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Van Halen III

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★★½☆☆
(434 Reviews)

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Special Japanese edition of their 1998 album & first with ex-Extreme vocalist Gary Cherone. Limited to the initial pressing only, it comes packaged in an oversized slipcase with the disc in a standard jewel case, plus a 20 page booklet featuring a discography, photos, a biography (in Japanese) and replica autographs. Musically, it’s the same as the U.S. edition. 12 tracks, including the single ’Without You’. A Warner Brothers release. Mike Post (theme to TV’s ’L.A. Law’) produced the record. Having jettisoned yet another lead singer, casting off meat-and-potatoes rocker Sammy Hagar for leaner, cleaner former Extreme vocalist Gary Cherone, Van Halen ushers in its third incarnation with the appropriately titled 3. Trouble is, as a lyricist, Cherone too often speaks from the head, not the heart, filling the album with political cant that is dry and ill-suited to the band’s party-hearty image. Worse, Cherone sounds disconcertingly like Hagar, giving 3 the uncomfortable feel of a tribute album. And while Eddie Van Halen’s guitar still mows down anything in sight on tracks like ”Neworld” and ”From Afar,” it’s difficult to excuse his new-agey keyboard epic ”How Many Say I,” or his tentative lead vocal on the track. In a rare instance for a great band, it’s one step forward, two steps back. –Daniel Durchholz

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  • This was the biggest mistake of Van Halen’s career. Gary Cherone is trying too hard to sound like Sammy Hagar. Van Halen’s greedy manager lost it when he got Sammy kicked out of Van Halen so he could get a bigger percentage of the profits. Lets hope Eddie loses the EGO and lets a real frontman back in the band named….DAVID LEE ROTH!

    Posted on March 10, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • This album features Gary Cherone on vocals, a horrible mistake made by the bands former manager: Ray Daniels who did nothing but harm for the band.Gary tries to sing like Hagar on all the tracks, don’t expect to hear any of his talent (clearly heard on all the Extreme albums). It is just horrible. Eddie’s playing is at it’s all time worst. It sounds like he is running on empty, the production was done by Eddie himself and some unknown producer who’s only credits were TV tunes, this shows horribly as the sound is just plan bad. Guitar solos sound dry and too uptight. bass is absent from the mix and drums sound muffled. The lryics and song structure is also a nightmare, with chorus, bridge and verse all sounding out of place. The lryics sound like some wacked out poetry from Cherone that should have never been turned into songs.The tour that followed featured Cherone trying to perform Hagar and Roth era tunes, it killed the band. Cherone recorded a second album with the band, but Warner Bros rejected it, leading the band to pursade Cherone to quitely leave. Ray Daniels was let go shortly there after, and the band is still trying to regroup to think their next move.

    Posted on March 10, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • On St. Patrick’s Day 1998, Van Halen released their eleventh studio album, their first (and only) album to feature lead singer Gary Cherone. The aptly titled “Van Halen 3″ received some positive reviews (Entertainment Weekly, Guitar World) and debuted at number 4 on the charts. At first it looked like Van Halen’s third incarnation might fly. An enthusiastic audience at the world premiere, and a huge turnout to meet the band at Times square were positive signs. But alas, Van Halen’s third incarnation was not meant to be. The album was a huge bomb, selling only 500,000 copies in the US, one quarter the sales of its predecessor “Balance” (1995). The tour too was a relative failure. Van Halen’s third incarnation turned out to be very short-lived. The following year, while well at work on their follow-up, Gary Cherone and the rest of Van Halen parted ways. The whole Gary Cherone-era of Van Halen was seen as a failure. “3″ is regarded by many as not only Van Halen’s worst album, but as the worst album of all-time.

    So why didn’t fans take to the third lineup of Van Halen, especially when you consider that they had adjusted to a change in singers before? Why did the rock-community so reject “Van Halen 3″? The answer lies in anger/protest, and expectations.

    Many fans didn’t buy or open their minds to “Van Halen 3″ out of protest and anger towards the band. In 1996, after eleven years of fronting the band, Sammy Hagar, Van Halen’s second lead singer, left the band, and not amicably. Eddie Van Halen maintains that Hagar quit and that his “work ethic sucked.” Hagar maintains that he was informed, by phone, that original lead singer David Lee Roth was returning and that his services were no longer required.

    The return of Roth to Van Halen created a media sensation. MTV started airing “welcome back Dave” commercials and fans were elated at the prospect of reunion tour/album. While the band maintained that they were looking for a new singer, fans were hoping Dave would return for good. In the late summer, David Lee Roth joined Van Halen on stage, for the first in eleven years, to present an award. The crowd went nuts, giving the band a standing ovation. While Eddie Van Halen and Dave hugged on stage, all was not well. That night Eddie and Dave almost came to blows when Dave told Eddie to stop talking about his hip. In addition, Eddie was mad at Dave for hamming the spotlight when Beck was accepting his award. While Van Halen’s brief reunion at the award show received overwhelming rave reviews, any hope of a reunion was shot. The next month David Lee Roth put out a press release which stated that while at the MTV awards, Van Halen already had another singer waiting in the wings and that he was an “unwitting participant” in a scam to give a false impression that the band would be reuniting. The other singer was of course, Gary Cherone of Extreme.

    The fruits of the Roth/Halen reunion bore two new songs “Me Wise Magic” and “Can’t get this Stuff No More.” While the songs are excellent, the bitter second breakup cast a shadow and fans didn’t enjoy the new songs as much as they could have.

    For the next year and a half, Van Halen, Roth, and Hagar beat each other up it in the press. Mudsling and accusations went back and forth. Van Halen’s once enormous fan base was divided between the VH loyalists, the “Dave camp” and the “Sammy camp.” When “Van Halen 3″ was finally released, many fans, out of loyalty to either Roth or Hagar, simply refused to buy the album on general principal. Not only were fans angry at Van Halen for discarding their favored frontman, but Gary Cherone was viewed as a poor replacement. While Cherone is multi-talented, most knew Cherone only from Extreme’s 1990 smash acoustic hit “More than Words.” In the eyes of many fans, Cherone was viewed as a candy-ass, not worthy to fill the shoes of the Diamond One or the Red Rocker.

    The other reason “Van Halen 3″ bombed was it didn’t meet fans expectations. The album was just too far out there for fans to accept. Even fans willing to give Gary Cherone a try just couldn’t dig the band’s experimentations. “Van Halen 3,” with Pink Floyd-esque epics, multi-layered solos, and political/cultural commentaries, was not what Van Halen fans wanted to hear.

    While the artistic merit of the album is subjective, the album does have some flaws. The production is fair. “Van Halen 3″ sounds more like a demo, or a rough-draft, than an actual finished product. Another problem was the lack of Michael Anthony’s signature harmonies. Also, Cherone at times sounds out-of-range. He sounds as though he’s screaming his lungs out. Many have commented that he sounds like a “poor-man’s Sammy Hagar.” Since Van Halen had so much to prove with their album, regardless of its merits, its faults were the final nail in the coffin. In hindsight, it was a mistake for Eddie to produce the album with TV producer Mike Post.

    All of this is a shame because, despite its faults, “Van Halen 3″ is a good album. It was refreshing for Van Halen to branch out and experiment. And Eddie Van Halen had never sounded better, churning out some of his best solos in years.

    The album opens with the somber, serene “New World.” This elegant piano/guitar instrumental leads perfectly into “Without You,” the hard-rocking, funk-laden first single, which sounds a lot like Extreme. The infectious “One I Want,” sounds like reggae peppered “Panama.” The off-center, theatrical “From Afar” is probably the strongest song on the album. An ode to a stocker, it boasts eerie vocals, layered guitars, and Alex Van Halen’s bohemian like percussion. The crisp “Dirty Water Dog” is both melodic and lush. The song is under-produced and somewhat awkward, giving it a certain charm. “Once” pays tribute to Peter Gabriel and Pink Floyd. This spacey, multi-layered, atmospheric song is probably the most creative composition Van Halen ever penned. While some may call it “pretentious,” they probably only do so because it’s Van Halen they’re hearing. If the same song had been released on a Peter Gabriel album, it would have been hailed brilliant. “Fire in the Hole” is a good-but-no-great, straight-forward “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge” era-type rocker. The beautiful “Josephina” follows next. This song also sounds somewhat awkward, under-produced, and left-of center, but that only adds to its sincerity and the song is a triumph. The downdraught “A Year to the Day” sounds akin to some of the bluesier songs by early Led Zeppelin, and is another winner. “Primary” sees Eddie Van Halen soloing on a sitar, which is an interesting change of pace. “Ballot or the Bullet” is probably the weakest song on the album. It has a good Zeppelin-like riff and rocks hard, but its political-laden chorus sounds forced and out of place. Also, Cherone sounds horse and out of range. The closing “How Many Say I” which sees Eddie Van Halen taking the mic for the first time. This song isn’t as bad as its reputation. It’s a little corny, but heartfelt. Still, unreleased pop-savvy “That’s why I Love you” would have made for a better choice to end the album.

    Despite its reputation, I have always stood by “Van Halen 3.” Yes, it has its faults, but I still find it to be an intriguing and satisfying listen. It’s really a misunderstood and underrated album. If Van Halen had taken a little more time on polishing the album, and if they had worked with a better producer, the album may have had a chance. As it is, it has been vitally forgotten. “Van Halen 3″ and Gary Cherone aren’t even acknowledged in the credits in Van Halen’s career-spanning anthology “The Best of Both Worlds” (2004). It’s as though the Cherone-era has been erased. Funny, considering how Eddie Van Halen once said “Gary is my musical soulmate.”

    While “Van Halen 3″ will in all likelihood always be hated and ultimately be just a footnote in the legacy of the mighty Van Halen, it still has many fine qualities and deserves a second chance. It’s a shame Van Halen and Cherone didn’t give it another try and release a follow-up.

    Posted on March 10, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • I was disappointed when I heard that Sammy Hagar left/got fired from Van Halen. I was terrified when I heard that Gary Cherone was going to be the next lead singer. Like most people, up until 1996, all I knew about Extreme was that they played “More Than Words” and “Hole Hearted”, so you can understand my fears. As a die-hard Van Halen fan, I dug pretty deep to find some positive aspects to Van Halen’s acquisition. The only encouraging thing I could find, was Extreme’s performance at Freddie Mercury’s (Queen) tribute concert. Cherone displayed both the showmanship of Roth, and a voice more powerful than Hagar and David Lee Roth combined. I was willing to give Cherone the benefit of the doubt. I even went out and bought all of the Extreme albums, and was pleasantly surprised by many of the songs they made. Cherone’s voice seemed like a perfect fit for the band. His funk-rock lyrical style would please the Roth fans – his heart-felt ballads – the Hagar fans. With David Lee Roth no longer a legitimate option, Cherone seemed like an appropriate successor. But things went horribly wrong. After listening to “III” for the first time, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “When did Sammy Hagar rejoin the band?” Gary Cherone sounds NOTHING like Gary Cherone on this album. The bluesy vocals and powerful high-notes that impressed me about Cherone, are now replaced with awkward and strained screams. “III” sounds like a 3rd-rate Van Halen cover band. Cherone’s numerous political and religious references in his lyrics don’t mesh with the Eddie, Alex’s and Mike’s music. When did Van Halen become R.E.M.? This album isn’t as much a disaster, as it is a disappointment. “Neworld” – A lame piano intro.”Without You” – About as close as this album comes to replicating the sound of the original Van Halen. “One I Want” – Has the frame-work of a good song, but Cherone’s lyrics irritate my last good nerve.”From Afar” is one of the few bright-spots on the album – proof that Cherone and Van Halen were on the same page… sometimes.”Dirty Water Dog” – Why does Eddie insist on ruining a perfectly good guitar riff with effects? Did we really need a Van Halen song with a sitar as the lead instrument?”Once” – Eddie always said he wanted to write a song as good as Peter Gabriel’s “Red Rain” – well, good job, Eddie… you did a great job copying “Red Rain” virtually note for note. All that aside, if you take away the harmonic, echoing, “once…once…once”, I might actually like this song. “Fire in the Hole” – All the makings of a great rock n’ roll song, but they managed to screw it up with a lack-luster chorus and a bullhorn-ending that sounds very similar to something Pink Floyd did on “The Wall”.”Josephina” – Not terrible, but if you’ve heard the song that this song replaced (“That’s Why I Love Ya”), you’d wish that “Josephina” never existed.”Year to the Day” – “Feelin’ – Part 2″.”Primary” – Again, another song intro. Again with the sitar sound-effect.”Ballot or the Bullet” – Could have been really cool, but Cherone’s lyrics seem very out of place.”How Many Say I” – Not only the worst Van Halen song ever written, quite possibly the worst song ever written… period. It looks like “III” will be the last Van Halen album we’ll ever hear. If that doesn’t make you wish for the days of Hagar and Roth, I don’t know what will.

    Posted on March 10, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • VAN HALEN III is easily Van Halen’s most critically reviled, hated album. The fans were shocked and dismayed, and ultimately this album lost Van Halen’s record contract with Warner. And why?

    First off, the album is not as bad as everything says. It’s certainly not a great Van Halen record, but if Gary Cherone’s band had released it, people would be wondering who the hell that guitarist was. In many ways, VAN HALEN III has a lot of similarities to Pink Floyd’s FINAL CUT.

    The biggest problem with III is tone. With BALANCE, and a handful of tracks from BALANCE’s predecessor, FOR UNLAWFUL CARNAL KNOWLEDGE, Eddie was trying to move Van Halen away from the party-hearty image that so long defined them, and was trying to reinvent the band as a socially conscious, more mature band. BALANCE found Van Halen balancing two major defitinions of their band, the partying, feel-good rock and rollers (“Amsterdam”, “Big Fat Money,”) with the more politically aware, socially concerned world citizens. (a la U2’s Bono) The problem with that is Sammy Hagar was in the band. While I’ve always liked Sammy, he’s always been about partying and getting into girls’ pants (but then, so was David Lee Roth and the rest of the band).

    Exit Hagar, enter Cherone. While Hagar wrote and sang from the heart and gut, and just wanted to hang out on a beach somewhere with a hot chick, Cherone instead wrote much more from a head perspective, preoccupied with intellectual concerns. Cherone has some songs about women, but the songs on III are primarily concerned with political and social matters.

    Some of these political, social songs fall flat. “Ballot or the Bullet” is dull, sounding more like a history lesson of the United States than a rock and roll song ever should, and the guitar instrumental “Primary”, no doubt referring to U.S. primary elections, is both boring and an unnecessary introduction to “Ballot.” “How Many Say I”, the first song in Van Halen’s career (and so I pray the last) to feature Eddie on lead vocals, sounds like Eddie writing a bad early 1960s protest song with a rock arrangement backing it. As for the voice, there’s a reason why he’s the guitarist, not the lead singer.

    Other songs I like, but again are simply too much of a departure for the majority of Van Halen’s fan base to go along with. “Joesephina”*, one of my favorites, will be too trite and precious for most fans, though musically it among the most interesting. “Fire in the Hole,” used on the Lethal Weapon 4 soundtrack, never caught hold with myself. “A Year to the Day,” while certainly epic in a cinematic, Led Zeppelin way, is clearly derivative. “Once”, the other epic on the album, and admittedly a fantastic song (primarily because it was ripped off from superior songs), sounds like a rewrite of some progressive rock. Still, the songs have some undeniable power, and is certainly catchy. “One I Love” has that weird Cherone lyrical direction all over it, sound like a love-song from psychology major who has stalker tendencies and is more interested in the idea of love than the experience of love. Very much written from the head, not the heart, though still a fun song. “Dirty Water Dog” again focuses on social matters. “From Afar” is the only traditional woman song on the album, all about stalking an unrequited love. I used to relate to it in my younger days. “Neworld,” the title surely being a reference to the rebirth Eddie envisioned the record to be for the band, is a pleasant, but unsubstantial, instrumental. “Without you”, which kicks starts the album, is the most intrusementally instersting, lyrically original song on the entire disc, and where the whole band just SYNCS. It set a record for going to number one the fastest on the billboard charts.

    Instrumentally, while Eddie certainly turns in some great guitar work, the rhythym section sounds run of the mill and rather dull, and Eddie works within his established guitar techniques, never once sounding vital and free, but instead rather formulaic with a been-there, done that feel, with clinically precise, technically skillful guitar solos.

    When Hagar joined the band, he brought a much different vocal style than DLR. Instead of Cherone bringing a new vocal style and sound, he sounds, rather uncannily, like Sammy Hagar, only after a botched throat surgery and who screams all the time. Some of the vocals get grating, to say the least.

    VAN HALEN III is simply a hard record to classify. While certainly not a great Van Halen album, par say, neither is it a bad album. Ultimately, the record sounds like a band trying to reinvent themselves at a point in their career where the major audiences won’t care about the reinvention, nor welcome it, and nor will the reinvention win them new fans. But that sounds like I’m giving a bad statement about the music itself, which is actually quite good in parts (the only real dud is “How Many Say I” due how self-concsious it feels and “Ballot or the Bullet”, which does not work on any level). The record shows definite promise, and perhaps had the band had time to develop this direction more the Cherone version of the band would have made it.

    Ultimately, VAN HALEN III is Van Halen’s own FINAL CUT. When Roger Waters issued Pink Floyd’s final album with him still in the band, it was a sonically dense record that did not quite sound like anything else in rock music, save Roger Waters’ own solo records that were released subsequently. Just like the 1987 MOMENTARY LAPSE OF REASON is essentially a Gilmour solo project under the Pink Floyd moniker, so FINAL CUT is a Roger Waters solo album in all but name. FINAL CUT is where Roger Waters took over the band and remade it under his own artistic vision and image.

    VAN HALEN III, while musically nothing like FINAL CUT, has remarkable similarities. III is where Eddie became Edward and he took over the band, and just like Waters (though due to entirely different circumstances), the band folded underneath him. While Floyd fans like FINAL CUT, not very many VH fans like III. Still, this is very much an Eddie Van Halen record, with his personality ultimately dominating the album.

    Ironically enough, though III was flouted as being a musical rebirth though ultimately fell through, FINAL CUT and VAN HALEN III are worth listening too, as both are diverse and sound like nothing else in rock music.

    But it’s probably better not to be a Van Halen fan to really appreciate this album.

    *III’s release date was delayed three weeks when the band replaced “That’s Why I Love You” in the track listing with “Joesephina”. “That’s Why I Love You”, still unreleased, leaked before the album hit the stores, and is still widely available over the internet. A fine song, it should have been included as well.

    Posted on March 10, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now