Tag Archives: Van Halen

Rocks In The Attic #409: Montrose – ‘Montrose’ (1973)

RITA#409Released the same year as another stunning rock debut, this self-titled album by Montrose is an oddity. It’s seldom spoke about in the same sentence as heavyweight rock records, yet any self-respecting rock fan seems to be a huge fan. It exists in my collection on its own – I’ve never come across their later albums – and my copy has seen better days, with a sleeve seemingly rebuilt with sellotape by a previous owner.

It’s all good though. The most prominent aspect of this album – aside from Ronnie Montrose’s incendiary guitar playing – is the familiar voice of Sammy Hagar; this being his debut recording. Looking back from the 21st century, after watching Van Halen evolve into a middle-of-the-road nothing of a band – with the vast majority of those questionable years voiced by Hagar – it’s actually nice to hear him front something with a bit of balls.

The highlight here is Rock Candy – a rock staple of the ‘70s and ‘80s (and covered by Bulletboys on the first Wayne’s World soundtrack). The rest of the record is just as strong, and if anything if it feels a little ahead of its time. This isn’t a rock record stuck in the mire of late ‘60s psychedelia, this is a party record, the kind of which were a dime a dozen in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s (or twelve for ten cents depending on where you shop).

Hit: Rock Candy

Hidden Gem: Rock The Nation

Rocks In The Attic #366: Abba – ‘The Singles – The First Ten Years’ (1982)

RITA#366It always amuses me when bands – or more likely, record companies – bet on what they regard as a sure thing. Here we have Abba’s The Singles – The First Ten Years. The band split in its tenth year, so there was never a ‘Second Ten Years’ follow-up to this. Similarly, I remember buying Van Halen’s Best Of – Volume 1 when it was released in 1996. I’m still waiting for Volume 2. I might be waiting for a long time.

Abba did have a follow-up, of sorts, ten years later. Gold: Greatest Hits (or Abba Gold as it’s more commonly known) was released in 1992, just as the world was beginning to forget about them. That compilation just goes to show what a new music format can do for a band’s career. Bring out the flashy, futuristic compact disc, stick a load of music on it that was released between ten and twenty years earlier, sit back and watch it rocket up the charts (with a little help from Erasure, Muriel’s Wedding and The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert). Benny & Björn must be rolling in it.

Hit: Dancing Queen

Hidden Gem: Does Your Mother Know

Rocks In The Attic #275: Van Halen – ‘5150’ (1986)

RITA#275Van Hagar’s first album is a ripper. I have a soft spot for it because my first guitar amp was a Peavey EVH 5150 model, and that beast got me through a lot of gigs; but I actually prefer this album to 1984 – usually seen as the peak of the band’s involvement with David Lee Roth. In fact, Diamond Dave’s solo album Eat ‘Em And Smile, released the same year as 5150 and with Steve Vai on guitar, is an overlooked classic – and those three albums together are a great trifecta of mid-‘80s rock.

Unfortunately – whether it be Sammy Hagar’s influence or not – this is also where Van Halen start to drift into the middle of the road (it’s probably also the influence of Foreigner’s Mick Jones in the co-producer’ seat). Until this point, I’d say they were probably one of the most cutting-edge bands of the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s. Now, with soppy ballads like Dreams and Love Walks In, they showed that they were making records for middle-aged people, not teens at keg parties.

I used to play this record over and over when I was at University, and this was probably the time I was most in awe of Eddie’s guitar playing. The guitar intro to Summer Nights is one of my favourite Van Halen moments – a wonderful showcase of his warped ability. Listening now, I can’t quite handle some of the most dated aspects of the album, like the God-awful synth on Dreams and Love Walks In. Eddie used synths masterly on 1984’s Jump, but here he uses them to soundtrack how they might be played in the kind of heaven where Kenny G plays God.

Thankfully there’s only one song on the album – opener Good Enough – where Hagar seems to be doing his best David Lee Roth impression. He wails over the rest of the album more in his own style, which I like much more than the whelps and screams of his predecessor.

My least favourite part of the album is the closing song Inside. This dirge-like song really leaves a sour taste in the mouth after such a sunny and upbeat album.

Hit: Why Can’t This Be Love

Hidden Gem: Summer Nights

Rocks In The Attic #240: Van Halen – ‘Van Halen II’ (1979)

RITA#240Given the energy that peppers the band’s debut album, it almost feels wrong when you put this record on, and you’re faced with the laid-back cover of You’re No Good as the opening track. It’s so laid-back it almost sounds like you’ve put a 45RPM record on a lower speed. The band eventually gets going, and you realise that yes, this is indeed a Van Halen record.

Big single Dance The Night Away serves as proof that the band can write decent pop songs, and the running time on the album – a very brief 32 minutes – is a welcome hit-and-run in the days before Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth started taking themselves too seriously.

Guitar-wise, to match Eruption from the first album, Eddie gives us a similar showcase in the shape of Spanish Fly – a virtuoso harmonics and tapping performance, but on an acoustic guitar. The whole of the album seems to be a departure from the previous album, in fact. Whereas that album seemed to be very two-dimensional in its guitar tone (a lot of it sounds as though it was recorded without Eddie changing any settings), this sophomore effort finds Eddie starting to experiment with guitar sounds – especially clean tones, such as the introduction to Women In Love…, which sounds very anachronistic for a late ‘70s rock record, and much more in line with their mid-‘80s creative peak.

The back and yellow guitar that Eddie’s is shown playing on the back cover of the album, is now buried with Pantera’s Dimebag Darrell, who was shot and killed on stage in 2004.

Hit: Dance The Night Away

Hidden Gem: Spanish Fly