OK…in the interest of “full disclosure”…I am, and have always been a Van Halen fan.
From the moment I heard their debut in 1978, I was hooked. There’s something about Van Halen that has always (save for that little blip in 1998) been unique. It didn’t matter if it was Dave, or Sammy. When you heard Van Halen…you knew it was Van Halen.
There’s always been the argument; “They sold more records with Sammy.” First of all, that’s simply not true. According to the RIAA Van Halen have sold somewhere around 56-million records in the US. Now, that number has increased over the years, but assuming their stats are accurate as of right now (no pun intended) 34 million of those were DLR-era records. So, that argument is refuted.
Then there’s the “They had more hits with Sammy.” And this is absolutely true. The addition of Sammy Hagar to Van Halen absolutely made them a more inclusive musical entity. Prior to Sammy, Van Halen were more of a Hard Rock band, bordering on Heavy Metal. Sammy’s addition made their music much more palatable to the masses, and easier to exposure on Top-40 radio.
The fact is…this debate is probably the most intense, and hotly contested in Rock history. Everyone has an opinion. This isn’t like Steve Perry-Journey, or Brian Johnson vs. Bon Scott. Peter Gabriel vs. Phil Collins. None of them have raged on like the Van Halen lead singer argument. With apologies to my good friend Gary Cherone, Dave v. Sammy has been that element that both unites & divides Van Halen fans (and Rock fans on the whole).
The band’s dysfunction is as legendary as their musical output. Quick synopsis: All bands are dysfunctional. Dave quits in 1985. Band and ex-lead singer snipe each other in the press. Sammy joins. Lead singers snipe each other in the press. Sammy quits. Band and ex-lead singer snipe each other in the press. Dave returns for two songs. People rejoice. Internal dysfunction continues. Dave is out again. Cue sniping. Extreme frontman Gary Cherone joins. It’s an unwinnable situation. Band releases Van Halen III & tours. Record doesn’t sell. Gary is out. Sammy & Dave tour together? Ex-lead singers snipe each other in the press. Van Halen goes through period of inactivity. Sammy returns for “Greatest Hits Package & Tour” Edward Van Halen is in poor health. Tour concludes. Sammy is out again. Sniping? you bet! Original bassist Michael Anthony is also out. Band drafts Edward Van Halen’s son, Wolfgang to play bass. Dave comes back (again!). Band tours. Reports of dysfunction continue. Time heals all wounds. Band makes first full record of new material in 14 years, and first with DLR in 28. Sammy Hagar continues to snipe. Shockingly, DLR ignores the bait. Band plays secret shows in NY & LA. Reviews are strong.
That’s where we are today. Which brings me to my “review” of the forthcoming “A Different Kind Of Truth.” Which will be in stores Tuesday, Feb 7th.
I won’t go into a song-by-song review. Plenty of those will pop up around the ‘net soon enough. Yes, many of the tracks originally sought life in the 70s. This is not a new concept. Bands draw on past material all the time. Refreshing the tones and lyrics. Creating their music. It’s *their* music. Who cares when it was written? It’s being released now. I don’t get that argument at all.
The thing that strikes me about “A Different Kind Of Truth” is the *vibe* of Van Halen is present throughout. Highlights for me include “Blood & Fire” & “Stay Frosty”…which may already be my favorite Van Halen song of all time. What’s interesting is the fact that a 57-year old David Lee Roth has written lyrics that continue his unique ability to write absurd commentary without sounding silly or outdated. I won’t say it’s a maturity. I’d say it’s a comfort level. He knows he can write clever double-entendre. He also knows that writing the kind of stuff certain other ex-vocalists have written, comes off as an old man struggling to remain relevant to “the kids.”
This doesn’t happen on ADKOT.
The most striking element of the record is drummer Alex Van Halen. He “sounds happy.” It’s hard to put into words. The band sounds…right. He is in a groove. You’ve heard it said before that a record is an attempt to capture a mood. The band at a moment in time. They have done that. Once this album is heard by the masses, it will become clear.
The Dave vs. Sammy debate is clearly over. They made great music with Sammy. Even the doubters have to cop to that.
Sammy & Michael Anthony have a good band with their Chickenfoot outfit (which also features guitar hero Joe Satriani). They’ve released 2 CDs of their own and are playing this Spring/Summer at a club/theater near you.
But…They are the “Mighty Van Halen” with Dave. And, they’ll be frequenting the local hockey rink near you soon.
There’s nothing like Van Halen. Thank your deity of choice. You can’t put it into words. You just have to be able to hear it.Like Free Gotham on Facebook...