5150 (1986)


1. Good Enough
2. Why Can't This Be Love
3. Get Up
4. Dreams
5. Summer Nights
6. Best of Both Worlds
7. Love Walks In
8. 5150
9. Inside





 

So now, the official 'Van Halen Soap Opera' begins. From what most have been able to piece together, Roth either quit or was fired from Van Halen due to creative differences. The speculation was that he wanted the band to be more of a 'party' act whereas guitarist and 'leader' Eddie Van Halen wanted to be a bit more 'serious'. So after the departure of one of the most visual frontmen in the history of rock and roll, what do you do? How do you continue? Fortunately for the band, they found a perfect replacement in Sammy Hagar. No, Hagar was no Roth clone - that was actually the point. He still had a wild, party image (he had a string of moderately successful solo records in addition to fronting the band Montrose, so he was no stranger to the public), yet he wasn't quite as overbearing on stage as Roth. He also could sing a bit better and was a somewhat respectable song writer. Also, although no one will ever know for sure, the partying schtick with Roth had probably peaked around this time anyway. Had they continued to have Roth front the band, I'm guessing the public would have grown a bit weary. Witness for example David Lee Roth's new solo career, which he launched right around the same time as this release. His antics and new band were basically a clone of Van Halen, and apart from a couple of cheeky humorous videos at the start of his career, he basically fizzled out of the limelight.

So with a new singer, how did things turn out? Well, initially it was actually great. With Hagar in the band, the guys managed to change their sound a bit as well as their brand, but kept up their loyal following. Sure, the purists would grumble, but that wouldn't really be apparent for another decade - which was probably when people were tiring of Hagar and wanting Roth back so they could reminisce. About half of this record sounds like they're trying to perfectly replicate their 'traditional' sound, and ironically, these are the songs that don't quite work as well. Tunes such as Good Enough, Get Up and the fairly stupid closer Inside all have the over the top Van Halen style (lyrically and musically), and it just sounds a bit tired by this point.

It's when the guys expand into new territories that actually carry this record - and even the band itself. Songs such as Why Can't This Be Love, The Best of Both Worlds, Dreams and How Will I Know When It's Love really show a deeper, more melodic band, yet they never lose their trademark crunch that makes them so appealing. Yes, Dreams may be a bit too melodic for the hard core, but Hagar's searing vocals carry this tune into places where it simply wouldn't be able to go with Roth still in the lead role.

A couple of these tracks were made into videos and received very heavy rotation on all of the MTVs. Yet watching these videos, you couldn't help notice how basic the guys looked. Gone were the flashiness and multiple costume changes, and instead we just saw the guys on stage letting loose with some great tunes. Further proof that this was a good direction for the band to venture. This was a great beginning to 'part 2'.

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