on February 7, 2012
This is the album Van Halen has wanted to make for over 10 years, even after all the infighting, the firings, the lead singer switches, David Lee Roth "re-joining" the band for a moment in 2000, and then again for a year or two in 2006, bassist Michael Anthony vanishing from view and replaced by Eddie's son Wolfgang, and meanwhile brother Alex Van Halen just keeps beating away on the drums... you know, it's only So Cal rock and roll, but they like it. And it's a formula that worked for all those years, so why not try it one more time? This is the result.
This is a short (and priced to move) album of "new" songs, so in that spirit I'm going to review this quickly, but if you know me, it never works out that way. Enjoy...
13 songs at just over 50 minutes:
1. Tattoo - from right off the jump, the sonic jet crashes into your ears. The Van Halen of old has landed, and David's somewhat older voice still soars over the destruction of guitars, drums and synths. This song reaches into my heart and grabs it, as it's friggin' Van Halen, man! This rocked so hard, and the ending just quietly silenced itself. Great song either way. It was number one the second it was released, and to be sure it's just a prelude of things to come on the rest of this album.
2. She's The Woman - according to an article by Rolling Stone magazine, this song sounds like an old unreleased song of theirs called "Down In Flames" from 1977. Sure it does, but who cares? It sounds fresh and loud and once again, it rocks! It's like 1983 all over again, and I can see 10,000 Camaros blaring this album - and this short song - out all over America this summer. This is a great rocker for sure!
3. You and Your Blues - the guitar riff is familiar, the voice is haunting and young, the drums come up and the vocal harmonies appear, and there it is, andother perfect Van Halen song. Did these guys jump into a time machine and set it for the 80's, because I'm all for it! This is the song of the album so far, it's rich and lush and the solos are perfect, and the rock is finally back!
4. China Town - look out, keep your heads down, and jump right in, this is THE speed rock song of the album - everything is double-time except for David's laid-back vocals, but it's the formula
that made them famous through over a dozen albums and compilations, greatest hits albums and live cuts, too. The guitar solo here is vintage Eddie, and is so freaking dizzying your head will spin, and then it stops for that one second and then the song jumps back in full blast! Look out, you're gonna get blown away by this one.
5. Blood and Fire - are the boys singing the history of their lives or of the band's, or of both? "Told ya I was coming back..." Dave moans over the smashing guitar work of Eddie, brother Alex keeping fantastic time, and young son Wolfgang just banging away on the bass. they've been through punch-ups, break-ups, silent glances and some of the best rock ever put on vinyl. Here they are in their fortieth year (!) of working this craziness out together, and I'll be honest, they've never sounded better, fresher and younger! Bravo!
6. Bullethead - this song is pure nostalgia, and it takes me to a lost track from "Women and Children First." Great stuff, a quick song, and insane lyrics from the boys who invented power-drill rock and roll.
7. As Is - As this song is, the drums tell you a monster track is coming. And it sure is, a behemoth of sound, quickly building up to David Lee roth once again keeping up in his own way against the all-out assault of the Van Halens. Who wins this fight on this song this time. I'll tell you - we do, and what a solo in the middle. Once again, classic Eddie at work and it is only getting better. As David half-whispers, "Never spoiled by progress..." Another winner!
8. Honeybabysweetiedoll - One of the odder tracks on the album, something like finding a foreign broadcast of Martian rock on the radio by way of Southern California, but it goes right into 1984 again, as if the boys had never stopped jamming together for all those years. It's sexy, and fast, and it's like a moonlight ride with your lover with the lights off doing 125 on the highway as you get closer to... oh, you know what! Another growling mastertake. The song ends quickly with a quick feedback right into
9. The Trouble with Never - what happens when your lover suddenly says no after so much yes? This song once again takes me back to the past glories of the band, but it's a great place to be,
and David's voice has never sounded more syrupy and with that sexy quiet growl he is famous for. Another classic.
10. Outta Space - What if Ted Nugent decided to play with Van Halen? This is the closest you'll ever get to hearing that, as the song's subject takes us to the stratosphere. Another screamer from David, and another wonderful solo from the master, and he's getting better with every song, and on this song you can feel every fret and string being tortured under his capable hands!
11. Stay Frosty - a bit of silly old timey blues, which makes me think this is a sequel of sorts to "Ice Cream Man," as the boys have always loved it, but of course jump right into a quick-time version of the song, and they're letting us know that it's good to have fun, but of course keep your karma careful, and who should know about the ultimate ups and downs but these guys? A great bit of solo Eddie work once again in between as well, and of course what Van Halen album would be complete without the big classic song ending?
12. Big River - now it's time for a bit of seriousness - not! They run right into this song as they have throughout, with abandon and the type of rock and roll that needs to be remembered, 100 percent! This is a great song and one of my picks for another hit, if they let it happen! The guitar work is solid and the solo here is unmatched and timeless, and even though you may have heard similar versions of it, this is Eddie Van Halen, one of the inventors of the speed solo, and here he is untouched. Serious masterwork.
13. Beats Workin' - for these guys, the final song on the album is a love letter to everyone who has ever wanted to start a rock band, to everyone who has failed, and to those who succeeded
only to let it slip out of their hands. The power of rock is here in all it's glory, and it's timeless, and it has kept them playing for four decades - young bassist Wolfgang wasn't even born when they started! A great way to close out the album, with a suggestion from the band itself: it beats working, all of it. It's rock and roll.
So, I had apprehensions, maybe it's because I'm almost 50 now and my rock and roll idols are dead or have gone soft and gone on reality shows to keep their names alive, or worse, gone off to cover Broadway show tunes. So here it is, supposedly the end of the world, and these guys have the audacity to put out an album of straight-forward good old fashioned rock and roll? Just a guitar, a bass player, a singer and a drummer? Well... yes!
I listened, I reviewed, and I loved every second of it. You young kids can call it dinosaur rock, but I dare any of you to tell these guys that. They are rocking their butts off, and it works for me!
In the end, I'm giving the album 5 glorious stars - they deserve it, they've restored my faith in true rock and roll, and the fun spirit four guys can have by just sitting down and playing what they've been doing since many of us were young, at least me.
Go now, buy the album, and as us old people say, crank it up to eleven! You'll be glad you did!
(thanks for reading, and please leave some feedback (or a vote) if you liked it or not, and also check out my other reviews here on Amazon!)
on February 7, 2012
Van Halen is my favorite band of all time. I'd say my two favorite albums are VH II and Fair Warning. I have been waiting for this for 16 years since they released those 2 new songs off the Greatest Hits package. I remember that day like it was yesterday.
When I heard Tattoo, I was slightly discouraged initially. It wasn't what I was expecting, however I liked the song. But I kept the faith, and refused to bash the band like many others who heard Tattoo and discounted the rest of the 13 songs on the album without even a listen. Man oh man, and does the rest of the album kill! Each and every song following Tattoo are extraordinary songs. Van Halen have returned to form and given us their most aggressive album ever. And to the nay sayers who are complaining about them re-working old unreleased songs, so what? They are THEIR songs that were UNRELEASED for a reason. They were unfinished in the form they were in. I can't understand why a band isn't allowed to use their OWN material that THEY wrote and never released officially. Would you rather other writers come in or Van Halen to sound more modern like Nickelback or have Eminem come in and rap in the middle of a song? Quit complaining and thinking you can tell one of the greatest bands in history how they should sound or make an album. That's why they are Van Halen and you are you sitting in your mother's basement with a negative attitude. If you actually listen to the album, it is, IMO, their best since Fair Warning.
Stand-out tracks for me are: Chinatown, As-Is, She's the Woman, Trouble with Never, Stay Frosty, Outta Space, and Big River. However, each and every song is stellar. Even Tattoo which, when listened with the rest of the album, grows on you like a nice mustache. At worst I'd say 12 excellent tracks and one not bad track (Tattoo). If you ask me, that's pretty darn good.
A note on production: I was very scared of how this album would sound. I was afraid it would sound too glossy and polished and poppy. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that this album sounds just as good and as raw as any of their early albums. Big Brown Sound from Eddie and Thunderous drum sound from Alex is all there. Very pleased with the production! I feel that background vocals were handled very well also! While Mikey is missed, I didn't think about him once while I listened bc Wolfie nailed it. He is killing it on the bass (almost sounds like Sheehan) and definitely did a tremendous job on the backing vocals. Mikey will always be a part of VH but if that's what it took for these guys to get along again, have fun, and make a great album, then so be it. Wolfie is doing a great job at filling Mike's shoes!
A huge thanks to Van Halen for restoring my faith in modern music!
on February 13, 2012
I'll open this review by saying I realize I'm in the vast minority with my rating. (As of this writing, less than 20% of the reviewers have given the album three or fewer stars.) My hope is that people will understand I'm sharing my open-minded opinion of the music and won't thumbs-down the review just because it doesn't align with their own opinions.
First, the good...
I'm absolutely impressed with how well each individual band member has held up over the years. In terms of technique and chops, I don't think Eddie has flagged one bit; his riffs and solos are just as clean and blazing as ever. Diamond Dave's attitude remains fresh and slightly obnoxious in the way VH fans like myself enjoy, and although he's not screaming and squealing orgasmically as much as he did in the late '70s, he doesn't come across as a watered-down version of himself like so many singers do when they're well past their prime but trying so hard to believe they've still got it. What can I say about Alex? While he's not showing much flash--nor does he need to--he still lays down the bedrock well enough. What really surprised and pleased me is how well Wolfgang slid into Michael Anthony's slot. He's got a smooth vocal upper range and his playing is like a clock, the perfect foil to Eddie's fretboard pyrotechnics. Wolfie even shows off a bit of technical complexity here and there without stepping on anyone's toes. The kid definitely has musician's blood in his veins.
Now the not-so-good...
Like everyone else reading and writing these reviews, I was completely pumped in anticipation of this release. Michael wouldn't be part of the project, which was a bit of a bummer, but we all saw that coming. Just to hear Eddie and Dave collaborating again full-bore more than piqued my interest and got me hopefully wondering. Would they challenge and inspire each other as they did thirty years ago? Would they create new sounds to be later imitated but never duplicated by others? Did they have more Camaro-blasting burger joint classics in them? Most importantly, would they rock hard?
ADKOT answered those questions for me, unfortunately not in the direction I'd hoped. Clearly from the reviews here, on various music sites, and in magazines and newspapers across the country, it's rocking a lot of people...I'm just not one of them. That's too bad, because so many folks out there are making comparisons between this latest opus and classics like Women and Children First and Fair Warning. I don't hear it. Hey, maybe it's my fault for not being sixteen anymore. When those earlier albums first came out, they had a certain something at once sexy, dark, and playful that insinuated itself into my teenage id. They inspired me to--for better or for worse--play guitar loudly, drive fast, and spray-paint my tiny universe in crisscrossed red, white and black stripes. Then again, maybe I just haven't given this album enough spins. The way it works for me with albums, at least most of the time, is a handful of tracks grab me right out of the gate while others are slower to reveal their charms.
So far, this new album hasn't revealed a single jaw-dropper. In fact, I'm hard-pressed to find even a thirty-second block of music that might just blossom into something great after multiple listenings (although the fade-out to "As Is" is a strong contender at the moment). The most ADKOT has done to this point is made me go back to the classic DLR-era cuts to see if I could define their mystique for myself. Maybe through that exercise I could put a finger on what I feel is lacking today. While most of what's missing amounts to an intangible spark at least partially attributable to what was my own coming of age at the time, there are a few aspects I can point to as what I consider definite weaknesses on ADKOT.
BACKUP VOCALS: Most great DLR-era tracks feature Eddie and Mike on backup vocals. These vocal harmonies are an instantly-recognizable VH fingerprint. What's more, they tie VH to a rock 'n' roll, R&B and Motown tradition, one in which the song was built on vocal melody. Perhaps the most important aspect of these backup vocals is that they elevate great tracks to anthem status as they become eminently singable to the masses. In the case of ADKOT, many of the vocal harmonies (to my ears) are built around multi-tracks of Dave's own voice. Instead of that great call-and-response vocal dynamic found in songs like "Runnin' With the Devil," "Unchained," and "Jamie's Cryin'," you get The Diamond Dave Show, which isn't my brand of whiskey. Yes, there are background oohs and aahs, but nothing like the construction of the aforementioned VH classics.
EXPERIMENTATION: There's always been at least one track, be it a proper song or an intro to another song, that featured some level of instrumental experimentation, like the sound engineer let the Van Halen kids run amok in the control room for an afternoon and left the tape recorder running. It's that kind of musical curiosity that resulted in "Sunday Afternoon in the Park," "Intruder," and parts of "And the Cradle Will Rock...," to name just a few moments of sonic chaos gone right. I feel like the Van Halen kids have grown up and are playing nicely with their toys now. Makes me want to say, "C'mon, guys. Grab a pair of scissors and RUN!!!"
SONGWRITING: This is by far the most subjective and undefinable element for me to criticize, but I feel the songs lack the musical depth and level of interest I've come to expect from early VH. This ties into the experimentation point at least partially, but taking the songs as a whole, I'm not getting any of that same air-guitar or singalong joy from these tunes that I'd hoped for. Never do I get to the end of any one song and say to myself, "Dayum, I just *gotta* hear that again," reaching for the iPod's back button. Nothing here is great all the way through for me. On the other hand, I could listen to "Somebody Get Me a Doctor" on repeat for an hour or more and be perfectly happy. Again, one of the more personal and subjective critiques.
PRODUCTION QUALITY: I dunno, maybe it's just how things are done these days, but I agree with an earlier reviewer who said the tracks sound spatially squashed. Ninety percent of the sound is pushing through the center channel. Feels like someone took all the furniture out of a Beverly Hills mansion and crammed it into a studio apartment on the Lower East Side. But it's not just about the separation; the EQ sounds muddier. Part of that that is due to Eddie's brown sound becoming more saturated, which has taken away a lot of the clarity. Every musician has a golden tone in his or her head, and maybe this is a step closer to that tone for Eddie, or maybe it's the evolution of his own ideal. Either way, it's a step further from what I want to hear. Too muddled and overblown.
Overall, I'm giving this album three stars, because while it's not making me want to dive in more and more with every listen, it's not actively pushing me away either. I'll still come back to it on occasion, and maybe I'll discover new gems every now and again.
In the meantime, be cool. Stay frosty.
on February 21, 2012
My thoughts and opinions on the new album:
1 Tattoo - I just don't get it as a lead off track/single, lyrics are not as good as the music. Song is mixed way better on the album than the questionable YouTube video they put out. Not everyone is good off the tee box at #1, I'll give them a mulligan after the last 14 tumultuous years off.
2 She's The Woman - 1970's demo track redone, classic VH sounds, cool chugging rhythm section, decent solo.
3 You And Your Blues - I'm not a fan of songs singing about other songs, I get the song, the chorus is catchy, but it's just OK. Missing Mike Anthony backing vocals (tear in eye). Classic VH outro is a nice finish.
4 China Town - Wow. Welcome back Mr. Edward Van Halen, the reports of your demise have been greatly exaggerated. Punch in the face right off the bat. Love the song, love it. Could sit comfortably next to songs like Mean Street or Get Up and not blink. Crushing most of current rock songs.
5 Blood And Fire - Look at all the people here tonight! Another 1980's VH sounding track. Funny DLR talking middle section, tip of cap to long time fans. Really great solo, for realz.
6 Bullethead - 1970's demo track redone. Fast, grinding, fun. I'm fine with the redux of these 70's demos, they kick ace in 2012 too.
7 As Is - Al had to have a drum intro song, come on it's a VH album! Ed rips the stuffing out of this song. Wow, he has some electric licks on this. Wolfgang keeps the low end fine on this speed racer. Solo gave me goose bumps, just really classic VH kung fu.
8 Honeybabysweetiedoll - Cool modern intro leads into great rhythm riffs. VH sounds really fresh and 2012 relevant here. One of the best on the album!
9 The Trouble With Never - Sixth straight great track in a row. Band is in the flow now, Ed is giving lessons to rock guitarists. Wolfgang has been practicing, a lot. Maybe I don't hate DLR for what he did to the band anymore...just don't ride an inflatable mic on stage again.
10 Outta Space - 1970's demo track redone. I should be riding in a 1974 Camaro, openly drinking Schlitz pull top cans for this one. I'm still a bit shocked at this point how much I like the album.
11 Stay Frosty - Really going to be a fun live song. Song is the grandson of Ice Cream Man, just a fun rocker, great Eddie solo.
12 Big River - 1970's demo track redone. Cool intro, sounds like it's from Diver Down era, classic DLR-VH stuff. Great groove, fun to sing along and drive to. Another perfect solo fitting the song.
13 Beats Workin' - 1970's demo track redone, sounds like like 1970's VH, in a good way. Should be sitting in a van with a circle back window, interior carpet and a keg. Add cowbell, 'nuff said.
Stand out tracks:
Trouble With Never
I am really surprised at how great this album sounds. All VH drama aside, they have done a phenomenal job here. Ed is alive and well on this recording. I thought he lost his famous brown tone after VH III, but he found his sound. The band is tight, and DLRs chops are fun and surprisingly sing-along-able, I forgot the DLR BS while listening, and just enjoyed the ride. I cannot wait to see some of these live in Pittsburgh. I went into my little review with low expectations, expecting to be very critical. I came out loving the album. Tracks, 4, 6-13 are VH at the top of their game. No real duds on the album, Tattoo should not have been the first single, nor had the awful hand camera video, it's not to shabby here. Definitely worth the purchase, the deluxe version has a 4 song acoustic set, it was worth the couple extra bucks for the fan.
on February 7, 2012
I grew up listening to Van Halen and vividly remember my high school days, hearing Atomic Punk or Eruption blasting from nearly every car in the parking lot. I also remember the thrill of picking up VHII and Fair Warning (and every subsequent album) at the record store on their first day release and finally seeing them in concert during the Fair Warning and Diver Down tours. Fast forward 30+ years later and lo and behold...I'm back in high school again. To say that Van Halen is back would be the understatement of the last decade.
"A Different Kind of Truth" brings back that classic Van Halen sound we've all missed, dreamed and prayed for during the Van Hagar years (and I don't even count that disastrous Gary Cherone experiment known as VHIII). Sure, the "Van Hagar" years produced some pretty solid music, but nothing compares to the one-two combo punch of Diamond Dave and Eddie's powerhouse screaming guitars. With songs like "Outta Space", "She's the Woman" "Stay Frosty" and "Chinatown", Van Halen brings back the carefree, fun-loving, womanizing rocking tunes that you partied to and blasted from your Alpine car stereo from your Dad's Buick. The album overall is absolutely solid, and exceptional with classic tunes throughout. After a period of hard living, wrong choices and bad mistakes, Eddie is playing with that same intense fire as in his youth..you can literally hear that hungry spark in his playing again. Dave seems a bit hesitant due to age, but his vocals still growl and purr like the old days. Alex is solid as ever with that solid, rock hard VH beat. Even though Michael Anthony is badly missed and no longer a part of the mix, Wolfie Van Halen brings it on and is making his own statement in this band. To hear this band come alive from the dead...this is indeed a big surprise.
After a decade of a hard, depressed economic times, growing apathy, civil dissension, social unrest and distrust in government, business and authority, we need something to uplift our spirits in this bleak, dour period. Thankfully, Van Halen has delivered the goods and brought a "Different Truth", just in time. It's time to turn back the clock, forget our problems and crank it to 11 again!
on February 8, 2012
Wow! Eddie got his groove back!
I must say I went into this with very low expectations but I'm pleasantly surprised. These songs sound like they're right out of the first David Lee Roth era of Van Halen. Seemed to me like toward the end of the Hagar era Eddie's playing just seemed a little lost, almost like he was trying too hard. These songs don't sound like that at all.
Dave's vocals were also a concern. Granted he can't quite hit the high notes like the old Dave but he sounded much better than I expected. Gonna enjoy cranking this one up.
on February 17, 2012
Ok, let's face it. We were all prepared to be let down by this album. For the past 5 years the internet has been chock full of tales of David Lee Roth's vocal demise. Youtube videos of a less than stellar Eddie Van Halen have also been found in abundance. The last tour with Hagar was a disaster. The last tour with Roth got inconsistent reviews depending on what shape Eddie was in on any given night. With the announcement of a new Van Halen album in the works I think most of us were hoping for greatness, but thinking that the reality would be far less than that. Well.....guess what......this band has got it's groove back and "A Different Kind Of Truth" is a damn fine heavy rock album. No synthesizers or ballads to be found here. This is an all out rock n roll assault that barley slows down from beginning to end. Roth is in fine voice, Eddie and Alex have never played better. Wolfgang holds down the bottom end just fine. The album does miss Michael Anthony's background vocals which is too bad, but not a showstopper. Yes, some of these tracks are resurrected old outtakes from years gone by that have been dusted up and re-wired, but to my ears this does not really matter. The first time I heard the single "Tattoo" I was less than impressed, but damn if the song will not leave my head after a couple of listens. Other highlights include "She's The Woman", "You And Your Blues", the rocking "Bullethead", and the sequel to "Ice Cream Man" called "Stay Frosty". I only have two problems with the album. My first is an old gripe that I have had with Van Halen for years. Considering they have one of the best guitarists on the planet, they never branch out much musically. Most of the songs are in the 3 to 4 minute range and I wish they would stretch out and jam a bit more than they do. Oh well, they have never really done this, so I guess to expect it at this stage of the game would be too much to ask for. My other problem with the album is the recording. As others have mentioned this is yet another modern album that is compressed to death so the drums and bass sound like they are buried in mud. I realize this is for the ear bud generation, but it sure takes away from the enjoyment when played on a good stereo system or even a good car stereo system. Other than that though, this album is solid and a very nice comeback from the VanHalen crew. Solid four stars from me.
on March 26, 2012
I don't know if you can wear out an mp3 file but I'm sure as hell gonna try!
For the past week, I've been enjoying this rarest of rare things in the music industry... a reunion album that is actually as good or better than much of the bands previous catalog. Eddie appears to be fully recovered from the various, highly publicized trials of the past decade. His playing is razor sharp on every track of this album and DLR's vocals, while slightly diminished in the higher ranges, are still a welcome sound to some of us old school VH fans.
In this age of bands that do nothing more than sit a computer and manufacutre synthesized noise, and wanna be reality show rock imitators, this release stands out as a "THIS IS HOW IT'S DONE" example.
WELCOME BACK VAN HALEN!, You've been missed...
on March 25, 2012
14 years have passed since Van Halen released a full length studio album. That last album, 1998's Van Halen III, didn't go over well with the fans or the critics. It was also the band's first and only album with singer Gary Cherone. In those 14 years, Van Halen have been active and inactive. In 2007, the band reunited with original singer David Lee Roth for a reunion tour. However, long-time bassist Michael Anthony had been fired and replaced by Eddie Van Halen's son, Wolfgang. Rumors of a new studio album have been flying back and forth since then. Finally after 14 years, Van Halen has released their twelfth studio album. The album, A Different Kind of Truth, is also the band's first album with Roth since 1984's 1984. While this is a new Van Halen album, a majority of these songs were written back in the 1970's when the band first started out. Some may see it as a lack of originality but I see it as an attempt at going back to the old Van Halen sound, which they have certainly done. Despite the firing of Anthony and several other things, it's safe to say that Van Halen are back!
The album opens with the lead single, "Tattoo", which already sounds like a blast from the past. Roth's voice is in pretty good shape, the song is catchy, and Eddie's guitar playing is just superb. While "Tattoo" is a great song, it (along with many of the other songs) lacks the wonderful backing vocals of former bassist Michael Anthony. Anthony could certainly hit the high notes and with Roth's lead vocals, the voices blended so perfectly. Anthony's backing vocals were also a vital point to Van Halen's sound that made them famous. The lyrics are also a bit weak but still, "Tattoo" is great. "She's The Woman" is also another strong track. It sounds very much like a song that could have been on the debut album. Another thing I'm impressed by is Wolfie's bass playing. Many fans, including me, have been giving Wolfie a hard time since he replaced Michael Anthony. On this song (as well as the entire album), Wolfie proves himself worthy as a member of Van Halen. "You And Your Blues" is a little bit slower than the other tracks but is a good example of Van Halen's mash up of clean cut sound with heavier sounds. Roth does really great job on the vocals and the harmonies are actually really great. The band gets to show off their hard rock sound with full blown rockers like the fast pace "China Town" and energetic rush of "Bullethead". The latter's lyrics is where the album get its title. The album is full of rockers but there's also the anthem-driven "Blood and Fire", the fittingly "big" sounding "Big River" and "Stay Frosty" could quite possibly be the offspring of "Ice Cream Man" from the debut album.
If you are a fan of the original Van Halen, you should check out A Different Kind of Truth. It is a bit over polished but it is very much in the vein of the material off the first six albums Van Halen made with Roth. Van Halen should be very proud of themselves: they made a very good album. It's official: Van Halen have returned!
on February 12, 2012
In the song "Blood and Fire" Dave states: "I told you I was coming back. Say you missed me. Say it like you mean it..." Yes, Dave. We DID miss you! WELCOME BACK!!!
I'll tell you now right now, I suck at reviewing things because I'm not good at going into detailed descriptions like others do. All I can do is tell you my opinion on whether the album is worth buying or not. The answer: YES!
Now I must admit, I wanted to rate this album around 4 to 4.5, but figured I'd upgrade it to 5, because it exceeded my expectations. I must admit, I was quite nervous about this album. I just didn't expect too much from it. Not only had it been 14 years since VH did an actual album, but it's been 28 years since they've recorded one with David Lee Roth on vocals. I know the band has had their share of problems, and was afraid this might be one of those "we just cranked out an album for desperation's sake". Luckily, I was very pleasantly surprised! So for that reason, I found it worthy to give it a little "bonus boost" as far as my rating.
You can tell from the lyrics that they're primarily done by Roth. VERY DLR sounding, in that they're semi-silly, yet are sort of "smart" in a sense too. This album picks up around where "Women and Children First" and "Fair Warning" left off. In this album, we find the band (wisely) returning to their old-school hard rockin' sound. No keyboards this time around, just vocals, guitar, bass and drums. (And for the first album ever, we sadly have to say goodbye to original bassist, Michael Anthony. Taking over the helm is Eddie's son Wolfgang, who does a fine job. How cool would it be to be 20 years old and be in a hard rock band with your father and uncle? Then there's crazy Uncle Dave, but that's another story...)
Anyhow, favorite and least favorite tracks (no particular order)-
Blood and Fire - This one is most reminiscent of "Women and Children First" stuff. One of those "Guys Night Out" songs. (Though they ALL kinda are...) For reasons I can't quite explain, this is the song that gets stuck in my head the most.
You and Your Blues - NOT a blues song like you'd think. Another typical Dave-era type VH song that sounds like it belongs on any of the pre-Diver Down albums.
She's the Woman - This one is a re-working of an older, unused tune from VH's early days. About half of the songs on this album are that way, which helps with the "old-school sound". They're songs and/or music that were written for the early albums, but never used for various reasons. The band went through and re-wrote some of the lyrics/music, etc. and tweaked up the old demos to album worthy songs.
China Town - Can't really explain why, but just nothing here that interested me. Lyrics weren't too memorable, and the music wasn't really much to talk about either.
Honeybabysweetiedoll - Music isn't all that bad on this one, but the lyrics are kinda "ehh". Again, not really a song that's going to stick in your mind.
Bullethead - This song is a bit annoying the first few times, but it does somewhat grow on you. It'll never be on my "top half of the album" list though. Lyrics aren't horrible, but the music is the one that kinda ruined this song. There's just really nothing worth bragging about with this one. Going along with the train theme of the album photos, this song is "The little engine that just quite couldn't". It had potential, but just quite didn't make it over that hill...
So that's it. There isn't a BAD track on this album (nothing that'd in intentionally hit the "skip" button on), but there are, as expected, ones that are better than others. I hope that VH has new-found success with this album/lineup. It's about freakin' time that VH put out something worthwhile! (Sadly, I didn't care for anything they've done since "F.U.*.K". I recall reading somewhere that Sammy Hagar claimed he heard this album and found nothing impressive about it. He must have listened to the wrong album. I'm a Sammy Hagar fan as well, (both VH stuff and his solo work) and I must admit I've liked this album a lot better than Sammy's last 3 solo studio albums. His last album I can say I was really pleased with was "Ten 13".
Anyhow, sorry my review is lame. Like I said, I'm no pro reviewer, about all I can do is tell you whether I, as a fan, liked it or not. And, yes, I DID.
So, once again, Dave: YES! WE MISSED YOU! WELCOME BACK, VAN HALEN!!!