Ok, if you go back one week on this blog, which is really only the second post back, you’ll see my thoughts on the new Van Halen CD. At the time I wrote that I was just a day or two into the new album and totally excited to have new Van Halen on CD. Not to mention that it’s new Van Halen with David Lee Roth at the helm. You see, I am a huge fan of the David Lee Roth era so just having him back in the fold had me grinning from ear to ear. When I made my first blog on this subject I have to admit that my judgement may have been clouded because of the excitement of just having new Van Halen with Dave.
Well, we’re a week away from that now and I’ve had plenty of time to listen to this CD, I’ve actually been running it in my car non-stop for the past week. The initial excitement has passed and I feel that I can now make a proper review of this new album. Unclouded and totally unbiased……..well, pretty much unbiased.
I could go track by track on this but that would take forever and I just don’t have that dedication to doing a review on a CD. So, here we go. If you are a die hard Van Halen fan then this CD needs to be uploaded into your mp3 player and into the hard disk in your car if you have one. It’s a solid effort from our boys from Pasadena. Now, I would like to say a few things that may come off as negative, but, they are just observations. First, if you’re looking for anything groundbreaking, anything that is going to knock your socks off, then you’re going to be disappointed. The CD consists of a LOT of rehashed licks and tricks from days gone by. Half of the songs on the album are songs that they took from their 1976 demo tape. Lyrics have changed here and there, licks and phrases have been mixed around a bit, but, if you own the demo, you’ve heard a lot of these songs before. Matter of fact, if you own any album from the Van Halen catalog then you will definitely be able to pick something out that you’ve heard before, whether it be the Dave or Sammy era. Eddie doesn’t really do anything new on here. But to be fair, he really hasn’t done anything new since that first album. There are licks in all the solos that you can say “Oh, yeah, he did that in such and such song”. Again, there’s nothing here that is going to make you hit the rewind button, which is how a good friend at a guitar forum I follow described it. But, if you’re a Van Halen fan and can accept that Eddie used every technique he had on that first album and hasn’t really done anything since, then you’ll just be glad to hear them again. I will say this for Eddie though, for 57 years old that dude is smokin’ hot. His playing on this album is pedal to the metal. At 57 he hasn’t lost any speed, that’s for sure. Matter of fact, I think his playing is better on this than it was on the VHIII album. As for the rehashed demos, meh, doesn’t bother me at all. I have the demo tape on CD and have listened to it a billion times and I always had certain songs that I wished they had recorded properly and released on an album. A few of those are on this CD so I’m really happy about that. I’d also like to point out one more time that these guys are pushing 60 years old now and I don’t expect them to have the creativity they had in their 20’s.
David Lee Roth, the man is just flat out cool. There is no other way around it. My only complaint about Dave is that I wish he hadn’t attempted getting up into that upper register with his voice. He didn’t have much range back in the day and it shows even more now. With that said, I don’t think even back in the day that anyone went out to buy a new Van Halen album with the intent of listening to Dave’s wonderful singing. But, what Dave lacks in vocal ability he makes up for in spades with his charisma, attitude, flair,and just overall f’ing coolness. The man is an entertainer, I rank him right up there with the best of them too. His swagger is still apparent after all these years. There are times on this CD where I’ve kind of cringed when he went into the upper register, but that cringing is totally wiped away by just how much attitude he brings to the table. To sum it all up, Dave is cool.
This album is a must have. The same friend I quoted above basically told me that after I get past the excitement that this CD would probably end up gathering dust on my shelf and that it would never rank up there with the first 6. I’m sorry to tell him that this album will sit on my shelf with the first 6 with pride. There may not be anything on here to write home about but at the same time the songs have a groove to them that is unmistakeably “Van Halen”. In my opinion this is the album that should have fallen somewhere between Women And Children First and Fair Warning.
Oh, I need to take a step back here for a second and give my personal thoughts on why I think they grabbed a lot of tunes off the demo. For one, I heard rumors that they weren’t working together in the studio at all. That of course means that they weren’t sitting down together to write music. They probably just decided to grab some things off the demo that almost made the cut back in the day and refresh them. I guess Eddie and Dave just can’t be in the same room together for too long. If you get the deluxe version of the CD that comes with the DVD watch the second clip on there where Dave goes into this long story about making assumptions. You can see it right on Eddie’s face that he just wants Dave to STFU and get going. Dave is oblivious and just keeps on yapping. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again here, I think this will be their last effort together. Being together all the time on tour is just going to ruin them. Last tour with Dave was back in 2007. It took them 5 years to get a CD together after that. At that pace they’re going to be in their mid 60’s by the time the next one comes out. One last payout for the boys is all this is. But, as a fan, I’m glad to see that this made a full circle and that they will end this as they started….minus Mikey of course. Don’t even get me started on that. Wolfgang has come a long way and is playing really well, but that spot belongs to Mike. I’ll leave it at that.
Y’all come back. I’ll leave the light on for ya.