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Hard Rock - Released January 4, 1984 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Hard Rock - Released February 10, 1978 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Hard Rock - Released March 23, 1979 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Hard Rock - Released March 26, 1980 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Hard Rock - Released March 27, 2015 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Hard Rock - Released May 6, 1981 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Pop - Released September 24, 1996 | Warner Records

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Hard Rock - Released March 24, 1986 | Warner Records

The power struggle within Van Halen was often painted as David Lee Roth's ego running out of control -- a theory that was easy enough to believe given his outsized charisma -- but in retrospect, it seems evident that Eddie Van Halen wanted respect to go along with his gargantuan fame, and Roth wasn't willing to play. Bizarrely enough, Sammy Hagar -- the former Montrose lead singer who had carved out a successful solo career -- was ready to play, possibly because the Red Rocker was never afraid of being earnest, nor was he afraid of synthesizers, for that matter. There was always the lingering suspicion that, yes, Sammy truly couldn't drive 55, and that's why he wrote the song, and that kind of forthright rocking is evident on the strident anthems of 5150. From the moment the album opens with the crashing "Good Enough," it's clearly the work of the same band -- it's hard to mistake Eddie's guitars, just as it's hard to mistake Alex and Michael Anthony's pulse, or Michael's harmonies -- but the music feels decidedly different. Where Diamond Dave would have strutted through the song with his tongue firmly in cheek, Hagar plays it right down the middle, never winking, never joking. Even when he takes a stab at humor on the closing "Inside" -- joshing around about why the guys chose him as a replacement -- it never feels funny, probably because, unlike Dave, he's not a born comedian. Then again, 5150 wasn't really intended to be funny; it was intended to be a serious album, spiked by a few relentless metallic rockers like "Get Up," but functioning more as a vehicle to showcase Van Halen's -- particularly the guitarist's -- increasing growth and maturity. There are plenty of power ballads, in "Why Can't This Be Love" and "Love Walks In," there's a soaring anthem of inspiration in "Dreams," and even the straight-up rocker "Best of Both Worlds" is tighter and leaner than the gonzo excursions of "Panama" and "Hot for Teacher." And that's where Hagar comes in: Diamond Dave didn't have much patience for plainspoken lyrics or crafting songs, but Sammy does and he brings a previously unheard sense of discipline to the writing on 5150. Not that Hagar is a craftsman like Randy Newman, but he's helped push Van Halen into a dedication on writing full-fledged songs, something that often seemed an afterthought in the original lineup. And so Van Hagar was a bit of an odd mix -- a party band and a party guy, slowly veering into a bourgeois concept of respectability, something that eventually sunk the band -- but on 5150 it worked because they had the songs and the desire to party, so those good intentions and slow tunes don't slow the album down; they give it variety and help make the album a pretty impressive opening act for Van Halen Mach II. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Hard Rock - Released April 14, 1982 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Hard Rock - Released February 10, 1978 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Hard Rock - Released January 4, 1984 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Hard Rock - Released April 14, 1982 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Hard Rock - Released May 6, 1981 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Hard Rock - Released July 19, 2004 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Hard Rock - Released February 23, 1993 | Rhino - Warner Records

Van Halen assembled their first live album, the two-CD Live: Right Here Right Now, from a collection of tapes dating from 1985 (when Sammy Hagar replaced David Lee Roth), to the present. Only a few songs recall Roth's days, and too many songs from For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge are featured (ten out of 11). With the exception of the consistently impressive Eddie Van Halen, the album slows to a halt during the solo passages. Most of the time, the performances aren't all that different from the original studio recordings. Despite the moments of tedium, Live: Right Here Right Now deserves to be in any real Van Halen fan's collection; those who aren't devoted to the band would be advised to stick with the original albums. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Hard Rock - Released June 17, 1991 | Warner Records

The smirking title indicates the true nature of For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, Van Halen's third album with Sammy Hagar. Backing away from the diversity of OU812, the band turns in some of the most basic, straightforward rock & roll of its career. At times, F.U.C.K. recalls the sleek hard rock of Hagar's early-'80s albums, and it's undeniable that his limited vocal power had a great deal to do with the obvious nature of most of this music. While the band is still tight and professional -- and Eddie Van Halen's guitar work remains impressive -- the songwriting is, by and large, undistinguished, with the anthemic "Right Now" standing out as the most memorable song of the batch, mainly because of its incessant chorus. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released June 23, 2009 | Warner Records

The somber black and white cover could have been a knowing allusion to Meet the Beatles!, but it's really a signal that Van Halen is playing it for keeps on OU812, their second record with Sammy Hagar. Indeed, the striking thing about OU812 is that all its humor is distilled into a silly punny title, because even the party tunes here -- and there are many -- are performed with a dogged, determined vibe. When David Lee Roth fronted the band, almost everything that Van Halen did seemed easy -- as big, boisterous, and raucous as an actual party -- but Van Hagar makes good times seem like tough work here. Apart from a few cuts -- the countryish hook on "Finish What Ya Started," the slow, bluesy strut "Black and Blue" -- the riffs are complicated, not catchy, the rhythms plod, they don't rock, and Sammy strains to inject some good times by singing too hard. It gives OU812 a bit of a dour feel, not entirely dissimilar to Fair Warning, but unlike that early unheralded gem, this isn't a descent into darkness; it's merely a very inward rock record, as Eddie Van Halen pushes the band toward interesting musical territory. Often, this takes the form of jazzy chord changes or harmonies -- most evidently on the sleek opener, "Mine All Mine," but also on the otherwise metallic boogie "Source of Infection" -- but there's also "Cabo Wabo," the longest jam they've laid down on record to date, and a cover of Little Feat's "A Apolitical Blues" (which could have been a salute to producer Ted Templeman's early glories as much as a chance to do some down-n-dirty blues rock). Of course, there's also a pair of power ballads here, both poppier than the ones on 5150 -- "When It's Love" is pure balladry, "Feels So Good" rides along on a gurgling synth -- but really, they're red herrings on a record that's the hardest, darkest rock Van Halen has made since Fair Warning. And if it isn't as good as that record (even if it's nearly not as much fun), it's nevertheless the best showcase of the instrumental abilities of Van Hagar. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Hard Rock - Released March 27, 2015 | Rhino

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Rock - Released February 7, 2012 | Interscope

Reinventing Van Halen proved to be a tricky task, so Eddie Van Halen proceeded to reunite the band…a move so obvious it should have come as no surprise that it was easier said than done. Sammy Hagar was brought in for a 2004 hits album and an accompanying tour, a project that collapsed in acrimony so noxious that founding bassist Michael Anthony left with the Red Rocker. Eddie brought in his son Wolfgang as Anthony's replacement and began a prolonged courtship of David Lee Roth that first led to a tour, and then to this, A Different Kind of Truth, the band's first album in 14 years and their first with Roth in twice that long. That's a long time, but the roots of A Different Kind of Truth stretch back even further, with several songs originating from demo tapes Van Halen made before their debut, and the rest consciously written in that style. No synths are to be found anywhere on the record, they've been swept aside along with Michael Anthony's bedrock eighth-note thump and Sammy Hagar's radio-ready pop polish, stripping Van Halen down to their core: a duel for attention between David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen. Where Sammy enabled Eddie's ambitions, Diamond Dave unleashes the guitarist's id, taunting him to play faster, harder, tougher, then fighting for space between unwieldy riffs. Certainly, there are hooks here, even some with pop propulsion, but the unexpected signature of A Different Kind of Truth is its heaviness, its 13 songs of loud, unrelenting rock. The only time it comes up for air is on "Stay Frosty," with its acoustic intro deliberately evoking memories of “Ice Cream Man.” Of course, the entirety of this comeback is designed to revive the spirit of the first five or six Van Halen records, and building the album upon those old demos turns out to be a savvy move, as they not only saved promising songs, but re-oriented the band, pushing them toward their essence. It’s akin to the Rolling Stones digging up unfinished songs and completing them for an expanded reissue of Some Girls but in reverse: instead of trying to fit into the past, Van Halen are using their history to revive their present and they succeed surprisingly well on A Different Kind of Truth. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Hard Rock - Released March 23, 1979 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Van Halen in the magazine