As the world hears of Eddie Van Halen’s passing, there is no better time to be inspired by Van Halen’s music in an increasingly uncertain COVID-19 world. Van Halen made great tunes and brought joy to the masses for decades in rock history.
This compilation is odd. It’s a mixed bag of no doubt great Van Halen songs from both the David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar eras (none from Gary Cherone’s time however, like you noticed). But the layout is awkward, being each track laid out not strategically, going in a sort of DLR/SH/DLR/SH/etc. format. In hindsight, this album would have been better to have been done historically, with one disc for David Lee Roth era, and the other for Van Hagar. It also was released during their disastrous 2004 reunion tour with Sammy Hagar, where the less said of it, the better. There are three songs on it recorded in 2004 that are the only real representation of the Peavey Wolfgang guitar here, mind you. Still, Van Halen were a great musical band, so let’s see if this album still holds up well enough today.
We kick off with the legendary Eruption guitar solo. Hard to believe it was recorded back in 1978, it sounds light years ahead of any other music piece at the time. Eddie uses every trick in his book to impress, an unforgettable and brilliant one and a half minute guitar solo. Great to hear every time.
Next is the extremely heavy sounding It’s About Time which is a decent and good song, and the first of the three new songs. It sounds a lot like what Chickenfoot would turn out to be musically. Admittedly, EVH was very much out of it when they recorded these new songs, taking three months and many overdubs to complete. It still sounds pretty awesome though, which showed that, in amongst the chaos of 2004, Van Halen could still rock. Fun song. The backing vocals are delicious sounding.
Up For Breakfast comes next, with a blood pumping keyboard sound throughout with some basic guitar parts laid on top. It sounds a lot like Van Halen’s answer to Kid Rock’s Pancake Breakfast which combines desire of food and lust. A great set of lyrics, and actually fairly good listening, even if many forgot this track quickly. It is quite catchy, and entertaining. Good idea for a song to cover such lyrical territory. Nice listening.
Learning To See is actually the worst of the three newer songs here, although Eddie’s guitar tone really does sound fantastic on it. Unfortunately productivity and consistency weren’t really Eddie Van Halen’s forte in 2004, due to ongoing drug and alcohol consumption. The guitar solo in particular is horrific, and was evidence of a not-so-consistent reunion at the time. Regardless, more Peavey Wolfgang thunder is here, revealing to the world Eddie’s tonal sense, for the most part. The outro is pretty awful.
Next is Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love which is a DLR era track. It’s a fantastic listen, which has some also fantastic guitar playing on it by Eddie Van Halen. It was on their debut album Van Halen, which was a huge and instant success. The song was even regularly played in Sammy Hagar era Van Halen concerts. Oh yeah, there is a Coral Sitar in the bridge after the chorus. Great song.
Following is the ode to unfulfilled sex Finish What Ya Started, featuring a funky Fender Stratocaster being played by EVH and acoustic guitars in the background. It was a great fan favourite at the time, and one of the better Van Hagar songs made. It deserves as much respect as any decent DLR VH era song. There is a lot of emotion, passion and humour in this song. Great stuff to hear. The guitar solo is very good here, too. It sounds very cheerful listening though.
You Really Got Me is the DLR era cover of an original song by The Kinks, which apparently Ray Davies preferred over the original. Notably, Eddie is not played his Frankenstein guitar here, he is actually playing an Ibanez Destroyer. Still, he sounds really amazing, particularly on the guitar solo. The whole piece is rock attitude, a fantastic and fun listen.
Dreams is next, a classic Van Hagar tune. It sounds light and energising, with keyboards, piano sounds, a fast beat and some really well thought out guitar parts. Sammy Hagar sings so high in his vocal register that he was hyperventilating upon completing the job. Great pop/rock music, and certainly memorable. Nice effort. The guitar solo is amazing.
Next is the classic pop piece with drums that sound like a racecar engine, Hot For Teacher. Eddie enters playing like his life depends on it, and we have an interesting song about lusting after a schoolteacher. Not an uncommon situation typically, but hilarious and great fun to listen to. Obviously David Lee Roth was a bit of a comedian. The humour on this track never gets old. One of the best songs here on this compilation, and very memorable.
After that we have Poundcake. It’s a decent song, but what the hell is Poundcake anyway? It’s a catchy and cool piece with some power drill guitar intro (watch a Van Halen live performance from this era to see how Eddie did it) and a great piece of lusting after women. EVH uses his Ernie Ball Music Man Signature EVH guitar to maximum effect, arguably one of his best guitars. A catchy, fun and entertaining listen, both in 1991 and today. Great song. Eddie does sound amazing on guitar here.
And The Cradle Will Rock… tells the story of a distracted high school dropout with little hope or chance of success in life. It’s a little vague in the real meaning of the song, but David Lee Roth pulls off a brilliant performance. Is that a guitar riff played throughout? Nope. EVH hooked a Wurlitzer keyboard to his Marshall Amp stack and played that on the song. Innovative and original, Eddie was a true creative genius. Sounds awesome, to this day.
Black And Blue has a syncopated feel to the structure of the song, but it seems pretty dated and nothing hugely special. Still, it was obviously good enough to make this compilation, so it’s worth hearing. It’s a good showcase piece for the Van Halen brothers with Eddie on guitar and Alex on drums. A good effort in a groove sense, but otherwise nothing special here. The guitar solo is pretty cool though.
The biggest Van Halen hit Jump comes next. It has a delicious keyboard sound played by Eddie Van Halen, and although it is likely David Lee Roth would have initially objected to this sort of song being put onto a Van Halen record, his presence on it makes the song come alive. Good radio pop from the mid-1980s, and a great celebration in a typical Van Halen way. A must listen for anyone who doesn’t know who Van Halen were. Neat song. The guitar solo sounds completely natural by Eddie.
Borrowing the outro riff from the previous song, Top Of The World is a great encore sort of number from Van Halen. In fact, it was put as the last song on live performances at the time. It’s an optimistic, awesome and uplifting song for Van Hagar fans out there. A fun experience to hear this one, and decent to listen to.
(Oh) Pretty Woman is a pretty ridiculous cover by Van Halen, on the producer ego syndrome experience of the Diver Down album. Fortunately, it sounds good here on this compilation, although rather ridiculously so. Good song although very over-the-top, reportedly the band disliked this cover, and album, for the most part.
Love Walks In is a Van Hagar creature. It’s actually a deep and moving song, with beautiful keyboard by EVH. Sammy Hagar wrote a brilliant set of lyrics, inspired by aliens (or, at least the existence of them) and made a great piece here. No doubt David Lee Roth fans will not find this one good to their ears, but the truth is, it is moving and touching. Great effort by Van Halen. The guitar solo is majestic.
Next is the sexual romp Beautiful Girls with David Lee Roth in full macho swing here. California back in the late 1970s must have been an interesting place to live in. Regardless, it is a good and entertaining listen, particularly lyrically. The backing vocals here are just fantastic, a fun listen, but perhaps something that most women would not enjoy. Good song anyway.
The acoustic driven ballad Can’t Stop Lovin’ You is a good and deep love song which could only be done by Sammy Hagar on vocals. It’s more pop than perhaps anything else ever done by Van Halen, but it is a good listen. After the previous track on this compilation, this seems the complete opposite by the same group. Does this album seem schizophrenic? Very much so.
Unchained is one of the heaviest guitar riff pieces by Van Halen. It’s a great and uptempo rock song that still sounds fantastic today. If this was a piece showcasing EVH’s guitar effects skills and knowledge, it would be a very good one. There is a brilliant midsection breakdown where producer Ted Templeman cuts into David Lee Roth’s bravado. Great stuff.
Panama is next. It’s one of the most popular Van Halen pieces, with Diamond David Lee Roth delivering the goods on top of brilliant guitar playing by Eddie Van Halen. It’s more old school macho male stories, but it sounds so great and catchy that can be forgiven if you don’t approve of the lyrics. There is an interesting recorded Lamborghini (of EVH’s) being revved in the breakdown of the song, an interesting twist. A must listen.
Following is Best Of Both Worlds which was one of the first Van Hagar tracks to be completed. It’s catchy and very memorable, EVH plays in a very relaxed way here. Sammy Hagar sings about said subject of two worlds colliding in love/lust. It includes religious concepts in it in a comparative analysis, before going into the outro chorus. Brilliant, obviously well thought out music.
After that is Jamie’s Cryin’ which is probably not hugely necessary on this compilation and is about high school love being broken. Still, it has a good riff and sounds okay. It just seems like a strange addition to this collection of songs. Still, a reasonable effort by Van Halen. The sound here is unmistakably Van Halen though.
Runaround is an underrated Van Halen piece which has a quirky riff and a good groove to it. It’s about chasing ladies, which seemed like a regular thing for the Van Halen boys to do. It’s cool and awesome to hear. There is a sped up section with an awesome guitar solo in it. Variety? You got it. Van Halen knew how to make variety, better than most Rappers today.
I’ll Wait is another strange edition to a collection of Van Halen songs, ironically about life viewed from a stalker’s eyes. It’s a chugging keyboard number from the 1984 album that is a good piece, but not a great one. David Lee Roth sings very well here though. A strange song regardless. The guitar solo is good and interesting, though.
Next is the first big Van Hagar hit Why Can’t This Be Love which is a good combination of creativity and pop sensibility. Eddie plays keyboard, once again here and the rest of the band joins in for a good listening experience. It’s Sammy Hagar making a musical statement which is of strength and courage. No surprises that it was a popular piece around the time. Decent effort.
Following that is Runnin’ With The Devil which was the first song on the Van Halen self-titled debut album. It’s an incredible listen, even today. The guitar riff sounds well played and massive, and drives this awesome song along. It’s a genuinely good listen, and has a kick ass guitar solo in it. Classic song, and is playable multiple times.
When It’s Love is an impressive keyboard driven ballad that was a hit single from the OU812 era. It is a very deep and meaningful sort of piece to listen to, and lyrically is about finding true love. An interesting subject to cover lyrically, and musically equally brilliant, this track shines bright. Great song. There is an unusual guitar solo in here as well. The outro is really emotional and superb, with soothing backing vocals.
Dancing In The Street has some unusual electronic sounding textures throughout, although it is merely a cover song from DLR era Van Halen. Undeniably, this is a good cover though. It does certainly sound fascinating and danceable at the same time. Good song to hear in the Van Halen back catalogue. The guitar solo sounds incredible, too.
Next is the combined intro and song Not Enough. The intro is rather weird and eerie, sounding like almost something out of a horror film. It then quickly goes into a very depressing, but decent song about broken hearted love. It’s not a typical Van Halen piece at all, but is definitely emotional. If you need a Van Halen song to shed a tear to, this is the one. The guitar solo is amazing, however.
Following is the keyboard driven Feels So Good which is a ballad sort of piece with image evoking lyrics. It’s not really loud and rocking like most Van Halen songs are, but is refreshing listening. A good song which is different in a pop way. Nice to hear. Yes, there is a good guitar solo here as well, despite having a predominately keyboard based melody throughout.
Right Now is about seizing the moment and changing life to better oneself. It is a deep and introspective Van Hagar listen, but was written by Sammy Hagar originally after having some marital difficulties with his first wife. Still, despite this musical backdrop, it’s definitely worth hearing. A good combination of lyrics and melody here makes this song as good as it is. Deep.
Everybody Wants Some!! is a classic tune about sexual desire. Only a character like David Lee Roth could pull something like this off in the way he does here. Eddie Van Halen puts riffs throughout the song that are interesting, hard and menacing. It’s a great song and a fine piece of music to hear. If you want to hear Deuce Bigalo Male Gigalo set to music, this is it. Great song. The outro in particular is interesting.
Next is Dance The Night Away which is probably the most pop and love oriented that early Van Halen got. It has a brilliant set of guitar melodies by Eddie Van Halen and the rest of the band follows in style. Good song, and very memorable listening.
Beginning three live cuts is Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love (Live) which are nabbed from the Van Halen: Live Right Here Right Now album. This honestly sounds like a song unsuitable for Sammy Hagar to sing, although no doubt the band put in 100% here. Van Hagar covering David Lee Roth Van Halen really just doesn’t work that well, sadly. It’s almost like Liam Gallagher singing Opera, doesn’t work. Still, a good effort.
Panama (Live) comes next and once again, doesn’t really seem right to be covered by Sammy Hagar era Van Halen, although interestingly it does have Sammy Hagar pick out girls from the crowd on tape. Regardless, it is a slight improvement on the live song before it, but it still doesn’t sound right. It is redeemed by Eddie’s guitar work, somewhat at least. The extended midsection of the song has Sammy Hagar talking rubbish about life in general and doing a semi David Lee Roth sort of thing. Not impressive, but okay anyway.
Jump (Live) is really atrocious, and would be best skipped. It’s nowhere near as good as the recorded version, so skip this one. Surprisingly, Sammy Hagar hated singing this song live. No surprises why.
In a world of postmodern music that is atrocious, this is a not so modern package that, for the most part, works well. That is, if you can look past the weird cut and paste job of songs. It may be better for you to make your own Van Halen playlist from Spotify or something similar. Still, a great career was made by Van Halen. Rest In Peace, Eddie Van Halen. Your music made this world a better place.
Schizophrenic listening experience.