Review Summary: In Dave's absence, EVH Land turns out to be more average than one would assume.
It was sad for a lot of hard rock fans to know that, somewhere around 1984, David Lee Roth, an always charismatic frontman, decided to part ways with Van Halen. One of hard rock's biggest names at that time had just split up. A turmoil of tensions and bad blood between Eddie and Dave led to a somewhat inevitable, yet sad split. After losing a very stubborn, yet also very talented vocalist and frontman, Warner Bros. Records tried to convince Eddie and Alex to disband, since Van Halen was seriously having trouble finding a replacement for David Lee. Eventually, Eddie ran into former Montrose vocalist Sammy Hagar, who accepted to fill in for Dave, forming what became known among fans as Van Hagar
. Hagar joined and quickly started working on new material, making his debut as Van Halen's frontman on Van Halen's 7th album called 5150
, an album that received that name after Eddie's home studio, and is also a California police code for "mentally disturbed person", is a very peculiar album for Van Halen, given that it marks a considerable change in its sound. While the band's albums starring David Lee were known for its straightforward rock approach, featuring mainly Dave's stylistic wails and Eddie's crazy guitar playing, Hagar's era is marked by a heavy use of keyboards and synths, and a wide presence of love songs and ballads, which was basically unknown ground for Van Halen up to that point. It's also VH's first album that wasn't produced by Ted Templeman, who left to produce Dave's first solo venture Eat 'Em And Smile
, which was also released in 1986. Many fans refused to accept Hagar as a new vocalist and Dave's replacement, but even the ones who gave him a chance would have reasons to be disappointed here.
Marking a somewhat radical change from Van Halen's early days, 5150
is an average album on almost all fronts. Relying a lot more on Eddie's synths and keyboards than on his guitar wizardry, VH loses a part of what made them special in the first place. Why Can't This Be Love
or Love Walks In
exemplify exactly what was going on in the Van Halen universe around the time. Glam metal cheese at best, they're power ballads that fail to capitalize on any sugary hook or singalong chorus. Relying strongly on Eddie's keyboards and his melodic and powerful guitar solos, it's surprising to see how restrained the rest of the group is here.
The new incarnation of Van Halen does try to echo the sound of their earlier albums from time to time on this album. Good Enough
is an example of that, a track that wouldn't sound out on place in Fair Warning
. Get Up
is also more upbeat than the majority of the songs here, but wanders around and accomplishes little. It's probably the title track that stands out the most, and its viciously catchy chorus sees Hagar in one of his best deliveries here. However, 5150
lacks in more areas than not. Inside
is just a poor choice for a closer overall, Summer Nights
is a failed attempt to write a bombastic synth pop single, and Best Of Both Worlds
is slightly reminiscent of Van Halen's earlier days, but a considerably weaker track in comparison.
Finding someone who could replace David Lee Roth as Van Halen's new frontman was a tough job, and many fans of Van Halen's earlier albums with Dave still wondered if Sammy Hagar was a good choice. Truth is that 5150
really wasn't much to be excited about. Relying more on synths than on Eddie's guitar wizardry, it explored more pop tendencies than Van Halen was used to. It isn't much of a match against Van Halen's first 6 albums, but the 'new' Van Halen would produce slightly more interesting material in the future.