VAN HALEN ARE BACK!!!! If you're reading this site, you're probably a pretty dedicated rock fan and already know this, but this is the news we've waited five years for... This is the resurrection that rock & roll so badly needed... Damn it's good news. DLR fans are doubtless disappointed that Diamond Dave has been passed over, and with good reason, because Dave is still the most dynamic personality in rock, but everyone should recognise that Van Halen of either era is still great and this is the best news ever. EVH said a couple of years ago that "no news is good news". No, Ed. THIS is good news.
The Van Halen fanbase is equally divided. Well sort of. Quite which era of Van Halen has the most fans is not absolutely sure. There are a number who claim the Hagar period was the more commercially successful. I don't know where they get this information from but it doesn't ring true in the US, where the DLR period produced two ten million sellers (Van Halen and 1984) and a total of 35 platinum certifications across six albums. Sammy's era produced more hits but only 15 platinum discs across 5 albums.
So anyway, minor disputes about who sold the most aside, basically the Van Halen fanbase is split into two camps: Sammy Hagar fans and David Lee Roth fans. Sure, some are diehard fans who like both eras, but I expect everyone has a favourite and no one would deny that the two eras are so different they might as well be different bands. I doubt that you could find anyone, even the most diehard Extreme fan, to make a case for Gary Cherone's brief period fronting the band as Van Halen's greatest era. In short, you're either a Sammy supporter or a Dave devotee. I'm squarely in the Hagar tent. I respect those early Van Halen albums for their revolutionary impact on rock history, but I look at it this way: the Ford Model T was revolutionary too but you wouldn't choose to drive one now. The guitar playing, both tonally and technique-wise, is all that I really care for on those early albums because, let's be blunt, Dave really couldn't sing. And the production on all those records is just horrific. 1978-1984 yielded some great songs -- "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love", "Unchained", "Panama", and "Jump" -- but it was with Sammy than Van Halen really did the business.
At a particularly low point in the late '90s, Van Halen opened for Bon Jovi and all the reviews screamed about a return of hair metal. Let it be said now once and for all: those reviewers were all ignorant losers. Van Halen are in no way a hair band. They are in the same league as The Beatles and Led Zeppelin for their vital contribution to rock history. Edward Van Halen was the Jimi Hendrix of his generation, doing things on guitar that no one had heard before. Sure, Van Halen were an influence on hair metal (King Ed spent most of the '80s denying it), but so were Cheap Trick, Aerosmith, the Beatles, Kiss, and Led Zeppelin. Van Halen started a musical movement, stayed at the forefront of that style throughout its brief reign, and outlasted it. Van Halen may have been silent for the last four years, and their mediocre last album may have bombed, but a half-decent VH album released tomorrow would sell 10 million worldwide, and you'd better believe it. Even in 1995, when glam metal was a distant memory and Bon Jovi struggled to go platinum, Van Halen released Balance and went multi-platinum even though the album was by no means their strongest.
Sammy Hagar and Edward Van Halen are just a winning team. Edward was the greatest guitarist of the '80s, and I would argue Sammy was the greatest singer, with his huge manly, gritty tones. Eddie wrote great riffs, solos, and melodic ideas, and Hagar, with his unfaltering melodic sense, arranged them into memorable classic rock songs. The public grew tired of Dave Lee Roth's by-now predictable antics but with Sammy Hagar behind the microphone Van Halen avoided becoming a worn-out joke. Even in the alternative scene of the '90s Van Halen got respect while the other '80s bands were ridiculed. All those widdly guitarists in the '80s? They just wanted to be Eddie Van Halen. Where they often sounded like self-indulgent, tasteless show-offs, Edward's playing was melodic, thoughtful, lyrical, inventive and tasteful. You'll still see him on the cover of guitar magazines today.
Best album: Live: Right Here, Right Now is rather slick for a live album, but if you think of it as an energetic and comprehensive best of the Van Hagar era, it can't be beaten. As for studio albums, For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge is an uncompromising collection of rockers and definitely Van Hagar's finest hour. Some would say it's 5150, but that album has three bad tracks on it, and there's only 9 songs on there to start with. Actually all the VH albums have had some filler on there. I guess you can get away with it when you're Van Halen.
Official website: www.van-halen.com, but www.vhnd.com is much better. Check out www.vhlinks.com for a comprehensive guide to every Van Halen related site out there (including this one!).
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