Van Halen- The Best Of Both Worlds (Warner Brothers)
review by Jim Clark

Track Listing

1. Eruption
2. It’s About Time
3. Up For Breakfast
4. Learning To See
5. Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love
6. Finish What Ya Started
7. You Really Got Me
8. Dreams
9. Hot For Teacher
10. Poundcake
11. And The Cradle Will Rock…
12. Black And Blue
13. Jump
14. Top Of The World
15. Pretty Woman
16. Love Walks In
17. Beautiful Girls
18. Can’t Stop Lovin’ You
19. Unchained

Disc Two
1. Panama
2. Best Of Both Worlds
3. Jamie’s Cryin’
4. Runaround
5. I’ll Wait
6. Why Can’t This Be Love
7. Runnin’ With The Devil
8. When It’s Love
9. Dancing In The Street
10. Not Enough
11. Feels So Good
12. Right Now
13. Everybody Wants Some!!
14. Dance The Night Away
15. Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love (live)
16. Panama (live)
17. Jump (live)


As a child of the 80’s who listened to lots of Van Halen growing up, I was quite intrigued when I heard earlier this year that Sammy Hagar had rejoined the band and that a new best of compilation would be released. Ironically, it was 1996’s Greatest Hits Volume One that supposedly led to Hagar departing the band in the first place.

While I’ve always preferred the Hagar era, I’ve enjoyed all phases of the band’s career, even the lone disc they released with Gary Cherone as lead vocalist. I think that more than the singers, I’ve enjoyed listening to this band because of Eddie Van Halen’s guitar pyrotechnics and underrated keyboard skills.

As is commonplace these days, all best of’s seem to have some obligatory new tracks on them. And the two-disc The Best Of Both Worlds is no exception. After rejoining the band, Hagar, Michael Anthony and Eddie and Alex Van Halen recorded a number of tracks, three of which appear here. And if this is the outcome of the four reuniting, all I can say is, they should have stayed apart. “It’s About Time” is a boring rocker with Hagar pondering all of the time he and the brothers Van Halen lost over the past eight years. The playing on this number is very uninspired and the chorus is by the numbers.

“Up For Breakfast” is even worse. With an intro that sounds like it’s been done by the band before, the lyrics are quite simply horrific. Hagar uses “getting up for breakfast” as a euphemism for getting laid in the morning. With wretched lines like “she put the cream in my coffee, first thing in the morning” and “cherries on bananas,” I think Hagar feels like he’s being witty when, in reality, he comes across as a damn fool who’s closing in on 60. While Eddie’s playing is better on this song, it’s still not enough to pull it out of the gutter.

Taking a complete 180, Hagar gets all moralistic on “Learning To See,” by far the best of the three new songs. While that’s not necessarily saying much, the first two-thirds of the song are quite strong and offer some decent singing from Hagar, great harmonies from Anthony and some fine fretwork from Eddie Van Halen. The final part of the track brings it down, though, as Hagar goes through a screaming fit. A number that could have been better.

Then on to the hits. First off, the songs alternate between Hagar and original lead singer David Lee Roth, which completely kills the flow. This collection would have been much more effective if it had one disc with Roth’s tracks and then another with Hagar’s.

As is always the case with greatest hits compilations, some songs inevitably get left off. That can usually be accepted when quality tracks are left on, but here, “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love,” “Panama” and “Jump” all appear twice – first in their original incarnation with Roth singing and then to close out disc two with Hagar’s live performances from the Right Here, Right Now disc. This is totally unnecessary, especially when you consider that both of appearances of “Panama” are on disc two.

It’s also unacceptable when you consider that classic songs like “Mean Street,” “Somebody Get Me A Doctor” and “Mine All Mine” were omitted, as were “Humans Being,” one of the hardest rocking songs the band ever made, the two tracks Roth recorded for the first greatest hits package, and some of the better songs from the underappreciated Balance, namely “Don’t Tell Me.”

The brothers Van Halen also seem to be doing some revisionist history as the lone Cherone disc, 1998’s III, is totally ignored. Surely there could have been room here for a song like “Without You,” that album’s first single. A picture of III’s album cover isn’t even included with the liner notes, where pictures of the rest of the band’s studio releases are.

Speaking of the liner notes and revisionist history, how can the artwork not contain any photos of the band with Roth? There are pictures of Hagar, Anthony and the Van Halen brothers, but Roth is completely excluded, which is ridiculous as he was their singer for their first six, highly successful albums.

In all, this package has been a huge disappointment for me. Sure, there’s a share of some of the band’s best songs represented here, but it could have been so much better. This package just screams of trying to make as much money as possible with the least effort involved. Perhaps one day, Eddie Van Halen will see fit to release a comprehensive box set for the band. And perhaps if he does, he’ll even include a picture or two of good ole’ Dave.

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