The final word on Van Halen's Sammy Hagar era: it's a bit corporate, a bit rock-by-numbers, a bit... uneventful

A five disc roundup of Van Hagar: four studio albums and a disc of rarities, but every home shouldn't have one

Van Halen: The Collection II cover art
(Image: © Rhino)

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It wasn’t all about David Lee Roth, y’know. With Sammy Hagar as frontman, the ‘Van Hagar’ incarnation of Van Halen eclipsed the 1974-85 DLR era in terms of sales. The Collection II covers the four consecutive US No.1 albums released during Sammy Hagar’s initial tenure with the band: 5150 (1986), OU812 (1988), For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991) and Balance (1995). A fifth disc offers a collection of studio rarities.

And yet it was all about Roth, really, wasn’t it? Van Halen’s first five albums with Diamond Dave had a swaggering pizzazz; these days this stuff with Hagar sounds a bit... meh. A bit corporate. A bit rock-by-numbers. A bit... uneventful. Apart from Why Can’t This Be Love?, the keyboard-dominated mega-hit from 5150, it’s hard to name many other truly memorable songs this version of VH recorded. 

Seven of F.U.C.K.’s 11 tracks were released as singles, but – and here’s a challenge for ya – apart from Poundcake, can you name any others? Seventh Seal (Balance’s opener) is a fabulous, almost mystical, Eddie Van Halen showboat, and Hagar, for once, is not on are-you-ready-to-rock autopilot.

But throughout, eruptions in one’s pants are at a noticeable premium.

Geoff Barton

Geoff Barton is a British journalist who founded the heavy metal magazine Kerrang! and was an editor of Sounds music magazine. He specialised in covering rock music and helped popularise the new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) after using the term for the first time (after editor Alan Lewis coined it) in the May 1979 issue of Sounds.