Classic Album – Van Halen – 3 (CD review)

Classic Album – Van Halen – 3 (1998)

This is, without a doubt, the biggest misstep in the history of rock n’ roll; a proverbial flaming turd — one which the band has never fully recovered from.  And, it sounds just as bad today as it did back then. 

Van Halen had successfully replaced one lead singer already in the flamboyant egomaniac David Lee Roth, so the band thought they could easily do it again with Sammy Hagar.  Boy, were they ever wrong.

Enter former Extreme frontman Gary Cherone, who had had success with the hair ballad “More Than Words.”  One listen to Van Halen 3 and you immediately realize how valuable Hagar was to the band.  It sounds like a Van Halen record; the bass, drums & flashy guitar are all there.  But, what’s absent is any semblance of melody or even song structure for that matter.  This is 12 tracks of directionless noodling.  It sounds like a band jamming in the garage, working on songs that aren’t there yet.  Even when there is a hook (albeit a big clunky one) in the single “Without You,” it seems disjointed, as if unrelated parts were forced together.

Cherone is a big disappointment here too; instead of relaxing and being himself, he’s too busy imitating either Hagar (for most of the record) or Roth (on “One I Want’).  And when they’re stretching the boundaries a little, as in the digital beats of “Once,” it just goes nowhere.  What’s more, the songs are WAY too long – three of them clock in at over seven minutes.  Are they begging us to cry for mercy?  Then finally, there’s “How Many Say I,” which, no matter how heartfelt the lyrics, makes one thing perfectly clear:  Eddie Van Halen should stick to guitar playing and let someone else do the singing.  Yikes, he makes Dylan sound like Pavarotti.

All the previous VH studio albums went multi-platinum, and all the Hagar ones went number one, while 3 meagerly went gold and mercifully disappeared within three months.  The band that had dominated the rock world for some twenty years had been ground to an unceremonious halt.  If I were Eddie, I wouldn’t want this awful album to be the final record of my career.  Of course, I’m not him – I wouldn’t have gotten rid of Sammy in the first place.  – Tony Peters