Posted on January 8, 2010 -
THE BAND: Eddie Van Halen (lead & rhythm guitars, keyboards), Sammy Hagar (vocals, rhythm guitars), Michael Anthony (bass), Alex Van Halen (drums & percussion).
THE DISC: (1986) 11 tracks clocking in at approximately 43 minutes. Included with the disc is a 6-page booklet containing song titles/credits, song lyrics, 1 black & white band photo, and thank you’s. Recorded at 5150 Studios (Eddie Van Halen’s home studio in Los Angeles). Label – Warner Bros.
COMMENTS: If you asked me, I’d tell you the David Lee Roth era of VH had pretty much peaked with “1984″. Along with “1984″, Van Halen’s amazing 1978 debut are, to date, still the only VH releases to achieve “Diamond” status (10+ million units sold). Decades later, I still wish Eddie and David Lee Roth could have worked things out (Eddie wanting to do guitar work outside VH, and DLR’s infantile antics were the main reasons for each pointing the finger). In my opinion, all of the VH releases from the DLR era are classics (with the exception of perhaps “Diver Down”). The DLR era Van Halen albums were straight ahead hard rock (guitars, bass, drums, and a helleva singer) – the way it was meant to be. The exception being “1984″ when Eddie introduced the keyboards. Exit David Lee Roth (April 1985), and enter Sammy Hagar. Sammy’s proven himself over the years with Montrose, HSAS, several songs on movie soundtracks, and his many solo albums. A good rock singer with an underrated guitar. In hindsight, Hagar brought a 2nd quality guitar to VH (he’s nowhere close to the ballpark Eddie plays in, but who is?). With all this being said, I like this “5150″. At first, I wanted to ban anything Hagar did with VH because only the DLR era stuff was real VH. This album has absolutely grown on me over the years though. Three big hits came from “5150″ – “Dreams” (reaching #6 on the U.S. Mainstream Rock chart), “Love Walks In” (#4), and “Why Can’t This Be Love” (#1). Minor hits followed with “Best Of Both Worlds” and “Summer Nights”. The feel was more slick, polished, commercial rock… heavily ladened with keyboards. Along with a new lead singer, the other big difference was Alex’s electronic drum kit (these were big in the 80’s… and a lot of bands used them including Def Leppard, Ratt, Genesis, etc). Having played drums in the past, I feel these electronic drums really give off a different sound. For me, 10 times out of 10, I’d choose a real drum kit. Perhaps I’ve given the impression that I’m not a fan of the Hagar era VH… not true – this is a good rock album. It simply lacks that “in your face” attitude, and most importantly character. Highlights include all the songs mentioned above as well as the rocking opener “Good Enough” and the underrated title track (“5150″ meaning mentally/emotionally disturbed). The album closer should have been a hidden bonus track – perhaps untitled – “Inside” is filler at best. Looking at the 4 studio albums Hagar did with VH, I’d pick this one first. The albums that came after “5150″ seemed even more safe by rock music standards. Worthy in your rock and roll library – absolutely. However, if I want to hear some Van Halen, I’ll grab VH’s debut, “VH II”, “Fair Warning”, “Women & Children First” or “1984″ first. If I’m in the mood for Sammy Hagar, I’ll most likely grab his “Standing Hampton” or “VOA” before this one. I think “5150″ would benefit from digital remastering (as of 2007 it hasn’t happened). The start of a new era for the Van Halen brothers and Sammy – “5150″ wasn’t Van Halen’s first album to reach Billboard’s #1 position for no reason. Good album (4+ stars).