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Van Halen – A Different Kind of Truth (Review)

Van Halen – A Different Kind of Truth
(2012, Interscope Records)

1. “Tattoo” … 4:44
2. “She’s the Woman” … 2:56
3. “You and Your Blues” … 3:43
4. “China Town” … 3:14
5. “Blood and Fire” .. 4:26
6. “Bullethead” … 2:30
7. “As Is” … 4:47
8. “Honeybabysweetiedoll” … 3:46
9. “The Trouble with Never” … 3:59
10. “Outta Space” … 2:53
11. “Stay Frosty” … 4:07
12. “Big River” … 3:50
13. “Beats Workin'” … 5:02

David Lee Roth – Lead Vocals
Eddie Van Halen – Guitar, Keyboard, Backing Vocals
Wolfgang Van Halen – Bass, Backing Vocals
Alex Van Halen – Drums

Producer: John Shanks & Van Halen

Well. Here we are. One of the most anticipated releases of the year by one of the biggest rock bands ever. A Different Kind of Truth is the first new Van Halen album in 14 years and it’s the first VH album with David Lee Roth in 28 years! To say that the band was under pressure to deliver is an understatement.

In order to help deal with such pressure and high expectations, the band dug back into their vault and grabbed old demos and song ideas and hammered them out into complete songs in order to keep in line with that classic DLR-era Van Halen sound (with lyrics completely rewritten by Roth). Ironically, this has drawn criticism from many VH fans who feel cheated over the fact that the album isn’t 100% new (you’ve got DLR back… isn’t that enough?). Well, it’s no surprise that when you’re as big as Van Halen and you’ve been around for so long, you’re always going to be compared to the early and “best” years and no matter what your intentions, there’s always going to be a loud group of “fans” that will tell you how much you now suck. Personally, I think it is a bit disappointing that this legendary band couldn’t be inspired and confident enough to come up with completely new material and that they needed to look at 30 year old demos. Ultimately, as long as the finished product is good, that’s what matters most. It’s not like they are the first band to use previously abandoned material.

As for the deal with Michael Anthony… Look, it’s a shame this isn’t a full reunion. Yes, it’d be nice for him to be on the album and in the band still but are we really going to gripe & moan over backing vocals? I’m not trying to downplay his contributions but it’s not like he was the songwriter or the public face of the group. It’s lame Eddie was enough of an insecure jerk to kick him out because of Michael’s friendship with Sammy Hagar (who has already said he doesn’t like this new album, no surprise there) but it’s not like his presence is that missed, IMO. His backing vocals are great but VH’s music stands on its own with or without him.

So, to the first single: “Tattoo”. When I first heard it, I thought, okay this is somewhat typical of VH’s poppier moments but is most reminiscent of something Roth might’ve done early in his solo career. It’s a fun song that I’ve ended up liking a lot, even though at first I thought it was really just above average. It’s definitely not like anything else on the album and now I can kinda see why it was chosen as the first single because it’s not as hard, heavy or fast as the rest of the album. Definitely the song that has the best chance get onto Top Forty station.

I can definitely say that if anyone is letting “Tattoo” influence their decision on checking out the album, don’t. This is a HEAVY album. Whether Eddie is using old solos or came up with some new stuff, he’s absolutely on fire throughout this album. For years people have been saying that Eddie had lost it thanks to his years of addiction but the guy can still go and proves himself to again be in an exclusive class of guitarists. Even if the material isn’t 100% new, just the fact that he can still play it so skillfully means something.

There’s been some criticism of Diamond Dave’s voice (which is nothing new) and while it obviously isn’t the 1980s anymore, he still sounds like Dave. I don’t have any problem with the vocals at all.

And if you want to know how this new VH line-up gels, just check out “Honeybabysweetiedoll”, which may be the heaviest song these guys have ever written and has a slight modern edge that the rest of the album doesn’t have. I would love to hear more songs written in that vein.

I think Van Halen have delivered a great disc to spin during the summertime… which is how every Van Halen album should be written — with summer in mind. This is a good album to play while you’re driving down the highway with the windows rolled down, out on the beach or washing your car. No disrespect to the Hagar years (which I liked), but Van Halen is at their best when they aren’t trying to change the world or make you think. Van Halen is best at writing party rock and that’s what the album is.  “Tattoo” is pop/rock, “Blood and Fire” reminds me of Van Halen II, “Bullethead” & “Honeybabysweetiedoll” are heavy, “Stay Frosty” is the successor to “Ice Cream Man”, the opening of “As Is” is reminiscent of “Everybody Wants Some” before EVH lets loose, “Big River” has that classic hard rock Van Halen sound… Forget when it was all written and just enjoy the music! This is the Van Halen that everyone has been waiting for and I’m liking it more and more with each listen.

Highlights: “Tattoo”, “You and Your Blues”, “China Town”, “Blood and Fire”, “As Is”, “Honeybabysweetiedoll”, “Big River”

Buy ‘A Different Kind of Truth’ at

VAN HALEN – 1984

Van Halen – 1984 [Remastered] (2000, Warner Bros. Records)
Original Release: 1984, Warner Bros. Records

1. “1984” … 1:07
2. “Jump” … 4:04
3. “Panama” … 3:32
4. “Top Jimmy” … 3:00
5. “Drop Dead Legs” … 4:14
6. “Hot for Teacher” … 4:44
7. “I’ll Wait” … 4:45
8. “Girl Gone Bad” … 4:35
9. “House of Pain” … 3:19

David Lee Roth – Lead Vocals
Eddie Van Halen – Guitar, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Michael Anthony – Bass, Backing Vocals
Alex Van Halen – Drums, Percussion

Producer: Ted Templeman

What can I say about this album that hasn’t been said over the last 25 years plus for this diamond status (that’s 10 MILLION plus albums sold) album? It’s an undisputed rock classic and essential Van Halen (though I wouldn’t say it’s their best). It opened a lot of doors for rock ‘n’ roll to become even more mainstream and with keyboard-heavy songs like “1984”, “Jump” and “I’ll Wait”, the band blurred the line between hard rock and pop music than they ever had before. Not that that’s a bad thing.

Every song is great except one… “Top Jimmy”. That one has always been filler to my ears. I don’t hate it, it’s not even one of the band’s worst songs, but it really pales in comparison to the rest of the album. “House of Pain” sounds like something that would fit right in on Fair Warning and if “Drop Dead Legs” or “Girl Gone Bad” were released as singles, they would’ve been huge hits. Then again, at this point, pretty much anything with the band’s name on it would have been a hit.

It’s hard to pick an absolute favorite from this album. The four singles (“Jump”, “Panama”, “Hot for Teacher”, “I’ll Wait”) are the best. That’s the easy part, but I can’t say which of those four is superior. It’s like trying to choose your favorite child!

Though this was the peak of commercial success for the band, it was also one of their most tumultuous times internally and egos eventually forced David Lee Roth to quit the band and pursue a solo career in 1985. What’s funny about this is that a contributing factor to Dave leaving was that he apparently wasn’t happy with the poppy sound of the album and Eddie relying on keyboards so much but then in his own solo career he relied on covers of songs like “California Girls” and “Just a Gigolo” and turned in a number of pop rock albums.

Highlights: C’mon, it’s 1984! Everything is a highlight… except “Top Jimmy”!

VAN HALEN – Fair Warning

Van Halen – Fair Warning [Remastered] (2000, Warner Bros. Records)
Original Release: 1981, Warner Bros. Records

1. “Mean Street” … 4:55
2. “Dirty Movies” … 4:06
3. “Sinner’s Swing” … 3:08
4. “Hear About It Later” … 4:33
5. “Unchained” … 3:27
6. “Push Comes to Shove” … 3:48
7. “So This Is Love?” … 3:05
8. “Sunday Afternoon In The Park” … 2:00
9. “One Foot Out The Door” … 1:56

David Lee Roth – Lead Vocals
Eddie Van Halen – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Michael Anthony – Bass, Backing Vocals
Alex Van Halen – Drums

Producer: Ted Templeman

The group’s fourth album shows off a darker, meaner and heavier Van Halen, but this album is still a classic nonetheless. You can’t go wrong with any album from Roth’s first run in the band. Eddie wanted a more “serious” sound (Roth wanted more of a pop direction) for the band and has admitted in later years that he was heavily into cocaine & alcohol during the making of this album, so I guess that accounts for the darkness this album wallows in.

If you need any confirmation that this isn’t your typical “all smiles” Van Halen, just check out the obligatory Eddie instrumental “Sunday Afternoon In The Park”. Quite a departure from “Eruption” and “Spanish Fly”!

As with the case of many classics, there’s not a whole lot for me to say that hasn’t already been said (and said better). Every Roth-VH album is essential listening for any and all rock fans.

This is the least successful album of all the Roth/Hagar years as it “only” has gone double platinum and failed to spawn a big hit song at the time (though I’ve heard “Unchained” quite a lot on radio over the years).

The edition I have of this album is the remaster from 2000. The 2000 Van Halen remasters was one of those annoying remasters sereies where no thought was given to throwing a few bonus tracks on for the fans. You mean to tell me there’s no demos, b-sides, alternate takes or live tracks laying around? Give me a break.

Highlights: “Mean Street”, “Dirty Movies”, “Sinner’s Swing”, “Hear About It Later”, “Unchained”, “So This Is Love?”


Van Halen – OU812 (1988, Warner Bros. Records)

1. “Mine All Mine” … 5:11
2. “When It’s Love” … 5:36
3. “A.F.U. (Naturally Wired)” … 4:28
4. “Cabo Wabo” … 7:04
5. “Source of Infection” … 3:58
6. “Feels So Good” … 4:27
7. “Finish What Ya Started” … 4:20
8. “Black and Blue” … 5:24
9. “Sucker in a 3 Piece” … 5:52
10. “A Apolitical Blues” … 3:50

Sammy Hagar – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Eddie Van Halen – Guitar, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Michael Anthony – Bass, Backing Vocals
Alex Van Halen – Drums, Percussion

Produced by: Van Halen and Don Landee

Van Hagar Halen continues their descent into the “adult contemporary” genre, just take a look at that cover and tell me it doesn’t scream “BORING”. Looks like something from the ’60s or ’70s. It started with the band’s debut with Hagar on 1986’s 5150 (which was actually was a really good slick hard rock/pop album), but this time that fun vibe that album continued over from the David Lee Roth era is gone.

Sure, some of the good time subject matter is still here (sex, booze, partying in general), but it seems a bit more grown up and dark, if that’s possible when talking about having a good time. The album is definitely lifted by the great pop ballad “When It’s Love” and the awesome country-picking of “Finish What Ya Started” (two of my favorite Van Hagar songs).

OU812 is a really odd departure for the band that never really gets out of 2nd gear outside of “Source of Infection”, which sounds like the hard rockin’ Van Halen of old. Even more odd when you consider this album is sandwiched in between the two most fun and most Roth-like Van Hagar albums: 5150 and For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.

Highlights: “Mine All Mine”, “When It’s Love”, “Source of Infection”, “Feels So Good”, “Finish What Ya Started”

VAN HALEN – 5150

Van Halen – 5150 (1986, Warner Bros. Records)

1. “Good Enough” … 4:04
2. “Why Can’t This Be Love” … 3:47
3. “Get Up” … 4:37
4. “Dreams” … 4:54
5. “Summer Nights” … 5:06
6. “Best of Both Worlds” … 4:48
7. “Love Walks In” … 5:11
8. “5150” … 5:44
9. “Inside” … 5:02

Sammy Hagar – Vocals, Guitar
Eddie Van Halen – Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Michael Anthony – Bass, Backing Vocals
Alex Van Halen – Drums, Percussion

Produced by: Mick Jones, Don Landee, Van Halen

Ladies and gentlemen, David Lee Roth has left the building!

I prefer Roth-era Van Halen, but Van Hagar kicked off to a very promising start with this release, which I would rank right behind For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge for the Hagar albums.

“Why Can’t This Be Love”, “Love Walks In” and “Dreams” had been three of my favorite Van Halen songs since before I was even heavily into the band. It spelled out the change in the direction towards an adult contemporary sound the band would explore even more on the slightly disappointing OU812, but they are still great songs.

“Best of Both Worlds” is another VH classic, regardless of which era you prefer and “Get Up” is a tremendous rocker which would’ve been a great album opener.

This was the last VH album I needed to complete my collection and I got it probably 5 years ago or so. Well, honestly, I still have never picked up the Gary Cherone fronted Van Halen III, but I’ve heard enough to know it’s horrible and that I’ll probably never pick it up. I held off for so long just because I was so familiar already with “Love Walks In”, “Dreams”, “Why Can’t This Be Love” and “Best of Both Worlds” that I was in no urgent rush to hear the rest.

The album would eventually go platinum six times over and was Van Halen’s FIRST album to hit #1 on the Billboard charts.

Highlights: “Why Can’t This Be Love”, “Get Up”, “Dreams”, “Summer Nights”, “Best of Both Worlds”, “Love Walks In”

VAN HALEN – Van Halen II

Van Halen – Van Halen II (1979, Warner Bros. Records)

1. “You’re No Good” … 3:16
2. “Dance the Night Away” … 3:06
3. “Somebody Get Me a Doctor” … 2:52
4. “Bottoms Up!” … 3:05
5. “Outta Love Again” … 2:51
6. “Light Up the Sky” … 3:13
7. “Spanish Fly” … 1:00
8. “D.O.A.” … 4:09
9. “Women in Love…” … 4:08
10. “Beautiful Girls” … 3:56

David Lee Roth – Lead Vocals
Eddie Van Halen – Guitar , Backing Vocals
Michael Anthony – Bass, Backing Vocals
Alex Van Halen – Drums

Produced by: Ted Templeman

This album is nearly as flawless as Van Halen I, but lacks the bite of that debut album. Still an amazing record, and the album still resembles their debut, but the songs take on a slightly more pop sheen. Van Halen was one of the main templates for the 80s pop metal scene and this album, more than their debut, has much in common with that era, I think.

From top to bottom, it ranks as one of the best hard rock albums of all-time.

Highlights: All of it

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