Welcome to a new weekly post that I will call Metal Mondays, where I will rank the albums of a certain artist in the metal and hard rock genre from worst to best. As I am a list and ranking person, I am unable to have a simple discussion on what a band’s good albums are, as well as their not-so-good ones. I must rank them in some sort of order, or I will not be able to participate! This also makes for a fun debate, don’t you think?
NOTE: I will rank full length STUDIO ALBUMS only. There will be no live records, greatest hits, or EP’s here.
This week, we take a look at a band from Southern California that is often credited with saving the fledgling rock and roll scene of the late 1970s. Of course, we’re talking about Van Halen.
Any synopsis of this band would have to begin with the guitar wizardry of Eddie Van Halen, who gave rock music its first electric guitar virtuoso since Jimi Hendrix. Brother Alex, himself extremely underrated, created numerous drum parts that were copied and covered by skinsmen from coast to coast. And we couldn’t forget the flamboyant and bombastic original vocalist, David Lee Roth, who was without a doubt, one of the best frontmen of all time.
Perhaps one of the most impressive traits of Van Halen is that they didn’t record an album that was a complete flop, at least quality music-wise. As you will see, even the lower ranking records have their share of fine moments, something that cannot be said of just about all the acts I have covered in this column.
Poor Gary Cherone. Already a successful and talented vocalist from the popular band, Extreme, he had the daunting task of replacing Sammy Hagar and David Lee Roth in Van Halen. He hadn’t stood a chance. Nor did this album.
For all the strikes against this record from the start, and despite musical experimentations that would be considered unforgivable among Van Halen diehards, there is some impressive stuff here. Without You, From Afar, Dirty Water Dog, Josephina, and Year to the Day are all worthy of your time. But, alas, there must be a worst album in every band’s catalogue, and this would be it. Poor Gary Cherone.
Best Song: From Afar
Best Deep Cut: From Afar
Originally scheduled to record an EP, the band ultimately were pressured into a full long play, the result being a rushed and disorganized effort. Cover songs were aplenty here, although Where Have All the Good Times Gone and (Oh) Pretty Woman were done nicely. Little Guitars is the strongest original tune on the record.
Best Song: Where Have All the Good Times Gone
Best Deep Cut: Where Have All the Good Times Gone
The final Sammy Hagar album. This one gets a bad rap and does have its share of filler. However, the highlights are still plentiful and strong. Radio hits, Can’t Stop Loving You, and Don’t Tell Me (What Love Can Do) are catchy enough, but it’s the deeper cuts that make the record go. Listen to Big Fat Money, Not Enough, Aftershock, and the brilliant, Feelin’.
Best Song: Feelin’
Best Deep Cut: Feelin’
You never thought it would happen, did you? And when it did, you had no idea it would be this good, did you? I’m talking about a new Van Halen record with David Lee Roth. Containing riffs and lyrics left over from the 1970s and 80s, the album is as solid a release as could be expected from a band this late in its career.
There is plenty to choose from on this album, including, Tattoo, She’s the Woman, You and Your Blues, Blood and Fire, As Is, The Trouble with Never, Outta Space, Beats Workin’, and the bluesy, Stay Frosty. A triumphant return for the band’s original lineup. Sadly, it would be the last.
Best Song: The Trouble with Never
Best Deep Cut: The Trouble with Never
A strong album that features big singles When It’s Love and Finish What Ya Started. However, again, the deep cuts mold the record. Listen to Mine All Mine, AFU (Naturally Wired), Cabo Wabo, and Sucker in a 3 Piece.
Best Song: Finish What Ya Started
Best Deep Cut: Cabo Wabo
A commercial smash, F.U.C.K. (Get it?) spawned four hit singles, including, Poundcake, Runaround, Top of the World, and the piano driven anthem, Right Now. Van Hagar was at their absolute peak. Nobody on the outside was wiser to the internal strife that has infiltrated the band.
Best Song: Right Now
Best Deep Cut: Judgement Day
The first Van Halen album with Sammy Hagar was received with trepidation, but fears proved unnecessary with one listen through 5150. The record contained four big hits in, Why Can’t This Be Love, Dreams, Best of Both Worlds, and Love Walks In. Meanwhile, Good Enough and Summer Nights serve as solid deep tracks. It was a lighter, poppier, and more radio friendly Van Halen, but it was much better than no Van Halen at all.
As we reach the Top 5, one thing is certain. Other than the top two spots, positions 3-5 could be determined using a coin flip. Today, I give the fifth spot to band’s sophomore effort. Dance the Night Away and Beautiful Girls are the radio hits, while Somebody Get Me a Doctor, Outta Love Again, Light Up the Sky, and D.O.A. are more than worthy of your attention.
Best Song: Dance the Night Away
Best Deep Cut: D.O.A.
Another tough choice as far as specific ranking. This album has just one big hit in Unchained, but it may be the best Van Halen song in the entire catalogue. Mean Street, Dirty Movies, Hear About It Later, and So This Is Love are strong deeper tracks.
Best Song: Unchained
Best Deep Cut: Hear About It Later
Van Halen’s third record kicks off with the hits, And the Cradle Will Rock and Everybody Wants Some. However, the amazing Romeo Delight, Loss of Control, the bluesy Take Your Whiskey Home, and the Americana sounding Could This Be Magic round out a very diverse and outstanding album.
Best Song: Romeo Delight
Best Deep Cut: Romeo Delight
The top two positions in this ranking are non-negotiable. The second slot goes to the commercially epic release, 1984. Though hinted at during earlier albums, Eddie’s fascination with synthesizers becomes quite prevalent here, especially on the album opening title track that leads into the band’s signature single, Jump. I’ll Wait gave the record another poppy synthesizer driven single, while Panama and Hot for Teacher satisfy the hardcore fans with its guitar driven hard rock that also includes Alex at his absolute best.
Meanwhile, there are plenty of deep cuts to listen to, including, Top Jimmy, Drop Dead Legs, and Girl Gone Bad.
Best Song: Panama
Best Deep Cut: Top Jimmy
Van Halen exploded onto the scene, and quite possibly carried hard rock with its self-titled release in 1978. Moreover, it gave the scene its own guitar god, and influenced thousands of young kids to pick up the axe.
There isn’t a filler song to be found here, as all 11 tracks are winners. In fact, how about I save myself from naming the entire track listing and just say this is a Top 5 record of all time for me?
Best Song: Jamie’s Cryin’ (although there are 5-6 others that could go here, depending on the day)
Best Deep Cut: On Fire