Written By Jason Voorhees
We here at Philly Rock Radio certainly hope that our loyal listeners have enjoyed our latest showcase of "Top Album Lists." During each segment, our favorite band's albums are rated and ranked from worst to first.
Of course, we had to start with the forefathers of heavy metal in Black Sabbath. We then tackled the British legend, Def Leppard, for the sophomore piece. As mentioned...If our listeners want us to feature a specific band, feel free to speak up or give us a shout-out.
In any event...
The next band up on this carousel is Van Halen. And when it comes to VH...which side of the ride you find yourself on depends on whether you prefer the David Lee Roth flavor or the Sammy Hagar variety. This is a debate that is not quickly settled and harbors many layers.
I have always preferred the Sammy Hagar led version of the band. With that being said, I have always maintained an objective mindset and admiration for the Diamond Dave era. Both versions have produced many excellent albums, which will make the task of ranking them that much more challenging.
Van Halen's catalog remains one of the most unrivaled in hard rock/heavy metal history in large part to the man on the ax...Mr. Eddie Van Halen.
When your band employs a guitar God, you simply cannot go wrong. The band has released twelve albums in total, so two will be left off of this list. Nonetheless, there will be some difficult decisions, but we are definitely up for the challenge. So get your popcorn ready, crank up the volume, pull up a chair, and prepare yourselves for the Top Ten VH albums of all-time...
10. Diver Down (1982)
Often mislabeled a "cover album," this release often gets negative publicity. Eddie Van Halen himself was angry that the album's production was rushed to get released by the label. Although this is far from their best effort, Diver Down does have a lot of positive energy. Even though the album is cut in half by covers...those covers are pretty damn good! "Where have all the Good Times Gone," "(Oh) Pretty Woman," and "Dancing in the Street" are all gold-standard pieces of art. And the original material is equally good as well. While the album lacks the rest of their catalog's star power, it does not warrant leaving it off the top ten list. If this album had not been rushed, there is no telling where it could have landed. So dive in and get down with this classic.
9. Balance (1995)
The final release of the Sammy Hagar era saw the band at the height of their maturity. While the tensions and relationships were tumultuous at best, the band was able to focus, and the result was another #1 on the US Billboard Top 200. Balance saw the band take a deep dive regarding a shift in topics and themes from what fans had grown accustomed to. The album also employed a fair amount of ballads, something die-hard fans remained unhappy with. Nonetheless, the band was able to release another top-notch record that has stood the test of time. Mainstream radio loved the album, which regularly played "Can't Stop Loving You" and "Don't Tell Me What Love Can Do." But the real gems were hidden like "Take Me Back (Deja Vu)," "Not Enough," and "Feelin."
8. Women and Children First (1980)
This was Van Halen at their most raw. Full throttle rock and metal at its core. VH's third studio album charted at #6 on the US Billboard Top 200 and was their heaviest to date. One thing that truly stands out about this record is the band's shift from commercial popularity to an all out assault on the senses, and the results paid off. Timeless classics like "Everybody Wants Some" and "The Cradle Will Rock" are staples for any true Van Halen fan. I also think this was the album where David Lee Roth exploited his songwriting prowess and lyrical mastery. No two VH albums are alike, and this one was the next step in the band's rise to the top. A must own for VH enthusiasts and among the bands greatest of all-time.
7. OU812 (1988)
Welcome to the second installment of the Van Hagar catalog. The album would be hard-pressed to top the success of its predecessor, and rightfully so. And although this record did not have the same level of success, it was still a damn good record. In my opinion, this is the most diverse collection ever in the band's catalog. From the opening guitar riff on "Mine, all Mine" through the heart-pumping ballad screaming "When it's Love" to the bluesy ender "A Political Blues," the album has a fine mixture of style and content throughout. Plus, you can hear a focused man on a mission through Sammy's vocals. Another US Top 200 Billboard hit for the band; the record has since gone 4x platinum... a fantastic feat for a band that thought life was over after Dave.
6. For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge(1991)
FUCK, is a pretty straightforward album title with an even more refined approach. Less diverse than the previous two Hagar era records, this one was more guitar-oriented with more in your face flavor. The result was a blend of elite craftsmanship and production. An album that can rock your socks off...one that you can put your top-down too when racing down the freeway. The tracks "Poundcake," "Runaround," and "Top of the World" were tremendous hit singles that defined the band's popularity in the music world then and now. While "Right Now" became a staple on MTV for years to come and raised the bar to unseen levels once again. An incredible album and one of my personal favorites.
5. Van Halen II (1979)
Sequels like Rocky2 and The Godfather2 are some of the most notable cinema sequels to rival their counterparts. Well, this was Van Halen's answer to their debut in music, and the results were similar. Not quite as epic as the beginning, but it's undoubtedly high level and impactful in quality. "Eruption" meets acoustic with "Spanish Fly." The album also produced more timeless classics to add to the band's catalog, like "Dance the Night Away," "Somebody Get Me a Dr.," and "Beautiful Girls." This was a killer record at a point in the band's life where it may have seemed impossible to recreate their first album's magic. While Van Halen faced enormous expectations; they were able to silence the critics thinking they were only one-hit wonders by showing that they were at the top and here to stay.
4. Fair Warning (1981)
Many Van Halen die-hard fans consider this the band's best overall piece of work. No matter where you rank it, there is no doubt that this album belongs close to the very top of the scale for VH. The band's fourth studio album is their most dynamic. Although the album didn't sell particularly well initially, it still made it into the top 5 on the Top 200. This album tends to portray a darker style of music than the band's previous efforts. Tracks like "Unchained" are littered with attitude, and Eddie displays a more ballsy approach on the ax. The more I listen to this record, the more I grow to appreciate how terrific it is. I might as well WARN you, this album is FAIRLY addictive and will light your pants on fire. Give it a listen, and you'll be instantly hooked.
3. 5150 (1986)
When it was realized that David Lee Roth had left Van Halen, all hope was lost. No band is supposed to survive the loss of such a charismatic and elite entertainer of that level. Enter Sammy Hagar. When the new album was finally released, it indeed was like Dave had never left. 5150 was an instant classic and cemented the idea that bands can undoubtedly overcome a change at the helm. Sammy Hagar proved to be Van Halen's version of Brian Johnson or Ronnie James Dio, other lead vocalists who joined star bands where the band refused to miss a beat. Not only was this album iconic for Van Halen, but it also produced some absolute gems. "Best of Both Worlds," "Dreams," "Why Can't This Be Love," and "Love Walks In" are all top of the line stalwarts of their catalog. Not to mention the album is the third-highest seller coming in at 6x Platinum. Not bad for a band that thought they had lost their way.
2. 1984 (1984)
This is where it all began for me as far as Van Halen goes. The first album I ever owned, and I was instantly a junkie. While their debut album put the band on the map, 1984 catapulted the band into superstardom rarely seen. The album charted well (#2) and sell a ton of records. Also produced three smash singles that were played out endlessly on MTV and radio. This was Van Halen's "Black" album. The record infiltrated the band's presence into the mainstream like a shot of heroin. This was the absolute peak for the band, even though it was the end of Diamond Dave's road. Not only does the album have star power, but it's also loaded with sleepers like "I'll Wait," "Drop Dead Legs," "Top Jimmy," and "Girl Gone Bad." Although it's 36 years old, it still has the smell of a brand new car today.
1. Van Halen (1978)
The birthplace for Van Halen, their debut album, just so happens to be their best as well. Guitar god Eddie Van Halen was introduced to the world, and the rest was history. Van Halen's self-titled album not only put Eddie Van Halen on stage, but it was also the beginning of the entire band's rise to the top. "Eruption" hit the masses with a volcanic blast. "You Got Me" screeched louder than a lion. "Runnin' with the Devil" shook people to the core. "Jaime's Cryin" had all the girl's panties in a bunch. Ok...you get the point. There is not one wrong track on the album, and it almost tells a story...sort of like a concept album but kind of not. Anyways, I could write a book about how good this album is, and it would not do it justice. This is the album that all great guitarists pay close attention to, and we all know why. The crème de la crème on every level for Van Halen. Masterpiece 101.
I hope you have enjoyed this installment of Philly Rock Radio's Top Album Lists. Please stay tuned as next week we will feature AC/DC...a feature you will not want to miss. And as always...please make sure you stop by on Thursday evenings to check out Kevin Law and Johnny E from 7PM-9PM! We leave you with a special treat from the Van Halen catalog...
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