it is not exactly Ice Cream Man here. It’s an entertaining way to finish this album, however.
The verdict? It’s a little hit-and-miss, but still worth a listen. Rock and roll may seem dead nowadays, but still is proof of the eternal ability for rock musicians to deliver anything better than a Rap or RnB star can deliver today. For fans of the previous Van Halen album 5150, certainly give this a whirl. Overall, it’s a little bit better than expected, so the listen is worth it.