VAN HALEN (Not Van Hagar!) Part 3: Somebody Get Me A Doctor
My latest series of reviews at mikeladano.com is an in-depth look at all the classic VAN HALEN albums, with David Lee Roth. Dig in!
VAN HALEN – Van Halen II (1979 Warner)
The 1970’s were much kinder to rock bands than the present. A debut album charting at #18 was considered a great start back then. Today, that is no guarantee. Van Halen II went to #6, and was recorded in only three weeks. Imagine that today, when four to five year gaps between albums is the norm!
Edward Van Halen is said to be not-so-fond of Van Halen II, where Michael Anthony felt II had stronger songs than I. The two albums are very similar sonically, although this time Edward was allowed to do more guitar overdubs. On “Dance the Night Away” you can hear some melody guitar playing over the rhythm, but most of the guitars are still panned hard to the left.
“Dance the Night Away” is one of the brightest stars on Van Halen II. Its catchy melodies recall some of the more pop material on the first album, such as “Jamie’s Cryin'” It is sandwiched between “You’re No Good” (the album opener) and “Somebody Get Me A Doctor”, this writer’s favourite track. “Doctor” is smokin’ and heavy, Roth shrieking about needing ambulances. Edward’s riff is one of his more legendary. Riffs like these helped establish Edward as more than just a soloist and player, but also a rock-solid writer. “You’re No Good” is dark and ominous, reminiscent of “Little Dreamer” from album #1, even though it is actually a cover of a 1960’s easy listening hit.
“Bottom’s Up!” demonstrates Van Halen’s ability to write killer party rock. It’s hard to resist singing along to the drunken, live sounding group vocal section in the middle. Edward plays a sexy solo in the right channel while the rhythm remains on the left. “Outta Love Again” features a stuttery rhythm and some of those patented Roth shrieks, and it closes Side One.
“Light Up the Sky” is as electric as the title implies. It opens Side Two with an ascending lick and chugging riff, fully in metal territory. Edward’s solo is one of the album’s highlights. “Spanish Fly”, the album instrumental, features Eddie fingerpicking on a nylon string guitar. Regardless, there is no mistaking the artist behind the instrument, as all the technique is there. The segue leads into the riffy “D.O.A.”. “D.O.A.” remains a classic Van Halen song, very much an example of their early sounds.
“Women in Love…” is a mid-tempo song, with a stunningly shimmery tapped intro by Eddie. It one one of Van Halen’s catchiest choruses. As important as the guitar is to Van Halen’s sound, so too are the backing harmonies. Finally the album concludes with “Beautiful Girls” which is considered to be another Van Halen party classic.
The songs on Van Halen II are not as well known as those on Van Halen, but there is very little difference in quality. Van Halen II is probably less stunning simply because it came second. It’s hard to jump so quickly into a second album and make jaws drop exactly the same way.
There would be no reprieve. After a tour, and almost exactly one year later, Van Halen would release their third album in as many years.