Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
[Welcome to Thirty Year Thursday, the weekly series on my favorite albums of 1986]
Artist: VAN HALEN
Between 1980 & 1982, Van Halen was probably among my top 5 favorite bands, but I had lost interest by the time they released their final album with David Lee Roth, 1984. Many fans consider it the pinnacle of their career, and it was their highest-charting and best-selling record, but I guess my musical tastes changed and I had grown tired of DLR’s shtick. Two years later I was eager to embrace the next chapter in the Van Halen saga when it was announced that Sammy Hagar would take over as lead vocalist. It would be many years later that I discovered the band that put him on the map, Montrose, but I was already a Hagar fan thanks to his excellent 1981 solo album, Standing Hampton, so I knew he could deliver the goods as a singer and guitarist. Song-for-song, 5150 is by far my favorite album of the “Van Hagar” years. The synths & keyboards that had begun to infiltrate their sound on the previous couple of records were prominent on the first single, “Why Can’t This Be Love,” as well as the ballad that blew me away the first time I heard it, “Love Walks In.” All the elements that made me fall in love with Van Halen as a 13-year-old…Eddie Van Halen’s guitar wizardry, Alex Van Halen’s propulsive one-of-a-kind drumming and Michael Anthony’s solid bass playing & inimitable high harmonies…were still on full display throughout the album. With songs like the soaring “Dreams,” the stomping “Best Of Both Worlds” and the super-catchy “Summer Nights,” the “pop” element that had always been a part of their hard rock sound took center stage, but they still maintained their headbanging credentials on tracks like “Good Enough” and “Get Up.” The thin production by Donn Landee and Foreigner’s Mick Jones is probably my only complaint about 5150. It’s not bad but often the songs lack the punch and live-in-the-studio feel that longtime producer Ted Templeman brought to their previous albums. Hopefully it gets a well-deserved remastering one day.
For a more thorough review of 5150, please check out this post from Mike “LeBrain” Ladano: