“The Best Of Van Halen” Volume 1 by Van Halen

Artist: Van Halen
Title: “The Best Of Van Halen” Volume 1
Label: Warner Brothers Music
Release Date: 10/22/1996
Genre: Hard Rock
Rating: 4/5

Musically speaking, Van Halen is probably number two in my list of three favorite Hard Rock and Heavy Metal band and finds themselves bookended by KISS and Judas Priest. That being said, I decided to toss out some thoughts on the bands first ever compilation release which hit the markets way back in 1996. It might surprise some of the newer fans of the bands work that this compilation was something like 20 years in the making and not only spanned about eight of their releases. With this being the case the argument about why this was not a double disc collection was something that definitely came up in conversation. As a collection I felt this was “okay at best” even though it featured a number of my favorite tunes and the reason I make a statement like that is based on it being a sole CD. Too many powerful moments in the bands history are avoided and instead the release comes off as a step-by-step walk through the bands history until the listener reached where we were at the time this was released. We start off with “Eruption” and the tune does NOT lead us into “You Really Got Me” which was the song that made everyone an instant fan of Van Halen even though it was originally penned by The Kinks. I know it was my own introduction to the band and the day after I heard it, I walked the two miles to the local record store to buy a copy of this on vinyl. I’m sure I am not alone here. So we end up with three tunes from the debut which is an album that does no wrong at all and only the “single” from “Van Halen II” with “Dance The Night Away”. The same applies for “WACF” with “And The Cradle Will Rock”. I liked so much more from this album and was sad to find all the rest omitted but again, one CD means limited time to get the point across. The radio classics are paid attention to for the most part from here on out from the Roth era and then we wander into the Sammy Hagar territory which would historically get a lot more mainstream support than most of the early stuff did. I liked some of what Sammy brought to the table in the band but I would have traded him away in a second if Roth could come back.

For legacy Van Halen fans there is only one real reason to purchase this release and that is for the newly recorded material which closes out the album as these two tracks feature the bands original singer David Lee Roth. Roth’s “return” to the lineup for recording purposes caused a lot of rift with Hagar who had taken them to different levels of success with his contributions and while discussions about a Roth reunion were hinted at, nothing more than gossip and scuttlebutt seemed to be the case. It would have been smart to do back then in 1996 as KISS were already on a bombastic reunion tour and while they are my number 1 favorite of all, I think an original Van Halen tour would have surpassed theirs. As songs the two new numbers are not terrible but they are also not amazing. Of the two I lean to “Me Wise Magic” for its groove and great backups that soar care of Michael Anthony. These days I see folks adding the two tunes to their collection simply by purchasing them via the legitimate digital means or as some do as well, borrowing their friends copy to load them up. Hey, it happens and you know it. There is nothing much offered by way of booklet which I felt sucked but what can you do. The idea was to give a new audience a taste of what Van Halen was all about and I guess in that they succeeded. The diehards already owned the full catalog and the lines of preference between Roth and Hagar had already been divided. This album would be the catalyst in Sammy moving on from the lineup as lead singer and leave the world thinking that Roth would return, and while he would try this would not happen in 1996.

Track Listing:
1. Eruption
2. Ain’t Talking’ Bout Love
3. Runnin’ With The Devil
4. Dance The Night Away
5. And The Cradle Will Rock
6. Unchained
7. Jump
8. Panama
9. Why Can’t This Be Love
10. Dreams
11. When It’s Love
12. Poundcake
13. Right Now
14. Can’t Stop Lovin’ You
15. Humans Being
16. Cant Get This Stuff No More
17. Me Wise Magic

Official Website: www.van-halen.com

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