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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a comprehensive overview, but a good sampler., August 14, 2004
This review is from: Best of Van Halen, Vol. 1 (Audio CD)
There are many debates in rock history, especially concerning eras (i.e. old vs new Aerosmith; Peter Gabriel vs Phil Collins in Genesis). One of the big ones seems to be which Van Halen fans prefer Sammy Hagar or David Lee Roth. I happen to like both. Though they have slightly different styles, they're both great mainstream arena/hard rockers. If you like one, I don't see what's not to like about the other.

Shortly after the short-lived 1996 reunion between David Lee Roth and his old band, this collection was released, possibly as an attempt to appease both era's VH fans. In one respect, it works (providing a short overview of the band for beginning/casual fans), and in others, it doesn't (these guys are too great to sum up in 14 previously released songs).

1978's VAN HALEN, arguably one of the best hard rock debut albums in history, includes 2 1/2 songs -- the darker, yet melodic and heavy "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love," the bass-heavy hard rocker "Runnin' With the Devil," and Eddie's guitar solo "Eruption," the instrumental 'half' song.

The next three albums only get one song. 1979's VH2 includes the pop-tinged mid tempo rocker "Dance the Night Away," which was a sign of their bigger Top 40 hits to come. 1980's WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST gets the live sounding and bluesy hard rocker "And the Cradle Will Rock." 1981's darker FAIR WARNING gets the also loud rock hit "Unchained."

1982's DIVER DOWN, though not that great and highly filled with covers, gets 0 songs! That's hardly justafyable, especially since "Oh! Pretty Woman" comes off here.

1984's same titled album was DLR's swan song, fully exploding them into the mainstream with the fully synthesized #1 pop/hard rock hit "Jump," and the more typical live sounding mainstream rocker "Panama" included.

1986's 5150 is the first album with Sammy Hagar on board. As such, their sound changed a bit, leaning even more into the mainstream -- represented here by the synth laden semi ballad hard rocking huge hit "Why Can't This Be Love," and the beautiful, epic mid tempo power ballad "Dreams," surely one of their best Sammy songs and the perfect mix of ballad and rocker.

1988's OU812 also only gets one song, the softer and arguably sappier power ballad "When It's Love."

1991's FOR UNLAWFUL CARNAL KNOWLEDGE began to rock a little harder and gained them even more exposure due to the silly 70's sounding pop/metal of "Poundcake," and the piano tinged, socially concious rocking pop ballad "Right Now" - which is the first VH song I knew, which got me into the band in the first place, back in the early 90's upon seeing the video.

1995's BALANCE was another attempt to branch out, writing longer and darker 'epic' songs to somewhat fit the alternative style of the time. This actually works better than you'd think, highlighted by the catchy power ballad-ish pop/rocker "Can't Stop Loving You," which is more subtle than some of their earlier songs of this style.

This also has the Twister soundtrack's "Human's Being," which takes awhile to get going, but once it does, it's a somewhat unique mid tempo pop/rocker sounding halfway inbetween CARNAL KNOWLEDGE and BALANCE's styles, even including a guitar solo. Sammy's singing is a bit strange at times, as if he's trying to rap in the verses.

The two NEW songs with DLR are nothing to get excited about, though they're not bad by any means. "Can't Get This Stuff No More" is a typical Dave party tune about women set in a circa 1980 style live hard rock guitar sound with some backgroudn piano, but never really gets going. "Me Wise Magic" is a mid tempo rocker which is slightly better, and also sounds like a cross between, say VH2 and WOMEN & CHILDREN.

The missing songs are obviously plenty. From the DLR era -- You Really Got Me, Jamie's Cryin', Feel Your Love Tonight, Beautiful Girls, Mean Street, Dancing in the Streets, Oh Pretty Woman, Little Guitars, Hot For Teacher, I'll Wait.

From the Sammy era -- Summer Nights, Best of Both Worlds, Love Walks In, Finish What You Started, Feels So Good, Top Of the World, Don't Tell Me What Love Can Do, Amsterdam.

It seems whoever assembled this collection wasn't too fond of Dave's cover songs. It just occured to me, not one of them is on here. I also think the Sammy era was misrepresented a bit. I like ballads myself, so I'll never deny he had some great ballads and pop based semi ballads, but I think this collection focused a little too heavily on that side of his work with the band.

To compare this with the recent release of their new 2-disc "Best of Both Worlds" collection:

That one includes MOST (not all) of the band's hits, as well as three new 2004 Sammy tunes to draw in the harcore fans (much like this did with DLR's two new songs). That also includes everything here EXCEPT "Human's Being" and Roth's '96 songs, which could still be a reason to hang onto this.

One thing that bugs me about BOBW is that the songs are all randomly mixed together, instead of chronological like here. Normally, I don't care, but when you have two different singers, that kinda throws the flow out of whack to an extent. However, the good thing is that it's 2 discs, and seems to focus evenly on the Dave & Sammy eras, as well as the rockers and ballads.

Now, if only the two compilation's ideas were mixed together, it'd really be the "Best of Both Worlds!"
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