on May 9, 2007
VAN HALEN III is easily Van Halen's most critically reviled, hated album. The fans were shocked and dismayed, and ultimately this album lost Van Halen's record contract with Warner. And why?
First off, the album is not as bad as everything says. It's certainly not a great Van Halen record, but if Gary Cherone's band had released it, people would be wondering who the hell that guitarist was. In many ways, VAN HALEN III has a lot of similarities to Pink Floyd's FINAL CUT.
The biggest problem with III is tone. With BALANCE, and a handful of tracks from BALANCE's predecessor, FOR UNLAWFUL CARNAL KNOWLEDGE, Eddie was trying to move Van Halen away from the party-hearty image that so long defined them, and was trying to reinvent the band as a socially conscious, more mature band. BALANCE found Van Halen balancing two major defitinions of their band, the partying, feel-good rock and rollers ("Amsterdam", "Big Fat Money,") with the more politically aware, socially concerned world citizens. (a la U2's Bono) The problem with that is Sammy Hagar was in the band. While I've always liked Sammy, he's always been about partying and getting into girls' pants (but then, so was David Lee Roth and the rest of the band).
Exit Hagar, enter Cherone. While Hagar wrote and sang from the heart and gut, and just wanted to hang out on a beach somewhere with a hot chick, Cherone instead wrote much more from a head perspective, preoccupied with intellectual concerns. Cherone has some songs about women, but the songs on III are primarily concerned with political and social matters.
Some of these political, social songs fall flat. "Ballot or the Bullet" is dull, sounding more like a history lesson of the United States than a rock and roll song ever should, and the guitar instrumental "Primary", no doubt referring to U.S. primary elections, is both boring and an unnecessary introduction to "Ballot." "How Many Say I", the first song in Van Halen's career (and so I pray the last) to feature Eddie on lead vocals, sounds like Eddie writing a bad early 1960s protest song with a rock arrangement backing it. As for the voice, there's a reason why he's the guitarist, not the lead singer.
Other songs I like, but again are simply too much of a departure for the majority of Van Halen's fan base to go along with. "Joesephina"*, one of my favorites, will be too trite and precious for most fans, though musically it among the most interesting. "Fire in the Hole," used on the Lethal Weapon 4 soundtrack, never caught hold with myself. "A Year to the Day," while certainly epic in a cinematic, Led Zeppelin way, is clearly derivative. "Once", the other epic on the album, and admittedly a fantastic song (primarily because it was ripped off from superior songs), sounds like a rewrite of some progressive rock. Still, the songs have some undeniable power, and is certainly catchy. "One I Love" has that weird Cherone lyrical direction all over it, sound like a love-song from psychology major who has stalker tendencies and is more interested in the idea of love than the experience of love. Very much written from the head, not the heart, though still a fun song. "Dirty Water Dog" again focuses on social matters. "From Afar" is the only traditional woman song on the album, all about stalking an unrequited love. I used to relate to it in my younger days. "Neworld," the title surely being a reference to the rebirth Eddie envisioned the record to be for the band, is a pleasant, but unsubstantial, instrumental. "Without you", which kicks starts the album, is the most intrusementally instersting, lyrically original song on the entire disc, and where the whole band just SYNCS. It set a record for going to number one the fastest on the billboard charts.
Instrumentally, while Eddie certainly turns in some great guitar work, the rhythym section sounds run of the mill and rather dull, and Eddie works within his established guitar techniques, never once sounding vital and free, but instead rather formulaic with a been-there, done that feel, with clinically precise, technically skillful guitar solos.
When Hagar joined the band, he brought a much different vocal style than DLR. Instead of Cherone bringing a new vocal style and sound, he sounds, rather uncannily, like Sammy Hagar, only after a botched throat surgery and who screams all the time. Some of the vocals get grating, to say the least.
VAN HALEN III is simply a hard record to classify. While certainly not a great Van Halen album, par say, neither is it a bad album. Ultimately, the record sounds like a band trying to reinvent themselves at a point in their career where the major audiences won't care about the reinvention, nor welcome it, and nor will the reinvention win them new fans. But that sounds like I'm giving a bad statement about the music itself, which is actually quite good in parts (the only real dud is "How Many Say I" due how self-concsious it feels and "Ballot or the Bullet", which does not work on any level). The record shows definite promise, and perhaps had the band had time to develop this direction more the Cherone version of the band would have made it.
Ultimately, VAN HALEN III is Van Halen's own FINAL CUT. When Roger Waters issued Pink Floyd's final album with him still in the band, it was a sonically dense record that did not quite sound like anything else in rock music, save Roger Waters' own solo records that were released subsequently. Just like the 1987 MOMENTARY LAPSE OF REASON is essentially a Gilmour solo project under the Pink Floyd moniker, so FINAL CUT is a Roger Waters solo album in all but name. FINAL CUT is where Roger Waters took over the band and remade it under his own artistic vision and image.
VAN HALEN III, while musically nothing like FINAL CUT, has remarkable similarities. III is where Eddie became Edward and he took over the band, and just like Waters (though due to entirely different circumstances), the band folded underneath him. While Floyd fans like FINAL CUT, not very many VH fans like III. Still, this is very much an Eddie Van Halen record, with his personality ultimately dominating the album.
Ironically enough, though III was flouted as being a musical rebirth though ultimately fell through, FINAL CUT and VAN HALEN III are worth listening too, as both are diverse and sound like nothing else in rock music.
But it's probably better not to be a Van Halen fan to really appreciate this album.
*III's release date was delayed three weeks when the band replaced "That's Why I Love You" in the track listing with "Joesephina". "That's Why I Love You", still unreleased, leaked before the album hit the stores, and is still widely available over the internet. A fine song, it should have been included as well.
Former Extreme frontman Gary Cherone only lasted one record with Van Halen, but he acquitted himself admirably on vocals and lyrics. The Sammy bit was growing old, and VH was in danger of becoming a Pop band with Sammy-led hits like "I Can't Stop Lovin' You". Cherone writes interesting lyrics that don't always involve thoughts originating below the waist. And the songs "Dirty Water Dog", "Fire In The Hole", and "Without You" from "VH3" are as good as any rock songs VH ever recorded. But I hate to tell you, Eddie Van Halen, but "How Many Say I" was a misstep. "VH3" is uneven, but the stuff that works works really well. Perhaps starting with a new lead singer was a bad time to get a little experimental with the tunes, eh? Cherone proved with Extreme that he is a superbly talented vocalist, lyricist, and songwriter. Too bad he didn't get the chance to grow with Van Halen. Eddie said in early interviews with Cherone that this incarnation of Van Halen would be the LAST incarnation. So now what are you guys gonna do? ** I've seen Van Halen in concert 9 times and with all the lead singers. The shows with Cherone were the best! The band played from their entire catalog, and proved that the Dave-era tunes were the best ones to play live. Cherone did a great job with them. Van Halen, had they cut a more "traditional" Van Halen album with Cherone, might have had many years of continued success ahead of them. But this is turning into a soap opera. It's getting a little embarrassing to watch. Just how long do they think they can play musical chairs with lead singers and still be respected by their fan base? Even if the music is good, it will always be overshadowed by the soap opera. Always. Is VH3 good? Parts of it are GREAT. The rest should have been "re-thought" before releasing.
on November 15, 2005
On St. Patrick's Day 1998, Van Halen released their eleventh studio album, their first (and only) album to feature lead singer Gary Cherone. The aptly titled "Van Halen 3" received some positive reviews (Entertainment Weekly, Guitar World) and debuted at number 4 on the charts. At first it looked like Van Halen's third incarnation might fly. An enthusiastic audience at the world premiere, and a huge turnout to meet the band at Times square were positive signs. But alas, Van Halen's third incarnation was not meant to be. The album was a huge bomb, selling only 500,000 copies in the US, one quarter the sales of its predecessor "Balance" (1995). The tour too was a relative failure. Van Halen's third incarnation turned out to be very short-lived. The following year, while well at work on their follow-up, Gary Cherone and the rest of Van Halen parted ways. The whole Gary Cherone-era of Van Halen was seen as a failure. "3" is regarded by many as not only Van Halen's worst album, but as the worst album of all-time.
So why didn't fans take to the third lineup of Van Halen, especially when you consider that they had adjusted to a change in singers before? Why did the rock-community so reject "Van Halen 3"? The answer lies in anger/protest, and expectations.
Many fans didn't buy or open their minds to "Van Halen 3" out of protest and anger towards the band. In 1996, after eleven years of fronting the band, Sammy Hagar, Van Halen's second lead singer, left the band, and not amicably. Eddie Van Halen maintains that Hagar quit and that his "work ethic sucked." Hagar maintains that he was informed, by phone, that original lead singer David Lee Roth was returning and that his services were no longer required.
The return of Roth to Van Halen created a media sensation. MTV started airing "welcome back Dave" commercials and fans were elated at the prospect of reunion tour/album. While the band maintained that they were looking for a new singer, fans were hoping Dave would return for good. In the late summer, David Lee Roth joined Van Halen on stage, for the first in eleven years, to present an award. The crowd went nuts, giving the band a standing ovation. While Eddie Van Halen and Dave hugged on stage, all was not well. That night Eddie and Dave almost came to blows when Dave told Eddie to stop talking about his hip. In addition, Eddie was mad at Dave for hamming the spotlight when Beck was accepting his award. While Van Halen's brief reunion at the award show received overwhelming rave reviews, any hope of a reunion was shot. The next month David Lee Roth put out a press release which stated that while at the MTV awards, Van Halen already had another singer waiting in the wings and that he was an "unwitting participant" in a scam to give a false impression that the band would be reuniting. The other singer was of course, Gary Cherone of Extreme.
The fruits of the Roth/Halen reunion bore two new songs "Me Wise Magic" and "Can't get this Stuff No More." While the songs are excellent, the bitter second breakup cast a shadow and fans didn't enjoy the new songs as much as they could have.
For the next year and a half, Van Halen, Roth, and Hagar beat each other up it in the press. Mudsling and accusations went back and forth. Van Halen's once enormous fan base was divided between the VH loyalists, the "Dave camp" and the "Sammy camp." When "Van Halen 3" was finally released, many fans, out of loyalty to either Roth or Hagar, simply refused to buy the album on general principal. Not only were fans angry at Van Halen for discarding their favored frontman, but Gary Cherone was viewed as a poor replacement. While Cherone is multi-talented, most knew Cherone only from Extreme's 1990 smash acoustic hit "More than Words." In the eyes of many fans, Cherone was viewed as a candy-ass, not worthy to fill the shoes of the Diamond One or the Red Rocker.
The other reason "Van Halen 3" bombed was it didn't meet fans expectations. The album was just too far out there for fans to accept. Even fans willing to give Gary Cherone a try just couldn't dig the band's experimentations. "Van Halen 3," with Pink Floyd-esque epics, multi-layered solos, and political/cultural commentaries, was not what Van Halen fans wanted to hear.
While the artistic merit of the album is subjective, the album does have some flaws. The production is fair. "Van Halen 3" sounds more like a demo, or a rough-draft, than an actual finished product. Another problem was the lack of Michael Anthony's signature harmonies. Also, Cherone at times sounds out-of-range. He sounds as though he's screaming his lungs out. Many have commented that he sounds like a "poor-man's Sammy Hagar." Since Van Halen had so much to prove with their album, regardless of its merits, its faults were the final nail in the coffin. In hindsight, it was a mistake for Eddie to produce the album with TV producer Mike Post.
All of this is a shame because, despite its faults, "Van Halen 3" is a good album. It was refreshing for Van Halen to branch out and experiment. And Eddie Van Halen had never sounded better, churning out some of his best solos in years.
The album opens with the somber, serene "New World." This elegant piano/guitar instrumental leads perfectly into "Without You," the hard-rocking, funk-laden first single, which sounds a lot like Extreme. The infectious "One I Want," sounds like reggae peppered "Panama." The off-center, theatrical "From Afar" is probably the strongest song on the album. An ode to a stocker, it boasts eerie vocals, layered guitars, and Alex Van Halen's bohemian like percussion. The crisp "Dirty Water Dog" is both melodic and lush. The song is under-produced and somewhat awkward, giving it a certain charm. "Once" pays tribute to Peter Gabriel and Pink Floyd. This spacey, multi-layered, atmospheric song is probably the most creative composition Van Halen ever penned. While some may call it "pretentious," they probably only do so because it's Van Halen they're hearing. If the same song had been released on a Peter Gabriel album, it would have been hailed brilliant. "Fire in the Hole" is a good-but-no-great, straight-forward "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge" era-type rocker. The beautiful "Josephina" follows next. This song also sounds somewhat awkward, under-produced, and left-of center, but that only adds to its sincerity and the song is a triumph. The downdraught "A Year to the Day" sounds akin to some of the bluesier songs by early Led Zeppelin, and is another winner. "Primary" sees Eddie Van Halen soloing on a sitar, which is an interesting change of pace. "Ballot or the Bullet" is probably the weakest song on the album. It has a good Zeppelin-like riff and rocks hard, but its political-laden chorus sounds forced and out of place. Also, Cherone sounds horse and out of range. The closing "How Many Say I" which sees Eddie Van Halen taking the mic for the first time. This song isn't as bad as its reputation. It's a little corny, but heartfelt. Still, unreleased pop-savvy "That's why I Love you" would have made for a better choice to end the album.
Despite its reputation, I have always stood by "Van Halen 3." Yes, it has its faults, but I still find it to be an intriguing and satisfying listen. It's really a misunderstood and underrated album. If Van Halen had taken a little more time on polishing the album, and if they had worked with a better producer, the album may have had a chance. As it is, it has been vitally forgotten. "Van Halen 3" and Gary Cherone aren't even acknowledged in the credits in Van Halen's career-spanning anthology "The Best of Both Worlds" (2004). It's as though the Cherone-era has been erased. Funny, considering how Eddie Van Halen once said "Gary is my musical soulmate."
While "Van Halen 3" will in all likelihood always be hated and ultimately be just a footnote in the legacy of the mighty Van Halen, it still has many fine qualities and deserves a second chance. It's a shame Van Halen and Cherone didn't give it another try and release a follow-up.
on March 8, 2011
I have been so put off from buying Van Halen III for the past 13 years because of so many bad reviews, and bad word of mouth when it came out; and then seeing so many reviews on sites like Amazon over the years. To be honest, I expected it to suck! Well, I finally got a copy, and even found myself regretting ordering it, but when it arrived and I put it in, I am very happily surprised. I am blown away!
First of all, let me state from the outset that I have been a fan of Van Halen ever since they came out in 1978, with Eddie's blistering guitar attacks, David Lee Roth's screaming Jim Dandy impressionistic bombastic showmanship as a vocalist, Michael Anthony's thunderous bass, and Alex Van Halen's pounding drumming. But, I felt that they started losing some of that magic around 1983 or so, with the release of "1984", and never did quite recover.
Don't get me wrong, I still bought and enjoyed everything they recorded and released, but I always felt like there were some "special ingredients" missing. Sure, I enjoyed the Van Hagar years as much as the next person, but everybody knows that the best days of VH were now behind them, held within their first three or four albums. And upon finally hearing them with Cherone, I am a bit pissed off that so many d*mn Van Hagar fans trashed this album, thus causing WB Records to drop VH from their label, thus causing VH to drop Cherone as a singer, all because their damn fans didn't "get" the new sound!
Well, let me tell you, I am so elated to hear that magic back in the VH sound! Yes, Sammy Hagar was a great singer, and a great addition to VH, but I always felt they were too AOR/commercial for my taste. Well, you get none of that with Van Halen III! Honestly, in my opinion, this is possibly the best album from VH since the salad days of "Women And Children First" and "Fair Warning", with a dash of "Diver Down" thrown in for good measure. No, sorry, this isn't no "1984"/"Jump" bulls**t, nor is it the AOR stuff like "5150" or "0U812". Every track bristles and rocks, carrying you from track to track like riding a carousel out of control. What is even greater is that there is actually finely "feeling" in the songs, again something that has been missing from this band since around 1980 or 1982.
New vocalist Gary Cherone sings and growls with heavy traces of blues in his voice, and at the same time very reminiscent of Roth, with little hints of Hagar as well, yet very fresh and original. A very welcome addition to VH in my opinion. Just too bad this was only for this one album! I won't bore you with a track by track analysis, I will just tell you that every song on this is great. Do not pay attention to all of the negative reviews (yes, I know music is such a personal taste, and everybody has their own personal favorites), just grab yourself a copy of this now and enjoy the hell out of it like it is meant to be enjoyed! Oh, and one more thing: Crank it UP!!
Thank you! :>)
on May 10, 2013
you can buy this CD used for 1 cent on amazon right now. if you're a young kid learning guitar and you heard of this Eddie Van Halen guy, you probably checked out his best of catalogue and thought "well, the guy can shred, but his guitar works is pretty cliched now." And you think that because you haven't heard this album. This is probably Eddie the guitarist at his creative peak. He did 2 songs with David Lee Roth on a Best of 2 years before CD came out. It was a preview of the guitar work to come in this album.
The riffs on this CD are so brilliant it's not even funny. The solo's are soul felt instead of 80's shred fests. This CD was panned because everyone wanted Van Halen to rehash their 80's formula. Instead, he slows the tempo down. He chooses a strat like bright, dry guitar sound. The songs meander a bit in form and structure. But it's all brilliant and smart. If you're looking for stellar song writing and guitar work. This is an awesome album.
If you're looking for a rehash of van halen, buy their most recent album, which is a sad release of catering to fans. I really wish Van Halen stuck to his guns and made music he was interested in making. Gary and Eddie had a whole 2nd album recorded and warner bro$ didn't release it because it didnt have "a commercial single". Afterwards, Eddie had all sorts of problems with alcohol abuse and health issues. The sad reality is we might not ever see equal creativity from the man Eddie again.
on November 9, 2005
It's amazing how the typical VH fan can't get this album, and how frustrating has to be for Eddie VH record, maybe his best guitar work, and then see that if they don't write 4 minutes party songs, simply the people get hummm?. The point is this, I'm not saying is their best album, but is their better worked and crafted, I imagine the people that give bad reviews to VHIII, hearing a song passing minute four and then asking, what's happening???, my brain can't understand, this isn't suppose to happen!!. No wonder why VH is dead, stupid fans maybe have had something to do with that, shame on them. VHIII is a great album.
on September 17, 2006
People were too hard on this album and it is really kind of a shame. I have been a fan of every Van Halen period and I wish that this period had continued. The only two problems with this album are: 1) Gary Cherone should not have attempted to sing in Sammy Hagar's range as Mr. Cherone is a great vocalist; 2) The recording lacks the audio clarity of other Van Halen recordings. This is definitely not a bad album.
Too often fans of bands expect for that band to always remain the same. Then a band like Van Halen releases an experimental album and their traditional fans start making accusations and give the album bad reviews without listening to it for what it is. I do not mind hearing Van Halen play keyboard driven music, yes they are more renowned for their driving rock music but they have released some classic keyboard tunes as well. I also do not mind hearing them play with more of a mellow sound because they are a great band and they still play with the same level of mastery.
I feel that if people had not been so hard on this album we would have heard more output out of them in the last ten years.
If you expect Van Halen 1 or 5150 to be revisited then do not think of buying this album. If you want to hear Van Halen sound like a new (but very talented) band, then you might actually like this one. However, please do not listen to it without giving it a chance and then go online and slam the album because quite frankly that is pretty rude.
on April 30, 2012
OK, so I have had all the VH DLR records since they came out. I bailed on "Van Hagar" after OU812. Years pass. The brand new one comes out. So I rebuy all of Sammy's stuff along with VH3. Gotta tell ya, I like VH3 almost as much as the new one, and more than all the Sammy records. Why? Because it's "different". I wonder if some of the reviewers who trashed this one years ago would change their mind after listening to it today. Yeah, it's not Sammy, and it's not DLR, but it's still a good album nonetheless IMO.
on March 18, 2014
This is your brain. This is Van Halen. This is Van Halen with brains. Personally, I found this album to be a welcome departure from the cliched and stereotypical VH albums which perpetuated the idea that life is nothing but partying and objectifying women. VH3 is a creative album both lyrically and musically!
on October 11, 1999
Van Halen 3 is a great CD. Yes, it is different than the other Van Halen albums. It has deeper lyrics that actually MEAN SOMETHING. The David Lee Roth days were all fun and freewheeling, Sammy Hagar wrote some meaningful songs, and now with Gary Cherone, Van Halen isn't just a "party band". If you want that, you should look elsewhere, although a few songs on this CD are typical Van Halen. But, if you want to hear words that are actually worthy of Eddie Van Halen's music, then this is the CD to buy. I only hope they continue in this direction. Oh, and as far as Eddie Van Halen's playing, he's making the best music of his life. Listen to "How Many Say I?" and be the judge. Anyone who puts that song or this CD down is just living in the past. Van Halen has moved on, their best music may lie ahead...