19 May 2009


The 6 Van Halen Albums
Straight to the point - The only Van Halen I believe in, the only Van Halen I consider legit, is the original line-up with David Lee Roth. I liked Sammy Hagar well enough as a solo artist and his stuff with Montrose, but when it comes to Van Halen, the Diamond Dave lineup is the only one that exists in my world, and the only one that matters on this list.

Now this HANK RANKS might look suspiciously like those silly HOT FIVES I've started doing lately, and it really is a HOT 5+1, but Diamond Dave did SIX albums with the band, and that doesn't add up to FIVE...I'm just trying to keep the Van Halen Math real here.

Hotcha! Hank


06: Van Halen II [1979] Featuring: "You're No Good", "Dance The Night Away", "Bottoms Up!", "Light Up The Sky", "Women In Love", "Beautiful Girls"

All Van Halen albums are short, and Van Halen II is the second shortest of 'em all, clocking in at a trim 31:14...Of the ten songs on this shortplayer, the only two I truly love are "Light Up The Sky" and "Beautiful Girls", and these days "Beautiful Girls" almost sounds like a novelty tune...At the age of 13 I thought "D.O.A." was the shit, mostly because Diamond Dave sings that line about the sheriff finding "a dirty-faced kid in a garbage can", but nowadays I mostly hear a mediocre riff bled to death over 4+ minutes, and a bloodless tale of modern rock'n'roll cowboys in the new wild west..."Dance The Night Away" still holds a few charms, and was one of the band's first music videos, but all I get is DLR trying to prance around the studio with a cast on his foot...After the massive bombshell of Van Halen's debut album, VHII was an equally massive disappointment...Plus, more points subtracted for the absolutely lame fucking cover.

05: Diver Down [1982] Featuring..."Where Have All The Good Times Gone?", "Hang 'em High", "Secrets", "(Oh) Pretty Woman", "Dancing In The Streets", "Little Guitars", "Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)", "The Full Bug", "Happy Trails"

Holy shit! You'd think with me listing damn near every song on this 31:24 album, Diver Down would rank near the very top of this list, but really only four of those are originals, but damn, what originals they are..."Hang 'em High" explodes after the Kinks' cover that opens the album with some of the punkiest playing since "Atomic Punk"..."Secrets" features chiming guitars and a bit of falsetto courtesy of Diamond Dave..."Little Guitars" is a museum of Eddie tricks and styles, and "The Full Bug" finds the band at their boogie best, and Diamond Dave strutting around, bragging about his dick...The rest of it, though, all those cover songs, they're just so tame and pointless, save their ability to make serious bank...The band's Kink's fixation just seemed weird and inappropriate by this point, and their version of "Pretty Woman" is a huge, cash-generating joke, complete with the appropriately stupid video in heavy rotation on MTV...And if Jan Van Halen, Alex's and Eddie's dad, wasn't playing clarinet on "Big Bad Bill", the song would be inexcusable...And then there's "Happy Trails"...Diver Down...Diamond Dave...Yeah, this was the band's Roth Album, if there is such a thing...The one album in every rock band's catalog when the singer writes too many of the songs and exerts his vision...This is generally a bad idea. I'm wondering if at this point in the band's life, Eddie was maybe the Diver Down, jacked on booze and pills and coke...At least Dave exercised.
04: 1984 [1984] Featuring..."Jump", "Panama", "Top Jimmy", "Hot For Teacher", "I'll Wait", "Girl Gone Bad"

Diamond Dave was still a fucking goofball on 1984, but at least Eddie had fucking taken control of the band and the songs once again, for this, their last album with the original line-up. It's certainly the best-sounding album in the Van Halen discography, helping put a fine shine on Eddie's masterful playing...By this point, the man can pretty much do anything on guitar, and he's apparently getting bored, so he starts noodling around with synths, and he frontloads the album with I believe is the biggest hit of the band's career, "Jump", an irrestibly stupid synthpop confection with lyrics so utterly inane that they never registered, but damn if a Chevy Nova full of teenaged boys weren't singing along like a bunch of fucking goofballs every time..."Panama" is just as lyrically insipid, but who fucking cares when the guitars are so tasty?..."Hot For Teacher" had that insane and legendary fucking video, of course, but the song itself is one of the great ragers in the Van Halen playlist...Elsewhere, "Top Jimmy" smokes, and "Girl Gone Bad" features some of my favorite riffs and playing ever by Eddie...TT = 33:08

03: FAIR WARNING [1981] Featuring..."Mean Street", "Dirty Movies", "Sinner's Swing", "Hear About It Later", "Unchained", "So This Is Love?"
At 30:58, Fair Warning is the shortest album in the Van Halen catalog, which almost isn't a strike against it because six of the first seven songs are outstanding...It's only the last two songs that are failed experiments that do nothing signficant but add 4 minutes to the album length, and track #6, "Push Comes To Shove", a muted, midtempo faux-shuffle with David Lee Roth actually trying to sing, and maybe only half-succeeding...But it's those last two tunes that scar the whole thing..."Sunday Afternoon In The Park" is Eddie's first released synth noodlings, and this one's bad, second-rate Gary Numan stuff, and I was never much of a Numan fan to begin with, if you must know..."One Foot Out The Door" is an interesting enough stab at Synth-Punk, but once again, Diamond Dave's singing just doesn't work in this context...A horrible, deflating way to end an otherwise kick-ass Van Halen album...

02: Women and Children First [1980] Featuring..."And The Cradle Will Rock...", "Everybody Wants Some!", "Romeo's Delight", "Take Your Whiskey Home", "Could This Be Magic?", "In A Simple Rhyme"
Women & Children First is easily the fucking heaviest Van Halen album, and also the first to feature all original compositions...I love this album, and it's a righteous return to form after the disappointment of VHII...Hell, I even love the spastic "Loss Of Control" at the heart of this monster slab of Cock Rock, wherein Diamond Dave pretends he's a WWII fighter pilot...It somehow works...And every other song on this album burns and shines...If their debut album weren't so shocking and game-changing, Women & Children First might very well be the purest and finest example of Van Halen caught on tape..."Everybody Wants Some!" remains my absolute favorite VH tune...A MUST at 33:13!

01: Van Halen [1978] Featuring..."Runnin' With The Devil", "Eruption", "You Really Got Me", "Ain't Talkin' 'bout Love", "Jamie's Cryin'", "Atomic Punk", "Little Dreamer", "Ice Cream Man"
Eddie played with his back to the crowd in the early years of Van Halen so that other hotshot L.A. guitar players couldn't cop his riffs and style...To my way of thinking, he's the second great rock guitarist after Jimi Hendrix, the second game-changer, and words really cannot describe how earth-shaking this album was to my 12 year old ears...This is the only album I've ever owned on 8-track, vinyl, cassette and CD...It's all about Eddie, of course, because while I still say David Lee Roth is the greatest frontman I've ever seen in concert, Van Halen albums were showcases for Eddie's playing, and his songs...In terms of the shocking newness of the sound and the songs, and even the channel separation of the recording itself (rhythm guitar on the left, vocals and guitar solos on the right, rhythm up the middle), I consider this a Punk album. Hell, even in terms of overdriven Bubblegum, the Ramones had nothing on "Feel Your Love Tonight" or "Jamie's Cryin'"...And I feel like I've taken alot of unfair shots at Diamond Dave in this post, so let me just say here, at the end, that he's at his yelping, howling best on this album, but his singing was never the point anyways...The dude was, and remains, larger-than-life - a fast-talking, booze-swilling, groupie-fucking entertainer who was always dynamite in interviews, and knew how to put on a fucking SHOW...

By the way, at 35:15, Van Halen I is the band's longest album.

Hotcha! Hank

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just can't get that excited, my only connection to this era is old Judas Priest albums I used to buy from Thrift Marts for 50 cents each when loking for okay jeans or nice condition shoes that Goodwill didn't have.

But never a big Van Heln fan, the old big hair band thing I was into was 6-th to 8th grade Great White and a bit of Whitesnake... So Sorry!

May 21, 2009 3:44 PM  
Blogger Hank Mohaski said...

50 cent Judas Priest albums means never having to say you're sorry...

Maybe if I'm ambitious enough, and atually follow through, I'll eventually do a HOT FIVE for Judas Priest...

May 29, 2009 6:17 PM  

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