So where do I start here?
First and foremost, I am a Sammy Hagar fan, and never have been a fan of Gary Cherone. Strike One Van Halen. Secondly, if the band were to go on without Sammy, Dave was my choice to lead the nostalgia train. Strike two Van Halen.
But all that aside - what about the record?
Okay - this album is a rocking album. No denying that. Eddie plays like a demon all over it, and sounds great for it. The production is great - no worries there.
The main problems I see are these: The songs just aren't as strong as in previous efforts. Some tracks sound like the rejected ones from the Balance record. Others just don't cut it.|
This album took me around 15 listens to get into, and I liked it from there on, but I am not sure your average fan will have as much patience.
Cherone in most places has extended his vocal range to include just about all of Sammy Hagar's manerisms, and while screaming to hit the high notes, struggles to fill Hagar's shoes.
Surprisingly, the songs where Gary sounds the best, and rather good even, is where he is alowed to sing the most naturally. This surprised me, and makes me wonder if the band shouldn't have taken a more radical departure from the past.
There are a few great moments on the record where the band take a chance, and come out on top. This also enforces my theory that they should have really gone for it, rahter than the play safe - please everybody attitude.
To the songs:
The album kicks off with Without You, the first single and most recognisable Van Halen classic. The songs matches Sammy's vocal sound, with something like the Dave sung Me Wise Magic from the 'Best Of' album. A likeable song, and a grower.
One I Want is where the band take a rare moment to extend themselves, and come out winners. This song is one of the highlight so the album, and Gary soundds great. It's a heavy track, that seems to get heavier with every listen. Some smoking guitar and a killer finish. A very Sammy vocal in the chorus and the end, but a big rock track that will please most die hard fans.
From Afar is another track that highlights the good points of Gary's singing, with both a high and a very low range used. Good pace changes and some cool work from Alex. One of the tracks that wins on VHIII, and one that helps the album get off to a good start.
Dirty Water Dog is a track that I initially thought was a throwaway track, but on about the 10th listen go right into the groove, and like it. The vocal is more natural, and Gary's use of that low growl goes down very well. This will be very cool live.
Once was a track that I hated first up, but after several listens was the first one I wanted to go back to. Same sort of vibe as Phil Collins' In The Air Tonight, it is a real departure for VH, and has a moody new age rhythm, that builds to a classic smoking but restrained Eddie solo, and some really cool dum rhythms and melodies. The sort of track they may be critisized for, but is actually rather classy.
Fire In The Hole is unfortunately on of the tracks that no matter how much I play it, it still sounds like a Balance reject. An average rocker, with a very average chorus.
Josephina is the track that held the album back amonth, for the label to ad the song. They liked it that much! Now I can see how they liked it, as it is a cleaver pop/rock track with a darker undertone, that weaves through some nice time changes, but I would never say it would be a single, adding to the intrigue of why would they hold back an album for a song that isn't a sure fire hit. (Which this album lacks and needs)
A Year To The Day is another track that I just cannot get enthusiastic about. A big ballad with a big Sammy vocal and very similar to that of Feelings from the Balance record. Just not emotionally convicing, as Gary screams way too much, losing all credabilty.
Ballot Or The Bullet , while seems like another Balance reject, actually grows quite nicely on you as the listens wear on. I didn't like it at all to start with, but it is quite a groover, and much like the very old VH.
How Many Say I will be hated by some and loved for it's difference by others. I think it is pretty cool, and original at least, but not a classic. Eddie's lead vocal takes some getting used to. I Like it!
So the verdict is great when it's great, and below par when it ain't great!
On a whole - dissapointing. It could have been a lot more if the band had of gone out on a wing like they did with 5150 and Sammy's arrival.
Some will love the album, others are going to hate it with a passion.
My opinion is that it wil not really win over any new fans, just alienate old ones.
For those who have the patience to stay with it, and listen hard and long - you will get something more out of it. I did.
Final word - a good rock album - but not and nowhere near a classic.
|PRODUCTION: 88%||SONGS: 57%||VIBE: 62%||ATTITUDE: 75%|
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