Monday, April 9, 2012

Music Review - A Different Kind of Truth

Van Halen – A Different Kind of Truth  - Feb 7, 2012 – Previewed On Air - March 24, 2012
(Interscope Records - B006UG90RM: 13 tracks, double CD/vinyl)

Van Halen’s recent CD,“A Different Kind of Truth” is worth a listen, if only to be reminded of the power the band had when it dominated rock and roll for a good part of the 80s and 90s. That being said, it’s far from a perfect product. The band seems a little stiff here, to the point where I believe it would have done them good to do at least a short tour of live performances before recording it. I know it’s not typically done that way, but at points it seems a bit forced; playing in front of people might have loosened the band up a bit. I freely admit there might be a bias at work here as I’m one of those followers who feel Van Hagar was superior to Van Halen. Having said that, the member who needed loosening up was David Lee Roth. I’m surprised by that because I would have thought Dave would be the one to epitomize casual, but there is a formal air to the vocals, few risks and no eye opening screech or yell. In other words, there is nothing vocally challenging or memorable.

There’s a very nice guitar riff on “As-Is” that will certainly guide you down Memory Lane to the days when Eddie and the guys were tearing up auditoriums and hearing capacities on a global scale. Dave does a nice job with this although the talking to the listener stuff is old, it still works here.
“Big River” is a nice song, rocks right along. Nice and simple with a lot of energy is what Rock is all about sometimes. A very nifty solo here by Eddie…again basic, but touches all the bases (no pun intended).

While the talking to the listener works on “As-Is”, it reeks of being overdone and fake here. Too bad too; this is a very interesting chord progression and Eddie does a great job of connecting dots with this solo.

Nice solos too, on “She’s the Woman” and “Tattoo”, the Tattoo solo saves the song from Dave’s over-layered harmonies and failed attempts to make the beat interesting with his phrasing. It’s got energy though, and I don’t mind listening to it, at all.

“The Trouble With Never” is vintage, if not spectacular rock. Makes you tap your feet but then forget it once the next song starts. In “You and Your Blues”, Dave berates a woman by tossing out the names of more than a few classic blues songs. It didn’t do anything for me and it overlooked what I think is a nice chord progression at the end that could have used a minimalist and tasteful solo played over it.

On the upside, the boys prove they still know how to rock. Not a lot new on this release, but it’s good…especially for those of us who are starving for this type of music. Eddie does play some very interesting stuff and Alex does a great job of pounding out the beat, as always. Wolfgang Van Halen, Eddie’s son with Valerie Bertinelli, steps in on bass and has some real talent.

On the down side, there are some curious problems here. VH has a number of great songs that start slow; and while they mostly hit the accelerator eventually, ADKOT suffers a bit by having so many of them on this release. I found myself mumbling “Get on with it” more than once. Secondly, I have to be honest, Diamond Dave seems to be lacking in range, even more acutely now than with the original band. The difference here is that we can hear the struggle too often when he’s reaching for a note. While Alex drives the band hard throughout the CD, there’s no vehicle included that allows him to show off...I agree that this is a minor point, but still…

All-in-All “A Different Kind of Truth” satisfies, but doesn’t please. It’s worth having but no need to rush to buy it. I’m giving this welcome return music from Van Halen 2.5 Floggers (Out of 4)

-          DocRock aka VanHelsing

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