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Van Halen: Van Halen III - Album Of The Week Club review

A new singer, a bass player missing in action and a distinct lack of partying: will someone make the case for Van Halen III?

Van Halen: Van Halen III
(Image: © Warner Records)
Van Halen: Van Halen III

(Image credit: Warner Records)

Neworld
Without You
One I Want
From Afar
Dirty Water Dog
Once
Fire in the Hole
Josephina
Year to the Day
Primary
Ballot or the Bullet
How Many Say I

Sammy Hagar helped take Van Halen to heights they’d never reached with original singer Dave Lee Roth, and even the most partisan of Roth loyalists had to admit that Sammy Hagar could sing. What’s more, Hagar had starred on one of the greatest rock records of all time, Montrose’s legendary debut. But the same could not be said of the guy who replaced Hagar in the late 90s. 

Extreme singer Gary Cherone did the exact opposite, and took Van Halen to the lowest point of their career. The sensitive Cherone was hardly the sort of party-hearty frontman Van Halen’s musical pyrotechnics cried out for, and their sole record with him did not review well: critics proclaimed it the kind of bloodless, bland rock you’d normally expect from those bands who used to trail in VH’s wake... like Extreme.

It was a disastrous mismatch, producing just one album that sold only 500,000 copies when every other Van Halen album had shifted at least two million. Three years later Cherone was gone, and three years after that Hagar was back in. Business returned to normal.  

Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute. 

Join the group now.

Other albums released in March 1998

  • Contact from the Underworld of Redboy - Robbie Robertson
  • Pilgrim - Eric Clapton
  • Snake Bite Love - Motörhead
  • Virtual XI - Iron Maiden
  • Twilight in Olympus - Symphony X
  • XIII - Rage
  • Colma - Buckethead
  • Space Heater - Reverend Horton Heat
  • Boggy Depot - Jerry Cantrell
  • 12 Bar Blues - Scott Weiland

What they said...

"Cherone has one speed as a singer on III – pained exertion – and longtime bassist Michael Anthony and drummer Alex Van Halen sound as though they’re lumbering at any tempo. When the band plays it heavy, it mires itself in a Seventies tar pit, with only the chorus of Without You achieving any sort of pop resonance." (Rolling Stone)

"Van Halen’s first effort in its third incarnation may not be its most focused album, but it might be its most adventurous. Former Extreme frontman Gary Cherone, replacing Sammy Hagar, works his way through vigorous rockers (Without You) and pensive ballads (Year to the Day) that churn and soar with the group’s signature blend of musical muscle and pop elan. (Los Angeles Times)

"Cherone’s over-emote-from-constricted-throat vocals are less distinctive than either of his predecessors’, and his lyrics fall somewhere between less than profound and not quite abysmal. Yet, judging from the renewed intensity of Eddie’s guitar playing throughout much of III, having a merely competent, relatively ego-free singer seems to have reinvigorated his muse." (Entertainment Weekly)

What you said...

John Davidson: Van Halen’s 1978 debut probably didn’t save rock'n'roll but it was a damned fine album, full of energy, youthful arrogance and sheer talent. They didn’t manage to bottle that level of creativity and power in any of their subsequent albums and tbh by the time Sammy Hagar joined I had largely bailed.

Van Halen III was released twenty years after their first and it’s fair to say that little remains of the original. There is little of the youthful vim and vigour of the original and if anything, this is an album that reeks of early middle age. The songs are longer, more reflective and none of them could be described as ‘party rock’ - a genre that Van Halen might not have invented but certainly made their own. Neither do they have radio friendly polish of the Hagar era’s best output – though for me that is as much a blessing as a weakness.

In the absence of Roth or Hagar, EVH drafted in Extreme’s Gary Cherone, who in fairness does a better job on the vocals than history credits him with and sounds quite a lot like Sammy Hagar at times. AVH continues to provide solid drum work but long standing member Michael Anthony was notably ‘under used’ on this album and that fact is probably more keenly felt. The bass playing is almost non existent (or lost deep in the mix) and his harmonising backing vocals are largely gone – and if anything beyond DLR’s party-hard charm and Eddie’s tapping technique defined Van Halen it was those west coast harmonies. 

The other thing that is notably missing are blistering, frenetic guitar solos and fretboard histrionics. These are replaced by a more laid-back bluesy sound. Eddie’s guitar playing is mature and varied – with a mixture of riffs and finger picking that actually give the album a bit of depth and on that basis, it’s not actually a bad album. It doesn’t conform to expectations of a Van Halen (the band) album but treated purely as an Eddie Van Halen vanity/ side project this would probably have been received more kindly.

New World is no Eruption – in truth it is closer to Bron Yr Aur - but it sets out the stall for the albums more reflective tone

Without You, One I Want, From Afar and Dirty Water Dog are all solid enough rockers. The vocal harmonies on Without You sound like they’d been through some sort of vocoder treatment but otherwise this is as close to the traditional VH band sound as the album gets.

Once is an odd one, it sounds like the close out song from one of those more muscular romantic dramas from the 1980s – like Top Gun or Officer And A Gentleman and has a dated synth intro and drum machine rhythm - but if you bear with it the interplay between Cherone’s voice and Eddie’s guitar builds into a satisfying mid-section. It goes on a little too long but it’s a lot better than the intro suggests.

Fire In The Hole – lets face it if Diamond Dave had written this he’d have been winking to us about the risks of casual sex but instead we have a pretty average rocker – without much fun or swagger.

Josephina starts with vocal and acoustic guitar, and is by VH standards a pretty limp effort, occupying the space between a stripped down Queen song and a half baked Aerosmith power ballad, it threatens to build into something but never really gets going and doesn’t repay the investment.

Year To The Day starts much the same but has that tidal quality where it builds and fades and builds again. If you last until the five minute mark you are rewarded by a decent, bluesy solo but it slides back into the chorus after a minute, at which point a fade would have been better than the extended outro.

The second instrumental (Primary) is just dull – and on an album where songs last longer than they should a second-rate mini instrumental of noodling feels like the worst indulgence.

Ballot Or The Bullet is another rocker in the Van Hagar style. Decent album filler without being essential.

Closer How Many Say I is pretty poor. Eddie can just about hold a tune, and is competent enough on the piano but again it smacks of self-indulgence in the style of Roger Waters and adds nothing to the album at all.

There are no obvious hits but if the album had finished on Fire In The Hole it would probably have been better received. The production is a bit muted – particularly the vocal – though unsurprisingly the guitar is prominent in the mix. The songs are all maybe a little longer than they need to be but with a better editor knocking 20 minutes off the run time this could have been a solid rock album.

Is it Eddie Van Halen’s worst album? Maybe, though my own view is that everything after their debut was patchy at best. But Eddie Van Halen, even on a bad day, could play guitar like few others and at least on this album there are 45 minutes worth of decent tunes that I didn’t want to skip over. 5/10.

Philip Qvist: Okay - after being told for over two decades how bad this album is, I finally decided to listen to it. And the verdict?

Well it is different, it is no doubt one of the, if not the, weakest albums in the VH stable and it is definitely not on par with their debut. That all said, it is still a decent album, that would probably have been better received if it was not released under the VH name.

Gary Cherone does a good job but, all things considered, I don't think he was a good fit.

Mike Anthony only appears on four or five songs and that is a big mistake - why underutilise the band's secret weapon like that? Mind you he (MA) did say that it was more of an Eddie van Halen solo album than a VH one - and I don't think he was wrong.

How Many Say I should never have been on this record: EvH can't sing, period. I could have done without the instrumentals as well. Without You, From Afar and Year To The Day are strong tracks - and overall there are more good songs than bad ones.

Final verdict - a decent enough album, but still a poor Van Halen record. 6.5/10

Mike Knoop: Before a note of music was ever heard, VHIII seemed dead on arrival. From the well-worn stock photo of "Cannonball" Richards to the unimaginative and inconsistent album title (shouldn't 5150 have been Van Halen II, if we followed the band's logic?), the packaging practically screamed, "Nothing new to hear here!"

News of Extreme's Gary Cherone becoming the new lead singer was met with trepidation at best and indifference at worst. For many, Extreme was relegated to power ballad compilations because of More Than Words and never built much of a following beyond that. When the album came out, I worked at a book/music store and it received an indifferent shrug. At least Mötley Crüe's Generation Swine generated snickers, but people would slip it in the music department player when they thought no one was paying attention.

I did not know much of Cherone beyond that song, so I don't know if he always sounded like Sammy Hagar or if he's making a concentrated effort here but my ears were consistently tricked and my brain had to keep reminding them, "Gary, not Sammy. Gary, not Sammy."

It's easy to make Cherone the scapegoat. He's the obvious change, but probably had the least control over what was going on. Sammyism's aside, most of the songs sound like they were unearthed from a pre-grunge 1991 time capsule. Ballot Or The Bullet and Without You seem to be conscious efforts to revisit past glories and the plodding rock of Fire in the Hole was already dull in 1991. Michael Anthony seems to be here in name only. Even the two instrumentals are uninspiring. There's nothing as experimental as Cathedral or Sunday Afternoon In The Park, nothing as pretty as Little Guitars or 1984, and certainly nothing as jaw-dropping as Eruption.

Finally, at 65 minutes, the album, like most 90s CDs, is way too long. For perspective, that's any two of the first six VH albums put together. Year To The Day, in particular, goes on forever. I probably would have capped the album right there. It's an uninspiring epic, but at least it's an epic. Honestly, I would also keep Eddie's piano ballad where he sings lead. It's not necessarily great, but it's the one true surprise on the album.

Fortunately, this was not the final Van Halen album, either by band or man. I am a biased and unapologetic "Roth-alyte," and used to half-seriously say that Eat 'Em And Smile was the last great Van Halen album. If you have not, check out A Different Kind Of Truth. It's loud and fast fun, and songs like Honeybabysweetiedoll show that Eddie Van Halen could still drop jaws when he wanted to.

Kevin Miller: I‘m really struggling to get through this one. It just kind of sounds like lots of little Ed ideas stuck together until they got to five minutes and called it a song. I can’t hear any bass at all. I’ll give Cherone credit here, he really sounds a lot like Sammy, which I assume was what Ed was looking for.

Gary Claydon: It would have been better if this had been tagged as an EVH solo album with guest vocals rather than a bonafide Van Halen release. Because that's what it essentially is. Plus, that way it could have been swept under the carpet as a failed chunk of experimentation by the great man. And let's face it, anybody who influenced, nay, changed the way the guitar was played like he did is entitled to a bit of self indulgent nonsense every now and again.

But this is a bad album. The songs are too long and the arrangements are poor. This album needed a stronger producer to knock the songs into shape, the whole thing lacks direction & cohesion. It also needed a stronger vocalist. Cherone does his best but for the most part just sounds like a sub-par Hagar with the occasional lapse into Freddie Mercury tribute territory. The lack of Michael Anthony backing vocals doesn't help either.

Thankfully this wasn't Van Halen's swan song and Van Halen III is best looked on as a curiosity in the band's catalogue. Just not a particularly good one

Pontus Norshammar: Having a serious listen to this album for first time. My thoughts goes like this:

1 It is not as awful as everyone says.

2 The album is far too long.

3 It’s hard to remember the previous songs when you move on to the next one.

4 Cherone's singing is not my major problem but the songwriting is.

5 Would it have faired better if it had been an instrumental album?

6 It needed a good producer to sort the music out and reorganise the songs.

It is the weakest album by Van Halen, still there are some good music in here. But since it is so long you feel lost and actually exhausted at the end. 3/10

Alex Hayes: God, that was painful. Typing this out will be no fun either as I love Van Halen to my core and was deeply saddened by Eddie's death last week. He will always remain my all time favourite rock musician. What a godawful, disjointed mess this is though, made even more frustrating by the occasional flashes of beauty and brilliance from EVH. 

Numerous times I've tried to get under the skin of this album down the years, only to find myself physically wincing at it in places. There's the nucleus of some decent songs here, buried underneath slapdash performances and production. This is the type of overly long and directionless album that's got the late 90's written all over it, rock's nadir years. Comfortably the band's poorest effort and a 3 out of 10 from me. Believe you me, It hurts to award a Van Halen album such a terrible score.

Ben L. Connor: I’ve tried with this album, multiple times, I really have. But it just isn’t good. It’s not Gary Cherone’s fault - he’s a solid singer. The blame has to fall on Eddie. He composed the music and played all the instruments other than drums. I appreciate him wanting to experiment with longer multipart songs, but none of this is memorable.

You take any thirty seconds of this album and you’ll hear some guitar wizardry. But when you try listen to a whole song, there are no riffs, no hooks, just a lot of twiddling. Compare the unwieldy mess of Without You to the elegant simplicity of Dance The Night Away and Eddie sounds like the worst kind of Eddie imitator

Marco LG: The most infuriating aspect of this album for me is how much of Cherone's talent is restrained. With his previous band, Extreme, Gary Cherone used to work with a talented guitarist at his side, and his voice complemented whatever Nuno Bettencourt played. In here it sounds like he is deliberately keeping his vocal extension and power out of the way from EVH. 

We will never know if this was a deliberate choice or a case of too much respect for the lead guitarist, but the end result is definitely not satisfactory, not compared with any other Van Halen album and neither compared with Pornograffiti or III Sides To Every Story, the two best albums by Extreme.

But with all his flaws VH III remains a Van Halen album, and cannot be scored less than 7 in my opinion.

Jonathan Novajosky: I've dreaded this day for a long time, and I wish I could be writing about any other album in my all time favourite band's catalogue, especially considering what happened this week. Van Halen's first six albums are untouchable – I can listen to any one of them no matter the day. Hagar's are almost as incredible too, although Balance doesn't really do it for me. Even their final album, A Different Kind of Truth, is a great return to form that captures the original VH sound.

But the one single blemish on their discography is this album. It is absolutely atrocious. Considering the greatness of the albums it is measured against, I don't think it's a stretch to say this is truly one of the worst albums of all time. First complaint: why in the living hell are these songs so long?! Besides the two instrumentals, no song clocks under 5 minutes. Excuse me? Their debut was a total of 35 minutes with 11 songs and it's a masterpiece. 

What's wrong with that? I've noticed that a lot of bands started doing this as they got older, but I'm not sure why. Even Journey is guilty in doing this with Revelation (but at least that was a good album). Second issue: Gary Cherone simply does not sound good on VHIII. Not at all. I don't think he ruined the album by any means, but his poor performance contributes to its demise. The production is also kind of messy. Without You (which is the only somewhat okay song on here) just sounds so scrambled and all over the place. At least that's the only song where Cherone sounds pretty good during the chorus.

The other tracks just completely lack any sort of magic or memorability. There's no blitzing guitar solos like in Atomic Punk. No sense of attitude or energy that was commonplace during the Dave era (Dirty Movies). And I even really miss the use of keyboards that made songs like Love Walks In so special. And last but not least, VHIII doesn't have enough Michael Anthony on it. So many of Van Halen's greatest songs would feel empty without Anthony's background vocals. I can't imagine listening to Jamie's Cryin' without him. I don't get any of these things with VHIII

All I get is the feeling that this album never should have happened. I like to just forget VHIII ever existed, but even so, I don't think it does enough to detract from Van Halen being one of the greatest bands of all time – and that's a real testament to their other 12 albums. RIP Eddie. 1/10

Adam Vincent Watson: If you don't love Van Halen III, it's because you haven't put enough thought into Van Halen. Other than that, Gary Cherone is one of the best singers/lyricists in rock (that's one of the reasons Eddie Van Halen chose him as the new singer).

Craig Ferguson: Ed was at his best when he had a strong producer or frontman to shape his ideas into songs. This album lacks both. There's probably some potential there, and the song ideas with Dave or Sammy could have been a decent album. Gary seemed to just do what Ed told him, and with Ed producing it as well, everything suffered.

Brian Hart: This album is extremely underrated. With Dave, they were the ultimate party band. Sammy still partied but was able to sing about serious topics. I think Gary Cherone did a great job stepping in. VHIII has Eddie’s most mature playing. Without You is a great pop song. A Year To The Day, Once, Josephina, and From Afar show different side of VH. This album deserves much more love.

Clay Halford: As a casual VH fan at best, I'd avoided VHIII based on the horrid reputation it had. Tried to get into it last week after EVH passed just to give it a chance. I lasted 5 songs before giving up.

It just felt bloated and repetitive me than anything else. Nothing as snappy as Running With The Devil or Panama, nothing as immediately catchy as Jump or as melodic as Dreams, just... meh rock. Cherone wasn't the problem.

Tim Raynor: Friend and I once listened to it on a radio premiere where they played each track. Both of us were fans and were excited to hear the next VH adventure. By the end, we both looked at each other and said, "I don’t get it?". It was just awful. It was like they wrote an entire album full of incomplete songs, like they were all stuck in their intro portions, but never bloomed into that classic VH melody we expect. I’d rather pretend this album never happened.

Jacob Tannehill: Very underrated and underperforming album. 1998 was a very weird year for music. Gary Cherone was a great choice for a singer, but he wasn’t the caliber of Sammy and Dave in their heyday. I don’t think any singer would have survived in Van Halen during this time.

Now, the music. I really like this album. I mean, it’s not the album I’d put on if someone wanted to know what Van Halen was about, but I love giving it a spin at least one or two times a year. The choice of producer (Mike Post) was not the most glamorous. So now you have two things stacked against them (choice of singer and choice of producer). There’s some great rockers (Without You, From Afar, One I Want) that are great, and if Sammy or Dave sang them they would have been instant classics. My three favourite songs are as follows:

Once - this is one of Eddie's masterpieces. Very Peter Gabriel-esque in the rhythm and sounds.

Dirty Water Dog - this wouldn’t have been out of place on OU812. Cool rocker.

Josephina - just a great melodic tune, well written, and well sung and well played. Beautiful.

I’m in the minority of those that like this album. And if Eddie released this as a solo album under his own name and not as “Van Halen” (I know, huh? Lol!), it probably would have fared much better.

Sorry this is a long review. But listen to it again if you get a chance. It’s really not a bad album!

Darren Burris: A couple decent songs. It’s not horrible. But when compared to all other Van Halen albums it’s pretty below par. Songs sound uninspired. Some sound unfinished. Like it started as a decent idea but then they quit half way through. Doesn’t diminish the greatness of EVH.

Tiziano Caverni: Adventurous record, more of a "Eddie Van Halen Unleashed" than a classic VH album. Cherone could have been the perfect vocal fit for the band, but provided no songwriting balance to the team. He's a great artist, anyway: his Hurtsmile records deserve to be heard by more people, imvho.

Eetu Tiainen: I think this isn't as bad as people seem to say. Gary does a good job. Eddie of course plays great. Drum sounds are classic VH. The only problem I think is that choosing Gary was too big of a change for many. He was not DLR or Hagar so fans were a bit confused and disappointed 'cause the two that came before had been pretty iconic.

So, I think that the album would get a more positive feedback if it was played to someone without telling them it's Van Halen. Soon as you say "Van Halen, Gary Cherone" people will go "no, no, awful, nothing like Halen blah blah". So maybe something like Paige/Coverdale would have worked here.

Not Van Halen's best, and probably their worst, but still underrated. It's their worst just because every other album is a fuckin' monster. Eddie was a genius. Thank you for the music, and rest easy.

Laurent Biehly: I have never spent too much time listening to this album to be fair. But to me it all boils down to this: the songs are not good (enough). And that was always my issue with VH with Roth: I feel they were writing great riffs but not great songs (with some exceptions of course). With Sammy they started to write songs. Here again, the talent of the individuals is not in question - VH with the exception of Roth always have been top musicians (Alex is a machine with a very individual style) - and Gary Cherone is a fabulous singer but the songs are just not there. At the end of the day, for me, it's always about the songs.

Alex Kleinwachter: There's some truly excellent, creative guitar playing on this album, but it just comes off more like an EVH solo project than a cohesive Van Halen record. Not that that's a bad thing necessarily, but it simply wasn't what Van Halen fans wanted to hear. 

Cherone does his best, but while the record has plenty of amazing playing from Ed, it's lacking in top-shelf songs. It doesn't have the swagger and humour of the DLR-era or the sturdy melodicism of the Hagar-era and just comes off as a half-baked attempt at being arty and serious. When they do try to simply rock out (Without You, Fire In The Hole) the songs lumber along and sound forced. Ballot Or The Bullet comes closest to touching the heavy grind of vintage VH - if you squint hard enough you can see that riff sliding in nicely alongside the Women And Children First/Fair Warning era. One I Want has a really cool middle section with a great solo, but the bones of the song just plod along - Alex sounds like he's being kept on a leash.

Truthfully, the most successful tracks here are the ones where they really throw caution to the wind and experiment like Once and Year To The Day, which features an absolutely mind-bending, outside the box solo from EVH.

Of course, you have to address How Many Say I which, honestly features some really interesting piano playing from Ed, but with all of the material that's likely sitting around 5150 to never see the light of day, how this was actually released on a record is... puzzling.

Is VHIII the complete disaster that people tend to view it as? No. But it's best viewed as an interesting curiosity in the catalog - an experiment that didn't quite work, but you still have to give them points for trying. For fans of EVH's playing, there is plenty of interesting and inventive stuff here that is well worth a revisit. I'd be very interested to hear the demos for the scrapped second album with Cherone, as by all reports it was much closer to the vintage Van Halen sound we all know and love.

Chris Webb: I actually really liked this album – I just revisited it again this past week (among a lot of VH albums in the wake of the sad news about Eddie.) It's so different from the other albums, you have to take it on its own, you have to almost consider that it isn't a VH album. Taken in its own light, it's very appealing, imho.

Matt Morelli: I have tried and tried and tried for years to get into this album and just cannot. It's awful. But it is still better than Tokyo Dome Live In Concert!

Bill Griffin: Now on his fourth singer (one of them twice), I skipped this album on release because I figured the common denominator was Eddie being the ass, not Dave as I had originally thought. I also never heard anything from it on the radio which I still listened to at the time.

Fast forward ten years and a friend at work (whose favourite band is Van Halen) tells me that I should give it a listen despite my misgivings; that it's really a pretty good album so I borrowed it from him and damn if he wasn't right. It was a pretty good album but I only listened to it the one time and gave it back.

Now listening to it again this week, I am struck by how much Cherone sounds like Sammy on this record. I didn't make that connection before. I've never heard anything by Extreme except More Than Words so I pulled up Pornograffitti and listened to enough to decide the imitation is intentional; I did not hear Sammy there at all. It's as if Eddie was regretting firing Hagar and disrespected Cherone by making him fill that role.

Even though I like this album, nothing sticks in my head, not even Eddie's solos. That is rather unheard for a Van Halen record. Once comes pretty close (and is my favourite song) but actually sounds more like a solo effort from Hagar than Van Halen to me.

So, a decent record but its reputation as Van Halen's worst effort is deserved.

Chris Downie: At a time when the rock and metal community mourns the loss of one of its greatest exponents, it is inevitable that thoughts turn to their enormous legacy, including the acknowledged lesser lights of what is, in Van Halen's case, an incredible back catalogue. With the exception of 1982's patchy and covers-laden Diver Down album, no recording even comes close in sharply dividing their fanbase.

Regardless of personal opinions, fair-minded fans will concede that the band were regrettably on the back foot from the beginning. A much-publicised - but ill-fated and brief - dalliance with original frontman Dave Lee Roth followed the acrimonious split with Sammy Hagar and thus the subsequent appointment of Gary Cherone as lead singer was met with lukewarm response, viewed as a booby prize at best. This does him no justice, for his tenure in Extreme showed him a vocalist of great stature and diversity, with a range more than capable of handling both VH eras in a live setting.

In hindsight, perhaps the Cherone era would have been better served had they introduced his tenure with a "greatest hits" tour, rather than via a studio album which deviated from their classic sound and ultimately fell short of expectations. The first single Without You has many classic VH hallmarks and the Lethal Weapon soundtrack of Fire In The Hole hit the spot, as did the mini-epic Year To The Day, but ultimately this is an album without peer in their discography.

On reflection, those who have long argued that this would have been an ideal EVH solo album may still have a point, but it is also true that, in a similar predicament in a similar era, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest gave their respective replacement frontman a second chance in the studio and so we can only speculate as to what the Cherone era could have achieved, had the scrapped sophomore album reached completion. 6/10

Brian Carr: Upon hearing Gary Cherone was to be the new Van Halen vocalist, I imagine I was thrilled considering how much I love Extreme. When I heard the record, like most people, it didn’t move me much, so I put it on the shelf. I listen to so much music it wasn’t really a big deal, and when I was in the mood for Van Halen music, I naturally reached for the classics, which for me include both Roth and Hagar eras. VH III just stayed alongside the cover loaded Diver Down and the (in my opinion) filler laden OU812. Now with the benefit of age, experience, the Club and the death of a legend, I can listen to the lone VH Cherone album with a fresh set of ears.

Never has Van Halen been so exploratory with their music and songwriting. I don’t know if it was where Ed was at the time or the collaboration with a new singer, but every hallmark of VH music was abandoned on III: the Roth era party songs, the polished pop-rock Hagar tunes, the stellar vocal harmonies - even Edward’s guitar sound was different to my ears. I found it a somewhat fascinating album to revisit. The difference is so great that it’s difficult to determine how much I actually like it.

From all that I’ve read, Edward was something of a troubled genius with major personal and organisational difficulties. Roth and Hagar were able to focus Ed’s brilliant guitar playing into excellent songs; Gary may have been able to do that with time, but maybe Edward the Great was too far off the deep end by that point. I don’t hate VH III as much as most people seem to, and I think I will give it a few more spins.

As an aside, it was great to read one reviewer reference Roger Waters when addressing the album closer, the Edward-sung How Many Say I. I have no idea what the song means, but the vocal absolutely reminded me of Waters.

Uli Hassinger: Van Halen was one of the very first hard rock records I came in touch with as a kid. Eruption left me open mouthed because this couldn't be made with a normal electric guitar. So the passing of Eddie was a big blow to me.

The first 4 VH albums are still the highlights of his musical legacy. The Hagar area was not my kind of music. Not bad but very mainstream and exchangeable.

For listening to this album I try to forget all I have in mind with the David Lee Roth VH and give it a real chance. This approach is necessary because this album has nothing to do with VH as we know them.

The most different song is the last one. How Many Say I could be from Leonard Cohen, and VH is the least that comes to your mind. But if you listen to it unbiased it's a brilliant song. Further songs which I enjoyed very much are From Afar, Dirty Water Dog, Once, Josephina and Ballot To The Bullet. The other songs are stretching a little bit and should be shorter. Sometimes you are thinking of listening to Alan Parsons or Styx. Only the guitar work of Eddie shows partly typical VH. The songs are very complex with changes of tempo and surprising twists. Therefore the album doesn't get boring, even if it runs over an hour.

I think this album is very solid and underrated. It's not a VH album as we know it, but it has it's moments and is very special. 7/10

Carl Black: The VH album that tanked. But why? This reminds me of that line in the movie Casino, where four slot machines cash out at the same time. " That can not happen, once, twice, not three times, it's an impossibility, it can not happen!!!

Same with singers. You can get away with two different front man, a third is a bridge too far. Not that it's GC fault. His performance is great. He does what he does and he's dam good at it.

The issue is a right turn with the material. It's a mature sounding album. With a few curve balls. With the growing up, the experimentation and the new singer, it was far too much. This should have happened over the course of a decade.

My final comments are about the sad passing of EVH. He's a classy human being. Not only his inspirational guitar playing., But when Dimebag from Pantera passed, he gave his legendary guitar to him. You can't buy class. EVH is pure class. Bon voyage.

Nigel Lancashire: The only Van Halen album where I’ve ever thought “thank god that’s over”. It’s competent - as you’d expect - but it’s too long, too dull and just no damn fun to listen to. A po-faced Van Halen album? Unthinkable until this one.

There’s just nothing to love here. Perhaps this is what you got when EVH finally found a singer that would let him get his own way, and didn’t have a strong enough character to bounce off/spar with.

Adam Ranger: Generally forgettable. A bit mixed-up in places too. Some songs don't know if they're rockers or ballads. Some great guitar moments obviously. But if it did not have EVH it would probably never been released. Again, I say: forgettable.

Final Score: 4.45⁄10 (200 votes cast, with a total score of 890)

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