David Lee Roth – Crazy From The Heat (1985)

David Lee Roth released this whilst still in Van Halen. That’s the irony of this four track EP. He could have waited, but did not. Diamond Dave was too impatient to move on from Van Halen. However, this is a taste of what his potential was on his own. Surely the Van Halens weren’t bothered by this?

Starting off with whimsical lyrics and piano, David Lee Roth carves out some new territory here. Easy Street is a colourful and solid piece about having a good night out on said street. Saxophone and other arrangements are here too. This sounds nothing at all like Van Halen. Perhaps it was for the better. Some interesting guitar work is here too, it sounds very 1980’s. Mint.

The next piece is a medley Just A Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody is an almost Frank Sinatra like piece which is almost like David Lee Roth’s most important solo piece. It’s hilariously laughable in some parts. Particularly the old school “bop” piece in the middle. It’s still a great song, though.

California Girls is a cover of The Beach Boys, but more uptempo and better listening, to be frank. It’s a good idea for David Lee Roth to cover here. It’s rather hilarious for him to cover here. A nice one.

Coconut Grove is a good sort of West Coast America piece here. It sounds so chilled and awesome, you have to give that David Lee Roth is a good musician here. A nice song. More whimsical lyrics are here again.

Although Eat ‘Em and Smile came afterwards which was a significantly larger and more popular statement, this is a short and sweet vision of David Lee Roth musically. Very enjoyable listening here. A good summer time listen.

8/10

Joy Division – Closer (1980)

Joy Division released this second, and last, album of theirs in 1980. It seems like a suicide note musically, complete from the album cover to the music within. It’s still a great listen, provided you are in the mood for such music. So without further a due, here is a glimpse into the music of this album, and perhaps the mind of Ian Curtis.

We begin with the pumping drumbeats of Atrocity Exhibition. It’s a personal statement from Ian Curtis about his representation in the music scene and his life. It’s a bleak statement and dark song at that. It is captivating listening though, with strange sounds within.

The next piece, Isolation, reveals a figure totally alone and isolated in the world. Ian Curtis’s voice is tripped out here, sounding very distorted. The music is very synth pop like, but the intention is completely different here. Ian Curtis was not very happy by the sounds of things.

Passover sounds more dark and deep than the previous song. “This is the crisis that I knew had to come…” it begins. Everyone in the Joy Division camp was concerned about Ian Curtis at the time, but unfortunately were unable to deal with him at the time. The music doesn’t sound happy here at all.

Colony continues the sparse and dark sound on offer. The chugging guitar and drumbeats work well here, boosting the song along. “God in his wisdom took you by the hand, God in his wisdom made you understand…” These are seriously disturbed sounding lyrics from Ian Curtis. But, a good listen at hand.

The next song A Means To An End sounds more depressing. With its descending bassline and ongoing sparse sound, it seems sad in retrospect with Ian Curtis’s passing that the music was made here of this sort. He repeatedly sings, “I put my trust in you” towards the end of this piece, just before the slowed down outro.

The follow up Heart and Soul tries to put some light on a very dark musical backdrop, but only ends up sounding more dark. “Heart and soul…what will burn…” sings Ian Curtis. It sounds very dark indeed. He talks about concepts of space and time throughout this song. It sounds dark and surreal here.

Twenty Four Hours is an intense and pacing song. It sounds like an incredibly urgent and sad statement from our vocalist. Society does not understand depression and other mental health issues well enough. Had people intervened, they could have saved Ian Curtis’s life. Sadly, this did not occur. It’s another good song here though.

The Eternal is likely a contender for the most depressing song ever made. It has a super depressing piano piece and funereal drumbeat. And it does actually talk about a funeral like experience. It’s a very dark, disturbed and depressing song. Listen to this with caution.

The last song on the album Decades is another hugely depressing listen. It is driven along by a good keyboard patch and harsh sounding handclaps. It sounds very atmospheric here with all the sounds in place. A good way to end this dark, dark album.

Ian Curtis committed suicide two months after the release of this album. He had problems with epilepsy and depression, plus he had divorced his wife Deborah Curtis. Despite all this, the music will last forever though.

9/10

Van Halen – 5150 (1986)

It was a strange turn of events for Van Halen. David Lee Roth and the rest of Van Halen parted ways for some time in early 1985. After a short time, the successful solo artist Sammy Hagar joined Van Halen as their singer and occasional guitarist. By 1986, the group were ready to dominate the charts with this release, beginning the “Van Hagar” era.

This is the best offering by Van Halen with Sammy Hagar, so let’s check it out.

Good Enough begins with “Hello baby!” before launching into a very solid riff driven piece equating food to sex. It’s an awesome sounding tune, which changes tempo midway through the piece. The group sound relentless here in their approach, a great start to the album. The outro is fantastic too.

Why Can’t This Be Love is a great piece by the group. Rocketed along with keyboard riffs and Sammy Hagar’s great singing, it is not at all like David Lee Roth era Van Halen. It is a much more deep and meaningful statement than David Lee Roth could ever do. Plus, it was a radio hit at the time as well.

Easily the worst piece on this album is Get Up. It sounds horrible and also has dated really badly. Seriously, this could have been done better. Although Alex Van Halen drives this song very well with his drumming, it is rubbish. Could have been rethought here. Worth avoiding.

The next piece is much better. Dreams has some awesome keyboard sounds and great varied instrumentation here. Sammy Hagar apparently was hyperventilating during recording vocals here, as you can probably guess from his delivery. A great guitar solo is here as well. Mint tune. Beautiful.

Summer Nights is a great chilled sort of tune. Eddie Van Halen plays guitar very well here, and on the other songs on the album. Although this recording sounds somewhat dated overall, it has great tunes here. “Summer nights and my radio, that’s all we need baby, don’t you know?” Brilliant.

Best Of Both Worlds is a great pop song. It’s about said topic in a relationship, which is about bringing the best out of both ends of the relationship. It is very well done and the chorus is totally uplifting. Good pop/rock music here.

The first real synth ballad that Van Halen ever did arrives. Love Walks In is typically 1980’s and written about aliens. More importantly, it is a song about love as well. It still sounds fantastic today, mind you. Definitely touching and worth listening to. The guitar solo here is stunning and awesome.

The title track 5150 is a somewhat melancholy piece. It’s solid though, mind you. It fits the album nicely, even if it seems nonsensical lyrically. A great little number here. Eddie’s guitar playing here is wonderful.

Inside is seemingly nonsensical rubbish, but it is likely a musical stab at David Lee Roth. Obviously, the band had not forgotten what had happened beforehand. It ends the album on an okay note, although it could have been shorter in length. It’s somewhat humourous listening though.

The 5150 album went to #1 on the Billboard charts and sold many millions of copies. It’s often considered the best “Van Hagar” album, and is worth listening. The divide of Van Halen fans begins here, but that is seriously is unnecessary as the material here is good.

Enjoyable listening.

8/10

The Cure – Disintegration (1989)

The 1980’s was a strange time in musical history. Keyboards were everywhere, mullets were considered cool and Conservatism was rife. Mind you, one of the quality acts of the decade were the Gothic styled band named The Cure, led by Robert Smith as their lead vocalist.

This is their best album, so let’s have a listen to it.

Plainsong begins with some beautiful wind chimes, before launching into an atmospheric musical synth driven piece. It’s surprisingly lovely and good to hear. A nice way to kick start this album. There is some subdued and beautiful guitar here as well, which adds a nice touch to the song. When Robert Smith sings, he sounds very New Order-ish. A great way to begin this album.

Pictures of You follows with its snappy drum beat and intricate guitar work. It sounds incredibly dated here. Having said that, it’s not a bad piece. It just sounds a little bit too 1980’s in retrospect. Robert Smith does sing from the heart on this album, and shows his distinctive tone and voice here. A good effort overall.

The following piece Closedown is a dark and groove based piece, perhaps a nod to the Acid House music of the time. Still, it’s The Cure for sure. Lyrically, it is a song about running out of time to do things. Robert Smith doesn’t come across as a person with happiness lyrically, it follows the tradition of bands since Joy Division.

The next piece sounds very poppy. Lovesong is a good piece to listen to, and sounds much less dated than the other parts of the album. Robert Smith sends a love based plea, “I will always love you.” A good tune.

Last Dance is another overly 1980’s sounding piece. In fact, although this album is a great listen, it hasn’t aged well with some of the production techniques at hand. Still, a tune is a tune, regardless of what it sounds like.

Lullaby sounds a better song with some intricate guitar playing and another punchy drum beat. There is some great instrumentation here as well. Some Nine Inch Nails like whispering is here as well. It is a sonic, funky textured piece here. A good listen.

The creepy sounding Fascination Street is such a good piece, even today. It shows that quality, not quantity, matters in music. This is a dark trip of sorts. Good effort. Nice music for Goths out there. It has an awesome funky bassline to boot as well.

The next song, the melancholy Prayers For Rain is an even more trippy sounding piece that is very memorably and catchy to the listener. It’s so good to hear this sort of thing, and makes a great listen. The guitar riff played here is fantastic. The lyrics are about desperation here.

The Same Deep Water As You starts off with rain sampled in the background, before going into a more slow tempo piece than before. It continues the theme of the previous song with more desperation styled lyrics here. A good effort.

Disintegration is the title track. It sounds like a good jam at hand, but seriously, is much better than you’d expect. It shows a person lyrically who is self-decline. Typical Gothic style stuff, but fits the album very well. A nice mash up here. The outro is super cool too.

The next piece sounds rather depressing. Homesick begins with a sad sounding piano riff and cleanly plucked guitar parts, then it launches into some very good yet subtle drum driven piece The subsonic bassline then follows and then the lyrics here seep right into the song. Some intelligent and poetic lyrics are here for the listener at hand.

The Untitled last piece here starts with an accordion sound, before launching into the last track on the album. Some dark and surreal lyrics are here, and this is a nice way to finish the album. The pounding drum beat here is awesome.

Disintegration is now viewed as a classic in its own right, and made The Cure critically acclaimed for their work in music. Although that may be the case, the album could have benefited from some editing of the sounds and the length of the songs. Still, it is an interesting listen anyway. It is gloomy and dark, but not overall depressing, fortunately.

7/10

Slayer – Reign In Blood (1986)

The American band Slayer had slowly been gathering momentum. Although their music was in no way mainstream, especially lyrically, Slayer had set themselves up to be the pioneers of Death Metal. It was faster, harder and more aggressive than anything before in music.

This album is the best of Slayer’s back catalogue and began the Death Metal scene that still exists today. It’s a headbanging rush from start to finish.

From the beginning, we have the story of a Nazi butcherer in Angel Of Death. It’s so awesome but scary. You may think that Metallica could not match this, and certainly could not in terms of pace. It’s horrific, but awesome at the same time. It breaks down in the midsection and then rushes into a super fast pace. Good stuff.

The next one along, Piece By Piece, is a brutal sonic onslaught. Hard to believe that this is a metal-based genre. But it’s truly amazing what is done here, and has proper song structures and different tempos. This reveals the variety of Slayer as a band.

Necrophobic reveals the sick and twisted nature of Slayer, at least lyrically. The title says it all but it’s, fortunately, such a short sonic assault that it makes up for any twisted or sick nature lyrically.

Altar Of Sacrifice obviously refers to the hypocritical nature of religion. It’s so catchy that it is easily stuck in your mind for days after. Perhaps these people were Marxists politically? We may never know, but they are Satanists for sure. It slows down towards the end, with our heads still banging away.

The next piece, Jesus Saves, is even more upfront. It starts off slowly, and you can really hear some of the band’s Iron Maiden/Metallica likes influences. It then speeds into a raging track about the hypocrisy of Christianity. A tough pill for some to swallow, but the music still is rocking.

The follower Criminally Insane begins with a basic drum beat, some palm muted riffing, and laughter. It’s so good to hear something that is different than everything on the radio. It is so well arranged by Rick Rubin that it deserves listening on.

Reborn starts off with a sort of jam, before erupting into a sonic assault referencing Satanist activities. Even though the band here gives little variation in their sound, it just is so good. No track sounds out of place on this record. “I won’t be reborn!”.

Epidemic is the next song up, and it is a bit slower than others on the album. The guitar solo sounds like something out of a B Horror film. “Pain results in screams, bleed eternally.” Surely, these guys were on something like meth? It’s a rather sinister song.

The wicked Postmortem is up next. It rolls along nicely in the first half, being very song like and slower than usual for this album. It then bursts into a truly great riff, and screaming galore.

The last song, Raining Blood, is creepier and more evil sounding than anything Black Sabbath ever did. It finishes off the album with more horrific imagery and ultra thrash paced metal.  At the end, we hear the pouring rain of blood. Sounds evil and satanic for sure. The albums ends with one feeling like they have listened to Satan himself talking via music to you. It’s out there, all right.

Remastered reissues of the album have given us two extra tracks by Slayer, Aggressive Perfecter and the Criminally Insane (Remix) which are great additions to Slayer’s repertoire. This album is for anybody who wants to hear really freaky music. If you want to test some heavily religious Christians, play this in earshot of them. You won’t be disappointed with this album, halfway between thrash and death metal. Merely looking at the front cover artwork of this album is to see pure hell.

Awesome.

8/10

Sammy Hagar – V.O.A. (1984)

1984 was an anticlimax year for those who thought that George Orwell’s prediction would come through via his best selling 1984 book. It was also a build-up year for the trashiest of 1980s commercialized keyboard music. Additionally, Ronald Reagan was re-elected yet again in the United States. But ironically, along with Van Halen’s 1984 album recording, this album is the best of rock music in that year.

It defined the times and also has aged very well over the years. Sammy Hagar had cut himself a successful solo career, although one which is difficult to find on Spotify or Soundcloud. This album is worth hunting down if you can find it. It’s a very good listen.

It leads off with Sammy Hagar’s biggest solo career hit I Can’t Drive 55. It’s such a catchy pop/rock piece that it has caused many crazy drivers around the world to break speed limits to this song. It’s a great song and brilliant for Sammy Hagar.

The next song Swept Away is about finding one’s first true love and being swept away by it. Sammy Hagar delivers his famous high octave vocal delivery fantastically here, “One night, yeah and I am hooked on you!” Great for a song that wasn’t as popular as some of his other solo work.

Rock Is In My Blood is a celebration of what makes Sammy Hagar a great rockstar. It’s more downtempo but still delivers well. With such a voice, it puts all the other tobacco chainsmoking rockstars to shame with such great sounding vocals on this record. Sammy Hagar is not a tobacco smoker by any means, to this day.

Two Sides Of Love points to the ups and downs of a love based relationship. It’s a nice ballad and points out that in love one can never be too careful with a love based relationship. Sammy Hagar may have been hinting at his own troubled love life at the time of recording this song.

On the other hand, Dick In The Dirt talks about a dude called Richard who just likes to get some without being aware of the consequences. It is a little weaker but dirty and nasty. Hold onto your trousers gents when listening to this one gents.

The title track V.O.A. blows away every other rock singer of the time and points out that he truly was and is the voice of America. Even David Lee Roth of Van Halen could not muster up the sonic ability that Sammy Hagar had here, and does very well indeed with the extended vocal part at the end of this song.

Don’t Make Me Wait shows that love is not patient at times, and although it slows down, it doesn’t bore with the message. It flows nicely on the album.

Burnin’ Down The City is about putting on a great rock show. Sammy Hagar was and is capable of doing so, and this song finishes a very good and listenable album.

This is not Sammy Hagar’s best solo album, but it comes very close to being that. Even then, it’s fantastic listening for a rock album of the 1980s. Shortly afterwards Sammy Hagar began singing much more pop-like songs in Van Halen after that group lost David Lee Roth. It’s better to remember him this way, the songs are just fantastic and have energy and consistency throughout. For those who love Van Hagar and want more, check this album out.

8/10