Things were not going down very well in the Van Halen camp by this point. Although the For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge album and tour had been a great success, there were demands from those in the Van Halen fanbase for more music. This was, in retrospect, a half-hearted offering by the group. It was not delivered at a time of good interpersonal relations in Van Halen, and to be fair, is not the best live album ever made.
It does show a lot of the good songs in their repertoire by this point. Sadly, it was re-recorded heavily, with some respective statements saying up to 50% of it was done so. This is not because Van Halen could not deliver live, it is due to the egotistical and animosity sort of nature between the band members. Still, this double album should be reviewed, so let’s have a listen to it, track by track.
We step into Van Halen territory with Poundcake – Live. “Hello baby!” screams Sammy Hagar, before the power drilling guitar part comes in. It sounds seriously edited here and is a big disappointment in that sense. It’s not live at all but still sounds good. Eddie Van Halen’s tone is still good here, bridging between For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge and Balance. It’s pretty good for a studio re-run, but live? You have to be joking here. It’s disappointing in that respect, but still a good listen.
Next up is Judgement Day – Live. It’s a good listen, but not a great one. It’s obviously a studio re-run with varying levels of crowd noise. Seriously, this is a pretty poor effort for a musical piece that obviously is supposed to be “live”. Sad to hear in this respect. Sammy sings along to nobody else doing the harmonies either in the mid-section, a depressing thought.
When It’s Love – Live is next, and it sounds semi-live in the intro, before going into a not-so-live rendition of the song. It sounds neutered, seriously, not a good representation of this song. You’d be better off listening to the OU812 album version here folks, it’s disappointing. The whole band sounds pretty peeved with each other here, not a good sign at all.
Spanked – Live is up afterward, and although it’s an improvement on the album version, it sounds like this album was more like 75% done in the studio, or possibly more. In any case, it’s better and more fun to listen than what has been done previously on this album. The midsection is pretty funky sounding.
The cover Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love – Live is up next. It’s a more lively sounding rendition of the original David Lee Roth era song. But still sounds rather sucky, could have been done better here. Rather disappointing all the same. Eddie Van Halen’s playing is pretty good here though.
Next up is In ‘n’ Out – Live. It’s not really live at all, and once again, the whole band sounds pissed off with each other, not a good sign. They sound like that the whole exercise is a waste of time, no fun involved. Eddie Van Halen has some good guitar soloing chops, which saves this otherwise atrocious studio run through. The constipated sounding vocal melodies at the end are unnecessary too.
Dreams – Live is an awful rendition of the song. EVH sounds wasted here in his guitar playing, and Sammy Hagar struggles to hit the notes. Is this worthy of an addition to this recording? Absolutely not. Just awful.
Man On A Mission – Live is up next and sounds somewhat better. It may be a studio run-through but sounds a lot more listenable. Why can’t a live album be live? The guitar work here is pretty cool though, nice playing by Eddie Van Halen. It would have been better if it were actually live though.
Up next is the rather unnecessary Ultra Bass – Live. It’s better explained on the video released at this time. Sadly, Michael Anthony doesn’t exactly sound good alone here and the aged sound effects make this a poor offering to casual fans of Van Halen. It sounds so 1980’s that it is almost unlistenable today. Even this sounds edited, once again.
It leads into Pleasure Dome – Drum Solo; Live which starts off as a jam between the three band members of Michael Anthony and the Van Halen brothers. It’s surprisingly good to listen at the start. The drum solo itself does go on for an exceedingly long time, and sounds (ironically) edited. Alex Van Halen does come across as a fairly good drummer, however. The end sounds pretty intense, with that mega-long drum roll.
Panama – Live is up next, which actually sounds live, sort of. Yes, this is actually Van Halen doing a David Lee Roth era song with Sammy Hagar singing. It sounds unusual compared to the original on 1984, even rather weird. The midsection is pretty cool though, with Sammy Hagar doing some cool talk with the audience and a call-and-response with them.
Love Walks In – Live is a more rocking version compared to the original and sounds a little bit more live than a studio recording, so maybe it wasn’t edited heavily? It’s odd, but Sammy Hagar sounds like he is struggling to hit the notes here. It would have been better to leave this cut off the record, it’s not that good. This whole record isn’t that good anyway.
The last song on side one, Runaround – Live goes back into a studio setting. It’s a good song but was bettered on live performances around this time. It sounds rather trashy, and Sammy Hagar noted this as an example of heavy overdubbing and post-production studio work on the song. Largely forgettable. The end of side one is here.
Beginning side two is Right Now – Live. Sammy Hagar launches the song off brilliantly, and the rest of the band follows in a similar fashion. Despite the fact that this song was clearly done in the studio, Sammy Hagar delivers a great performance of this song. It was apparently one of Sammy Hagar’s all-time favourite songs in Van Halen, and he breathes life into a possibly otherwise mediocre rendition of it. Eddie’s guitar solo kicks ass as well, along with the ending, which is spectacular.
One Way To Rock – Live is a rendition of the famous Sammy Hagar solo song. It sounds rather dead sonically, due most likely yet another studio number. It’s different from the original, but still fairly good and worth hearing. The guitar solo interchange is interesting.
Why Can’t This Be Love – Live actually sounds pretty good “live”. It’s a good rendition of it, but not spectacularly so. Sammy Hagar does seem to struggle to sing this number, his voice obviously could not deliver in such a context. A decent listen, however. Sammy talks a bit to the crowd prior to going into the next song.
The acoustic song Give To Live is not the usual song sung on the Van Halen tours with Sammy Hagar. That is usually Eagles Fly, but it is a different song here. It’s a nice sentiment, and both songs can be found on the Sammy Hagar solo album I Never Said Goodbye. It’s a good listen here in any case.
The next song is Finish What Ya Started – Live. It’s a good rendition of the OU812 era song, but the original seems a little better, for obvious reasons. This rendition isn’t that bad though and is entertaining listening anyway. The call and response with the crowd in the midsection is pretty brilliant as well, along with the extended guitar solo by Eddie.
Best Of Both Worlds – Live is an okay cover, but really by this point, the whole album feels like an exercise in mediocrity. Listenable, but barely so. Eddie Van Halen’s tone does sound superb here, however. It ends with Sammy Hagar saying: “What is understood doesn’t need to be discussed, right Edward?”
316 – Live is up next. It’s Eddie Van Halen’s solo and sounds like it has been edited, unfortunately. Still, it is a better part of the recording, and actually worth your time to listen to. Obviously, Eddie is a great guitarist and musician, no doubt about that. Many different sections of previously recorded songs are mixed into one epic solo piece here. A nice listen.
The next piece is a hybrid sonic piece, You Really Got Me / Cabo Wabo – Live. It sounds a bit too poppy for even Van Halen to be fair. Once again, the song just sounds like all the others before it. The twist into the second half is interesting, but really, this album comes across as garbage. This is another tedious piece to listen to, sadly. The background harmonies are pretty good though. There is a good twist towards the end, too.
A rather unnecessary cover of The Who song Won’t Get Fooled Again comes next. It does sound like a better and more focused effort, but still, it doesn’t need to be here. The original was better, so it’s best left to The Who to do the number justice, not Van Halen. It drags on a bit, sadly.
Jump – Live is rather ordinary, borderline horrible sounding. The keyboard patch is an octave higher, making this song far worse than the original. This one is worth skipping if you can. It’s really bad listening to this.
Top Of The World – Live is the last song, at long last. It’s actually pretty decent sounding, and ironically for this album, tops the original. A nice way to end an otherwise tedious “live” album.
Simply put, after all that, this is one of the worst Van Halen albums ever made. If you dig Van Hagar, you’ll be disappointed here as well. This album was where it all began to end for the group. It’s neither appealing nor good. Avoid it if you can.