Thursday, May 25, 2017

Van Halen's Five Most Underrated Songs with Sammy Hagar

Van Halen's OU812 album celebrated its 29th birthday on May 24, so we figured we'd take a look at some of the band's most underrated songs from the Sammy Hagar era - tracks that weren't big hits like "When It's Love" and "Why Can't this be Love?". With Hagar, Van Halen recorded four studio albums that all went to No. 1 on the charts. Here are five of the most underrated songs with Hagar on vocals:

Humans Being (single from the Twister Soundtrack)

Released in 1996 for the Twister soundtrack, "Humans Being" has a heavy, alternative rock edge, with that classic Van Halen melody and harmony during the chorus. It was the last recording with Sammy Hagar before he left the band in June 1996. The acrimony between the Van Halen brothers and Hagar (that started during writing the Balance album) was showing when they wrote this song as evidenced by the fact the bros. didn't like Hagar's original lyrics ("Sky turning black/knuckles turning white/headed for the suck zone") and he had to come up with new words. All in all, it's a fantastic song at a time when Hagar was about to quit.

Source of Infection (from OU812)

An all-out rocker, "Source of Infection" is Van Hagar at their best, with phenomenal harmonies, Eddie Van Halen delivering a mega riff, and Sammy Hagar screaming madly about sex. Eddie's first solo harkens back to the sound of the bands early albums, complete with a vintage pick scrapeto cap it off, as the band powers back into the infectious chorus. Interestingly, Hagar was somewhat unhappy with the song because of the lame and "politically incorrect" lyrics, but noted the band didn't care.

Feelin' (from Balance)

The last song on Balance, "Feelin" is a stellar Van Halen power ballad with lyrics that might depict Hagar's mindset at the time about being in Van Halen as he noted everytime he said black, Eddie said white and they couldn't agree on anything. The solo is fantastic as Alex kicks it into double time, no rhythm guitar overdubs. A keyboard (string?) section over the last section adds a dark mood to what is a stellar song.

Seventh Seal (from Balance)

The opening track on the Balance record, "Seventh Seal" has a certain groove to it really makes the song a standout from the Sammy Hagar era. Part of that groove comes from Eddie's amazing ability to play rhythm guitar so smoothly as you can hear from that amazing opening riff. It's one of a very few Van Halen songs with no guitar solo.

5150 (from 5150)

Just a wicked song that doesn't seem to get enough love from fans. Hagar had just joined and you can tell things were going very well as they wrote this amazing song. Eddie's main riff is loose and fun, while Hagar contributed some stellar lyrics: "Always one more You're never satisfied. Share one for all with you it's only one for me. So why draw the line and meet you half the way when you don't know what that means." And you can't say enough about the blistering solo Eddie delivers. "5150" is a song that's best played loud.

Check out the five most underrated Van Halen songs with David Lee Roth

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Five of Soundgarden's Best Chris Cornell Songs

As the music world mourns the tragic loss of vocalist Chris Cornell, we can take solace in the fact his music will live on. While known for his work in Temple of the Dog, Audioslave and his solo career, Cornell will best be remembered as the vocalist for Soundgarden, a band he helped found in Seattle in 1984. To honour his talent, we look back at five of the best Soundgarden songs penned (words and music) solely by Cornell.

Ugly Truth (from Louder than Love)

The opener on their impressive Lounder Than Love album is a classic that speaks to exactly what Soundgarden is all about: heavy, downtuned guitar riffs, screaming vocals and pounding, precise drums. This song features a spectacular vocal performance from Cornell. Soundgarden opened with "Ugly Truth" in Detroit the night Cornell died.

Rusty Cage (from Badmotorfinger)

A popular and well-known song, "Rusty Cage" was penned by Cornell and it speaks to gaining one's freedom after a period of being restrained by perhaps a bad relationship. The song changes tempo in a very Black Sabbath way, giving it a sludgy, heavy feel midway through. It was famously covered by the late Johnny Cash, and Cornell even included a Cash-like acoustic rendering of it on his 2015 solo tour.

The Day I Tried to Live (from Superunknown)

A lyrically intense song with a soaring, emotional vocal from Cornell. "The Day I Tried to Live" was released as a single in 1994. It's an existential song about someone deciding to go out and change the world, but soon realizes it doesn't matter because we all end up dead, regardless of what we do in life.

Pretty Noose (From Down on the Upside)

A grinding, grungy song, "Pretty Noose" opens Soundgarden's stellar 1996 album Down on the Upside. With plenty of guitar layers and sounds, Cornell's voice carries the song, soaring above the instruments. He said "Pretty Noose" was about "an attractively packaged bad idea . . .something that seems great at first and then comes back to bite you." Ironically, Cornell died by hanging.

Burden in my Hand (From Down on the Upside)

The second single off Down on the Upside, "Burden in my Hand" has a happy feel to the music with a nice acoustic opening, that kicks into a classic Soundgarden dark anthem. Years after the album was released, Cornell related to what the song had come to mean for him: "That was a song that really came from the guitar itself. It was mostly like the guitar was dictating what the lyrics should be and creating a mental image. The mental image was this sort of destitute guy. I guess he'd lost his cool if you want to put it that way. He's sort of coming to grips with what had happened and not necessarily feeling particularly emotional about it either way. He's trying to figure out how he would stand up and put one foot in front of the other—or not—and the song never really resolves any of that. It's just that moment of somebody sitting in the dirt. I had more moments like that after that song was written than I ever had before it was, so it means a lot more to me now than it did then."

Rest in Peace, Chris Cornell.

"Say Hello to Heaven"

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A Look Back at the Making of Van Halen's 5150 Album

After parting ways with original singer David Lee Roth (who left to pursue an ill-fated solo/acting career) after the 1984 tour, Van Halen was a band without a singer.

In the spring of 1985, Eddie, Alex and bassist Michael Anthony were having a tough time finding a suitable vocalist to step into Diamond Dave's large shoes. To that end, they even considered using temporary singers on the 5150 record after auditioning the likes of Eric Martin, Jimmy Barnes and even Patty Smyth.

Heck, their record company, Warner Bros., even advised Eddie and Alex to discontinue the Van Halen name. Naturally, they refused.

Then, in July 1985 Eddie met Sammy Hagar after a referral from his Ferrari mechanic. Hagar instantly hit it off with the band, and they began working on the songs that would appear on the album. The first time Hagar appeared live with Eddie was at Farm Aid, in Sept. 1985, and the Red Rocker was formally announced as Van Halen's new vocalist shortly thereafter.

Recorded at Eddie's 5150 studio at his house in LA's Coldwater Canyon, the album was released in March 1986, with nine songs as it came in as the band's longest record to date.

It's the first VH record without Ted Templeman producing, so Eddie, Donn Landee and Mick Jones of Foreigner fame, handled the production duties. According to Hagar he and Landee didn't get along all that well at first.

"Ted Templeman had done all of the albums up to that point," Hagar told Ultimate Classic Rock. "And Donn Landee was the engineer who was running Eddie’s studio and he’d done every album they had done and here was I, walking in from a completely different place in a way and stepping in [(with a) ‘Who’s this guy?’ kind of thing. I got that feeling at the beginning from Donn Landee. He wasn’t particularly thrilled to see me, I don’t think."

So Hagar called up Jones, who kind of took over, which pissed off Landee somewhat, who reportedly locked himself in a room and threatened to burn the tapes up to that point.

"(Jones) came right in to do it and started making decisions about mixing and stuff, like ‘No no no, we need the vocals louder,’ or, ‘No, hey, Ed’s guitar has got to be on the left and not the right,'" recalled Hagar. "I think Donn freaked out or something. I don’t remember why, but yeah, that happened."

New Sound and Mix for Eddie's Guitar

Of note regarding the new sound on that album is Eddie's guitar, which previously sat high in the mix and was often pushed to the left channel (to simulate a "live" sound"). On 5150 his guitar tracks sat equal in the mix and while his overall sound had changed. This may have been Eddie's doing, as he was not a fan of the "live mix" that Templeman created on the previous Halen records. This is also the first Van Halen album not to feature any instrumental tracks.

Many of the songs were already written by Eddie before Hagar got onto the scene, so his main contribution was adding lyrics.

The Red Rocker described the 5150 studio as somewhat of a shambles, noting " There must have been 300 beer bottles and cans laying around. Half of them had beer in them and old cigarettes. Every ashtray was overflowing with cigarette butts. There were butts left burnt on the floor. That place stunk like a fucking bar that hadn’t been cleaned for a hundred years. Eddie’s guitars were everywhere – maybe 30 guitars, laying against walls, on the floor, just knocked over."

Despite, at first, being nervous singing with the band, Hagar and the boys quickly got into the songs, while Hagar began scatting lyrics and instantly came up with "Summer nights and my radio..."

In fact, Hagar would make up many of the lyrics on the spot, as they were jamming.

"Love Walks In" was one of the first songs Eddie and Sammy worked on together and it's a perfect example of the more poppy, keyboard-influenced sound that permeates several tracks on 5150 like "Why Can't This be Love?"and "Dreams".

But there are some hard rocking songs like "Good Enough", "Get Up" and the hugely underrated title track, which is one of the best Hagar-era Van Halen tracks.

Many hardcore Van Halen fans dismissed the album and Hagar as the new singer, many old and new fans embraced the tracks for what they are: Fantastic rock songs, bottom line.

Check out the five most underrated Van Halen songs with David Lee Roth

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Five Most Underrated Eagles Songs

After releasing seven studio albums, the Eagles are the biggest selling American band of all time (more than 150 million albums sold worldwide), have won six Grammy Awards and had five singles reach No. 1 on the Billboard Charts. But they also have plenty of underrated gems in the catalogue that are just as good, or even better, than the hits. Here are five of the Eagles most underrated tracks:

Ol' 55 from On the Border (1974)

Never released as a single, "Ol' 55" is a standout track featuring those amazing harmonies the Eagles are famous for. It was written by Tom Waits for his debut record Closing Time and the Eagles do a fantastic cover paced by Glenn Frey's lead vocal as he sings of leaving a lover, driving away early in the morning. The trademark Eagles harmonies for the chorus will give you goosebumps when they sing "And now the sun's coming up. I'm riding with Lady Luck. Freeways, cars and trucks." Interestingly, Waits said the Eagles version was too "antiseptic".

Try and Love Again from Hotel California (1976)

Because we love Randy Meisner's voice so much, "Try and Love Again" gets on the list. And it's a fantastic song, to boot. The Eagles lost a lot of their feel when Meisner left the group and was replaced by Timothy B. Schmit, but we can still go back and listen to this gem. Glenn Frey handles the lead guitar, while Joe Walsh adds the Gretsch guitar flavouring. Meisner shows his penchant for writing amazing lyrics with lines like "Right or wrong, what's done is done. It's only moments that we borrow ... But the thoughts will linger on".

I can't Tell You Why from The Long Run (1979)

While I can't Tell You Why was released as the third single from The Long Run album, the reason for its inclusion on this underrated list is Glenn Frey's phenomenal guitar solo. There has been debate about who played the solo, however, both Don Henley and Frey himself point to the latter and not Don Felder, as many believe, for the great-sounding fretwork. While a fairly generic song overall, Frey's fade-out solo brings a deeper feel to the track. It's not technically dazzling, but the notes are perfectly chosen.

Seven Bridges Road from Eagles Live(1980)

Perhaps the pinnacle song when it comes to harmonies for the Eagles. The band used to sing it as a warmup prior to hitting the stage during the Hotel California tour through a single mic for the waiting audience. Written by Steve Young, the Eagles sing it in perfect five-part harmony with a sparkling acoustic guitar accompaniment. Another song that brings goosebumps. We also love the fans screaming during the quiet parts.

Tequila Sunrise from Desperado (1973)

Penned by Glenn Frey and Don Henley, "Tequila Sunrise" has a cool Mexican flare in the guitar, with lyrics most people can relate to or have even lived through, watching the sun come up after a night of drinking. The lyrics were originally intended to refer to the popular drink, Tequila Sunrise, but Henley told Frey to take it from another angle as in the sun rising after drinking tequila all night.

Check out five of the greatest love songs of all time