Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy, aka the Joyful Gadfly! Musician, podcaster, writer, historian ... here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album is unique in some way. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Van Halen ~ Diver Down

(Click on heading to visit official website.)
Style: hard rock, heavy metal, 80's rock
Label: Warner Bros.
Year: 1982
Home: California

Members: David Lee Roth ~ vocals/harmonica/synthesizer/acoustic guitar
Eddie Van Halen ~ guitars/keyboards/b. vocals
Michael Anthony ~ bass/b. vocals
Alex Van Halen ~ drums

Guest: Jan Van Halen ~ clarinet/saxophones


An unmentioned rule of thumb for an album's success is that all the songs share some sort of similiar musical thread. People buy an album expecting to hear a particular sound. You don't typically record a classical song next to ska or if you do there's some bridge in between allowing the record to rise & fall, nor is Metallica about to include a 16 minute slow blues jam on their next through-the-roof-heavy metal album. Albeit, I say this as Jeff Beck releases an album featuring Puccini & blues-rock & the result is successful. Diver Down is a cornucopia of songs by one of everyone's favorite 80's troubadours that flows more like a mixed-bag greatest hits album or a rarities/b-sides compilation. The latter being the more likely as this isn't particularly strong on hits. This is the opposite of the later For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge which is one pounding in your face song after another which basically all sound alike, while also being the opposite of VH's debut which is a bar band being unleased on the world & burning up the stage in the process. This is an experienced highly polished & super successful band doing some unusual covers in unusual ways ("Oh, Pretty Woman", "Dancing In The Street", "Happy Trails," The Kinks' "Where Have All The Good Times Gone" & "Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)") along with some one-minute instruments ("Cathedral", "Intruder" & "Little Guitars (Intro)") & a meager five originals. It's almost as if they didn't have enough originals to make a full album, but yet this doesn't sound sloppy or haphardly or quickly thrown together. But, then, VH has never made an album that didn't sound like much care, effort & time was put into it, even when the results weren't particularly successful. Further, each song is so different that they actually highlight each member. Roth gets some nice slow rockers to just enjoy singing to ... though sans his crazy vocal pyrotechnics. Eddie enjoys a few rare instrumentals ... which are experimental oddities, including two acoustic only pieces ("Big Bad Bill" & "Little Guitars (Intro)"), though he's done far better with countless other songs just on the arrangements alone. As for the rhythm section ... they've never been particularly fancy & as always lay down the steady rhythm they are good at albeit a bit slower. There's even a vaudvillian number ("Big Bad Bill") featuring Eddie strumming away on a jazz style acoustic guitar & with his dad on clarinet ... one of the strangest songs you'll ever hear from VH, though I'm sure it made dad happy. Only to have it all end on the accapella "Happy Trails" ... which might even be stranger than "Big Bad Bill". None of the songs are particular rockers, while the instrumentals never are able to sound like more than short mood-setting fillers you might hear on a Satriani album. Diver Down is full of catchy little tunes that might have landed on the radio, but VH isn't really VH when not putting the pedal to the floor. It's a fun album of light party hits & that's exactly what it's supposed to be & for that exceeds incredibly well. On repeated listenings it isn't that bad ... for a museum piece ... an interesting exhibition of a party band taking it easy. The highlight of taking it easy are the covers, a great original under played ballad called "Secrets" ... & as always the earth-shattering guitar solos. By any other band this album might be a dead weight but these guys are just too good & it shows.


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