Review Summary: While it's not as great as any of Van Halen's first 6 albums, 5150 is still a very good album that marked a change in Van Halen's style. 5150 is probably Van Halen's most accomplished album featuring Sammy Hagar as vocalist.
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 special and peculiar album for Van Halen, given that it marks a considerable change in Van Halen's 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 more of a pop rock sound, featuring 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, and it's true that 5150
falls short to Dave's albums with the band, but it's a great album in its own right.
Despite marking a somewhat radical change from Van Halen's earlier albums, 5150
is indeed a great album. However, people who think that Van Halen means Eddie's guitar will probably be greatly disappointed at 5150
. It's an album that relies a lot more on Eddie's synths and keyboards than on his guitar wizardry. Regardless, after causing an initial shock, a little surprise, 5150
develops into quite a nice album. Highlights go to Why Can't This Be Love
and Love Walks In
. They're 1980's glam metal cheese at its best. Power ballads that sound cheesy as ever, but still you can't help yourself but to enjoy 'em. Relying strongly on Eddie's keyboards and his melodic and powerful guitar solos, they present extremely catchy choruses that stick in your head for a while, and a great performance by Hagar. Dreams
' chorus and Love Walks In
's solo stand out. It's no wonder they became such big hits.
is an album where the hit singles actually are the album's best songs. However, there are also some interesting moments to watch out for in other tracks here. Good Enough
is an example of that. It's a track that sounds similar to Van Halen's style in its albums with Dave, featuring some sublime guitar work throughout and a nice hook. Get Up
presents an awesome pounding beat by Alex, it's also a rocker presenting a fast tempo, that could be even better if its chorus wasn't so repetitive. 5150
's guitar intro is very sweet, perfectly showcasing Eddie's skills, and it has a viciously catchy chorus. However, great things can't be said about every track. Inside
is clearly a weak moment, and just a poor choice for a closer overall, Summer Nights
is an attempt to write yet another pop rock sounding hit single, but failed to do so, and Best Of Both Worlds
is slightly reminiscent of Van Halen's earlier days, but a considerably weaker track in comparison.
From an overall point of view, 5150
was both a special and an accomplished album for Van Halen. 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, who are more straightforward rock 'n' roll, still wonder if Sammy Hagar was a good choice. Truth is that he was able to do a surprisingly good job and 5150
turned out to be a quite a pleasant surprise. Relying more on synths than on Eddie's guitar wizardry, it explored more pop tendences than Van Halen was used to. Still, it proved to be a great commercial success, spawning 3 hit singles across the world. 5150
isn't much of a match against Van Halen's first 6 albums, but it's a great album on its own.