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CD Review: “The Very Best of Both Worlds” – Van Halen

NOTE:: This is a review of the double CD set as pertaining to the track listing and song quality. While I have not actually heard this CD, I have all the songs, therefore, the end result should be almost, if not, entirely similar to if I actually had the double CD set.

Millions of Van Halen fans have been in the dumps since the dismissal of lead singer Sammy Hagar from the group. Although some did find solace in the addition of Gary Cherone to fill the hole, things looked bad as Van Halen and Cherone in 1998 released the worst album in the band’s 20-year history and Cherone’s departure seemed to put the nail in the coffin. Numerous rumours of David Lee Roth’s (the first lead singer from 1978-1985) or Hagar’s reunification with the band surfaced but nothing came to the forefront for years. When rumours of Hagar hanging out at the 5150 studio with the Van Halen brothers started to circulate at the beginning of the year and no one was saying anything other than “no comment”, Van Halen fans around the world anticipating the long-awaiting reunion they’ve sought for so long.

The reunion was more than just rumours; they became reality. Sammy Hagar made peace with lead guiatarist Eddie Van Halen, drummer Alex Van Halen and bassist Michael Anthony, they’ve hit the road this summer on a sold-out North American concert tour and July 20th they released a double-CD best of compilation titled “The Very Best of Both Worlds” which is very appropriate considering that they are split between the Roth era songs and the Hagar era songs. Along with some of their greatest hits like “Jump” and “Right Now” are three brand new songs and three live songs (which were previously released on Van Halen’s 1993 live CD “Right Here, Right Now”).

The three new songs are true to Van Halen form. Each could be great, but each has a serious flaw to them. “Learning to See”, the weakest of the three, needs better structure, but it sounds very good nonetheless, but is not the track that Van Halen fans were waiting for after 10 years in limbo. “Up for Breakfast” is a cool, upbeat track, but it smells of 1986, which was what I immediately thought of the first time I heard this song a couple of weeks back. Don’t get me wrong; it very enjoyable and poppy in the good way, but it’s not going to storm it’s way up the charts. The best song of the three new ones is definitely “It’s About Time”. The title, which is so appropriate of the reunification, is very well done. If it wasn’t for the first couple of seconds at the beginning with the hard pulsating guitar beat, it would be an amazing song. In fact, those first couple of seconds might be so brutal for a casual listener that they may be turned off by the whole songs. Minus the first couple of seconds though, the song is incredibly ferocious in it’s melody, making you want to sing out the words.

The track listing is bizarre. The songs are not in chronological order whatsoever. It would have been nice to at least have the first CD all DLR and the second all Hagar. As well, there are many notable hits that are missing from 2two-CD set. A couple of songs such as “Everybody Wants Some” or “Feels So Good” could have been replaced by other more popular hits such as “Mean Streets”, “I’m the One”, “Mine All Mine”, or “The Dream Is Over”. Gary Cherone’s tenure in the band is non-existant on this set, which may be a little unfair (“Without You” definitely deserves to be on a Van Halen multiple-CD collection). While there may be problems with the track listing, those who complain about that Van Halen hasn’t done much since they previously released a “Greatest Hits” (1996) should find their fears unfounded. More than half the songs on this compilation were not on the “Greatest Hits” CD, which is not including the new songs.

All the tracks on this 2-CD set have been remastered. As far as the sound, I can’t comment on this much considering I haven’t heard any of the remastered songs from the Hagar era. I have the remastered Roth era CDs and the sound quality is excellent. Warner has yet to do the remastering treatment to the earlier Hagar era records so I don’t know how they turned out. However, as far as I’m concerned, the original albums sounded fine to me and only those with very sensitive musically-inclined ears might find problems, so the remastering has probably improved them.

If you don’t have most of the existing Van Halen albums, you should definitely pick up this 2-CD set. Even if you already own the previous “Greatest Hits” album, you should definitely consider buying this compilation. I would avoid it though if you’re like me and you already own all the albums. The three new songs aren’t that groundbreaking enough to warrant a purchase if you’ve already own all the other songs. You could probably buy them from a music download site like iTunes or Puretracks for pennies. Eddie isn’t that broke from his alimony payments to Valerie Bertinelli so he doesn’t need you to desperately buy this album.

About James Gore

  • SFC SKI

    One of the greatest mysteries of rock is how Hagar and Van Halen, two hard rocking elements on their own, are so much less than the some of their parts when combined.

  • http://jamiegore.modblog.com James Gore

    I think that the music has evolved. Eddie’s guitar riffs sound nothing like they did in the Roth days as they do now. I suppose that if the music stayed the same and sounded the same, it would become tired and seem too dated.