OK, so it is not really a fair fight, but in light of the recent return of Diamond Dave, I thought it had to be done. Many of us grew up with VH I and II and dreamed of having long hair, cool guitars with killer pickups, and hot chicks like Eddie and Dave. At least I did. The raw energy and raunchiness of Van Halen’s 1st album (Atomic Punk!) matched and nearly exceeded by the near perfection of Van Halen II (Beautiful Girls!) then followed by the superb Women and Children First (Take Your Whiskey Home!) and dark Fair Warning (Unchained!) through the covers on Diver Down (Pretty Woman!) and finally the masterpiece of 1984 (Panama!). It was an amazing run of 6 albums and then -poof- Dave was out and Sammy was in. Now, 5150 was pretty good in all honesty, I mean Get Up rocks pretty hard and Summer Nights is a great party song. OU812 was a little darker but had some pop crapola like When It’s Love despite rockers like Source of Infection. For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge had the popular Poundcake and a pretty decent Right Now, but still had throwaway tunes like Judgement Day and the ridiculous Spanked. I actually enjoy the Right Here, Right Now live album despite the poor reviews it received. And then – first mistake – Balance which was top heavy and almost without any redeeming tracks or qualities. Besides Amsterdam, can you name a single track from that album? And then -poof- no more Sammy. They made a first attempt at getting Dave back on their Best of Vol 1 (will there ever be a Vol 2) but the result Me Wise Magic and Humans Being were pretty forgettable. And then… the Big Mistake – Gary Charonne. No, really? Is there anyone that likes any of the tracks on the abysmal Van Halen III? I have a trigger finger for the skip button on that one. In fact, on their second greatest hits, the double CD Best of Both Worlds, they conveniently stop at F.U.C.K. realizing that the intervening material was better forgotten. Then, 8 years go by and just when you thought that it was better to fade away, Diamond Dave and the Van Halen family (with Wolfgang!) kick out what I consider to be a great VH album, Different Kind of Truth. I don’t know if it was the gazillions of dollars that were to be made or just age helping heal old wounds, but boy do they sound great on that album.
Like I said, it isn’t really a fair fight and perhaps it is unfair to Sammy, but damn, how do you beat Eddie and Dave? The initial six-pack was nearly flawless and despite the abortive reunion in 1996, they pulled off the hat trick last year. I don’t know about you, but for me Van Halen wins every time against Van Hagar and Van Charonne. I’ll just leave you with this: is it just me or is it REALLY REALLY hard to see the old curly mess of brown hair on Eddie and the long blonde hair on Dave from the late 70’s early 80’s in the 2012 reincarnation photo shown at the beginning of this article?
- VAN HALEN – The Studio Albums 1978-1984 Box Set Due In March (bravewords.com)