Classic Albums – Van Halen – Van Halen II

This month’s Classic Albums Column focuses on Van Halen’s second album Van Halen II. Mars Attacks Podcast episode 46 features comments from Charlie Benante, Gene Hoglan, Glen Drover, Chris Poland, Alan Tecchio, Dave Reffett, Martin Popoff, Mark Strigl, and John from Iron City Rocks. As we established with the previous podcast we also discuss why this album was selected. You will find the podcast at the bottom of this post.

Here are comments that have been contributed to us via e-mail regarding Van Halen II. Remember to check out the index page if you’re not sure who someone is, or to check out their sites to find out more about what they do. Again, these comments are in the order we’ve received them.


Bumblefoot
– Some really cool songs on this album – Doctor, Bottoms Up, Outta Love, Light Up the Sky, DOA… great guitar moments in every song, that incredible guitar sound that I WISH I could get – and a great acoustic instrumental to break things up – it’s a killer follow up to a groundbreaking debut album.


Greg Prato
– Not sure what my favorite VH album is (perhaps either ‘Van Halen’ or ‘Fair Warning’), but ‘VH II’ is a classic as well. Raw and rocking, that DLR era VH line-up was – to borrow a quote from the movie ‘The Blues Brothers’ – powerful enough to turn goat piss into gasoline. “Dance the Night Away,” “Outta Love Again,” “Light Up the Sky,” “DOA” – VH was unquestionably THE KINGS of US rock n’ roll in the early 1980′s…until Mr. Roth exited.


Dave Starr
– I think the debut CD was better, but this record is still pretty cool. EVH re-wrote the book on rock/metal guitar.


Dan Lorenzo
– While I fully understand Eddie Van Halen is one of the most important guitarists of all time, I never got in to Van Halen too much. Obviously they have a dozen or so phenomenal songs. Here’s what I didn’t like. I don’t like guys in overalls. I’m not a fan of guitarists smiling onstage. Diamond Dave? Too Hollywood for me. To lead off your 2nd cd with a fucking cover song? You’re kidding me, right? HADES did cover “Somebody Get Me A Doctor” in the early 80s back when we were a cover band, but only because our drummer at the time was an enormous VH fan. “Dance The Night Away” is a nice enough song..if you’re a girl. I DID love songs off other VH albums like “Atomic Punk”, “Everybody Wants Some”. Jamie’s Crying”…..but I never felt the desire to see VH live. Too California. Too happy. Not heavy in any way shape or form. I know most people would disagree with me…but I would have been fine if Van Halen never existed.


Jon Leon
– Along with GNR Appetite for Destruction the most important LA sunset strip rocker metal album ever recorded. Dead or Alive is the greatest LA rebel teenage anthem ever. Never was Van Halen so full of killer riffing. David Lee Roth has never been better and I would kill to go back in time to a backyard party in Pasadena when this album was released and see this band live. I would do kegstands all night.


Erik Kluiber
– One of the greatest bands of all time. Anything from the Roth era is pure gold


Ricky Armellino
– I think Jack likes that record. I don’t know, I never owned a Sunbird or anything like that so it never rotated in my car. No one wants to hear Van Halen coming out of a jeep. They just want that all wheel drive muscle roaring. What up ladies.


Chris Tsangarides
– Another of my all time faves! Although it took me a long time to come to terms with Alex’s “donk” sound of his snare. Just by using one guitar through most of the album demonstrates how awesome they would have sounded in the live concert! Eddie’s guitar is like nothing we had heard back then and started a whole new trend for guitar players….


Kevin Estrada
– This album has to be one of, if not THE, most anticipated albums in my life. Van Halen was my band. I will never forget the day I discovered the band – I was 11 years old, walking through a department store with my mother and brother. I flipped through the new releases in their tiny record department. The sight of Edward Van Halen’s black and white striped Frankenstrat changed my life. My brother and I put our money together and purchased the LP. That piece of vinyl never left our turntable! I had never been so moved and changed by music in my life. This is what I was looking for, I had finally found it – Van Halen. I counted down the months, weeks, days until the release of Van Halen II. I was not disappointed! From the opening notes of “You’re No Good” to Dave’s farewell kiss on “Beautiful Girls” – it was perfection! The songs, the solos, the vocals, the tone, the attitude – it was all there.


Jim Florentine
– No sophomore jinx here. DOA is my fav Van Halen song


JL
– The typical thing would be to just focus on Eddie Van Halen, but I was never a fan of the guitar heroes and all of their pyrotechnics. With this album David Lee Roth’s vocal excesses really stand out. You have to really listen to the vocal tracks to realize how over the top he really was. There are times when it seems as if there are two notes coming out of his mouth at the same time. Listening to him leaves me speachless!


Chris Shrum
– A trend setting classic album and a piece of music history


Mikey Pannone
– Very underrated album! Heavier than the first one. You can tell they had such a great time recording it. “Light up the Sky” is probably my favorite track from this one.


John Nymann
– It’s tough to follow Van Halen’s epic first release, even for VH. This second album does have some classic moments, though, to solidify them as the world’s premier party rock band. Starting off with a cover tune “Your No Good” was just No Good! Especially, when they have the perfect song “Dance the Night Away” (Pure Power Pop) this should have started the record, IMO. “Doctor” and “Bottoms Up” are typical VH tunes and work good to fill out the album. The highlights for me are Eddie’s “Spanish Fly”…his amazing dancing fingers, so clean and pure of a performance on a nylon string. The cool groove tune “Women In Love”…Michael Anthony’s vocals sound great on this tune. And the classic David Lee Roth moment “Beautiful Girls.” Also, I’d give “Light Up The Sky” an honorable mention for an inventive tune and arrangement for the time.


Will Carroll
– A classic. Maybe the greatest summertime rock album ever made. Even the muddy production can’t stop the vibe and brilliance.


Steve Smyth
– Love this album, as this was one of the first albums I learned in it’s entirety. Eddie’s tone on this album is amazing, the harmonies of Michael, Eddie and David Lee are awesome and hard to beat! My favorite songs are: Somebody Get Me A Doctor, DOA, Spanish Fly, jesus, the entire album rocks!


Chad Bowar
– I wasn’t very old when Van Halen II was released, and discovered it a few years later along with the rest of Van Halen’s early material. I prefer their debut album, but II has some great songs as well. “Dance The Night Away” and “Somebody Get Me A Doctor” are classics. Sammy Hagar is a better singer, but David Lee Roth is the consumate frontman, and the Roth-era albums are great. I actually don’t want them to make a new record, because there’s no way the Van Halen of today can hold a candle to the Van Halen of the late ’70s/early ’80s.


Karl “Inski” Szulik
– ‘Beautiful Girls’ was one of the first rock/metal songs I attempted to learn when I got my first electric guitar. I had already had a few years practice on acoustic, but totally wanted to rock it with overdriven guitar! That day I came home and spent hours practicing that song. All my mates dropped by that night and were like “play some Offspring dude!” But instead I ripped out ‘Beautiful Girls’ and kicked arse! Eventually I bought a Peavey Wolfgang so I could be just like Eddie. He is incredibly talented and someone I still look up to as a guitarist.


Domonic R
– I understand that most of the tracks of the VH2 was done prior to the first one. This one had to be a nice addition to the VH collection. And actually did a great job in keeping the power and the guitar shredding to a max. One of the greatest follow up releases to date.

Remember that you can go here index page to find out further details on everyone involved in the column.

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Classic Albums – Metallica – …And Justice For All

We kick the Classic Albums column off with Metallica’s …And Justice For All. The Mars Attacks Podcast episode 36 contains snippets of songs from the album, and comments from Charlie Benante, Gene Hoglan and Mark Strigl, along with an explanation as to why this album was selected. You can stream or download the podcast from the bottom of the page after everyone’s written comments.

Click here to go to an index page that gives you details on everyone involved in the column.

The comments are displayed in the order received.

Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal – A great follow up to Puppets, hits hard right from the start…

Greg Prato – Although I dug this album mightily when it first came out, it just doesn’t stand up as well as their first 3 albums (which are all timeless). It’s one of the oddest-sounding metal albums of all-time too, as you cannot hear the bass AT ALL on this album! Although I was glad to see Metallica playing arenas and selling a shitload of records after years of hard work, you could say this was the beginning of the end for me as a Metallica fan, as like G n’ R, they would slowly become the same overblown rock stars they were eventually against – and most glaringly, each album got progressively worse (‘Load’? YUCH!).

Dave Starr – Where is the bass!!! I was never really into this record, “Ride the Lightning” was my favorite Metallica album

Dan Lorenzo – You want to know what I think of “…and Justice For All”? Let me throw it on. I own all of Metallica’s albums, but I don’t know when I’ve last listened to them. I respect them…I like them a lot….but these days listening to songs over 3 and a half minutes in length seems like work to me…and I already work thirty hours a week!! Fortunately, I accomplish 50 hours worth of work in that time. Ok, “Blackened” still sounds great to me. I turned it off at 4 minutes in, now the title track is on. Shit, that mellow guitar opening is majestic. Beautiful. Great riffs. Where’s the bass? I know you’re in there somewhere Jason. As a guitarist, I have to say the production actually DOESN’T bother me. Somehow the lack of bass works ok here. A little too much pseudo musicianship going on here for me on “The Shortest Straw”…..oh-ok-here comes my favorite, “Harvester of Sorrow”. Brutal. LOVE IT!! Yeah, this cd was all about “Harvester of Sorrow” for me. I saw Metallica at La Mour (NOT LaMours) with Cliff and they were tight. I saw them in Jersey at the Prudential Center on Super Bowl Sunday two years ago and they STILL kicked my ass. Yeah I left before the end of the show because I have a super short attention span.

Jon Leon – I will start by saying Master of Puppets is this bands best album BUT….you can say this album has a sound unlike any record ever released. No bass which I have always disliked. I guess it’s a cool different vibe on this album. It is not the best…but an important record in the Metallica experience. Maybe one of the most unique sounding metal albums ever. It also has some strong anti government stances lyrically. It was a vital album as they came back strong after losing the important writing influence of Cliff Burton. I think it has no weak songs. Everything is good, though the title track does not quite satisfy like the title track on Master. The last progressive Metallica before they would simplify the sound.

Erik Kluiber – a few good songs like blackened, dyers eve, and eye of the beholder. A couple of snoozers on it as well. I remember being bummed out at first listen, but it grew on me.

Phil Rind – Other than the production it’s perfect. Dyer’s Eve is still one of my favorite songs by them.

Ricky Armellino – Had a guitar tab book for that album that I saved up for and bought at a music store. That was the first time I realized you had to learn the solo AND the rhythm part behind it. Blew my mind, man.

Mitts – Incredible album, despite it’s “experimental” production. Pure metal. The difference, in my opinion, between metal and heavy metal is the amount of rock n roll influence in the riffing. There’s virtually no rock left in the formula for AJFA. Pure metal.

James J. LaRue – This changed my life. It’s not something I listen to today, as I’m one of those previously loyal Metallica fans who was thrown for a loop with the black album. It was the video for One that got me to play guitar. James playing those heavy riffs on that explorer, in that wife beater with mustache, the image of it, it grabbed me right away. I remember thinking “I wanna do that” a few seconds into my first viewing of that video. Though I had tinkered with an old guitar before this, I remember it as being the moment I made a decision to get an electric guitar and learn how to play it aggressively. I was 12. By 13 I had a Justice t-shirt cut out and sewn to the back of my denim jacket. I had a ton of Metallica patches and posters and magazine pages on my wall. They were my favorite band until I heard Maiden. I think Justice is their “peak” and they were starting to jump the proverbial shark with the black album. Metallica meant a lot to so many misfits and misunderstood youth. They were so important to me as a kid, and they just took this turn to shittiness that I never got over. It was like having a religion then finding out your god isn’t real. But I still like the first 4 albums including this one.

Scott Middleton – Some of the most aggressive and dark sounding rhythm guitar ever put to tape. Its easily Metallica’s gloomiest record as a result of Cliff Burton’s death prior to recording. Kirk Hammett’s solos on this record made me take my instrument seriously. Major respect for a band who clearly does what they want. Justice is clearly one of their least commercial records ever, and easily among their best.

Jaye Schwarzer – The first album Metallica made after the death of Cliff Burton. The songs are as heavy as anything off of Master Of Puppets or Ride The Lightning only with a lot more melody. Bass is almost non-existent throughout the record but somehow still manages to be heavy as fuck.

Kevin Estrada – When …And Justice For All had come out, Metallica had jumped from an arena support band to an arena headliner. They even made the jump in which my alterny-friends thought Metallica was cool. To be honest, that worried me a bit. My pals and I had followed and supported Metallica for years now and we had always hoped for the day Metallica became the biggest metal band in the world. But, something happened along the way. Don’t get me wrong, I think …And Justice For All is a solid album, but it marked the beginning of a departure from the Metallica that we had supported in the past. The songs were bigger, longer, slower, hookier…but it was still Metallica – afterall, a band has to spread their wings in order to grow or else they risk becoming stagnant. But in my bones, I knew that Metallica was changing and someday they would no longer be the band we loved. In my opinion, …And Justice For All was the last great Metallica album, or at least the last Metallica album that was made by the original Metallica. From then on, Metallica became a household name and things were never the same.

Dan Hardman – “And Justice Fall All” is one of my top records of 1988 and the first year I started my music career journey. I remember watching “One” the video on MTV and seeing Metallica on stage at Monsters of Rock 1988 US Tour with Van Halen, Scorpions, Dokken, and Kingdom Come. Metallica have paved the way for many rising artists and glad to see they are back on track with their latest “Death Magnetic”.

Steve Banks – A marathon from start to finish. Wouldn’t have made it through senior year without this album. To this day I will argue till I could puke coat hangers that this is hands down the BEST metal album ever created.
Jim Florentine – So fucking heavy. Great follow up to Master Of Puppets

Big Mario – I don’t recall how old I was when I first heard this album; I think I was 13 or 14. I remember it automatically became one of my favorite albums of all time. For some, the band’s greatest accomplishment is Master of Puppets, for others it’s the Black album. For me it’s Kill ‘Em All and …And Justice For All. Fuck, that guitar intro to Blackened is just incredible, a lot of kick ass riffs, good solos (I find it amazing that their Kirk ‘I forgot how to play’ Hammett’s). The title track is ridiculously good; everything is done to perfection and at a level above everyone else. It wasn’t Heavy Metal, it wasn’t 100% thrash, it was without a doubt a kick ass hybrid that was undoubtedly unique to Metallica’s sound. The epic track One (who hasn’t jammed away during this song with their parent’s wooden racket, pretending it was James’ Explorer?). The anthem Harvester Of Sorrow, the emotional dedication to the late great Cliff Burton To Live Is To Die. And one of my all time favorite Metallica songs, Dyers Eve, an authentic thrash gem, the perfect closing track to close a very cool album. The tracks are long, but they don’t wear you down, perhaps that is the best thing about this great album which came out back in 88!

JL – I remember being at my father’s birthday party, and having one of his co-workers let me listen to it on his walkman. The album just came out, and this guy was so hyped up about the album that he had to share it with this little brat! They had a difficult task at hand, trying to follow up Master Of Puppets. But listening to the reverse guitar intro to Blackened was just exquisite. The Shortest Straw, Harvester Of Sorrow, and the classic One. People can complain about this album, but it has some great tracks on it. My only issue is the lack of bass in the mix.

David Gonzalez – Like most people in my surroundings, the first thing I ever heard from Metallica was the Black album. It was after all the album that captured the largest audience. I loved the album, and it made me want to investigate (the band) a little more. It didn’t take that long for me to get my hands on Master Of Puppets and And Justice For All. To my surprise, those albums gave off a lot more power than the Black Album, and in my opinion where a thousand times better. The sound is a little less polished, perhaps not as commercial, but they transmit so much more. This was the authentic version of Metallica, it was what I wanted to remember the band by. My favorite track on the album is Eye Of The Beholder. I love the time changes, I could also talk about One, but that track is so epic, I don’t even want to touch it!

Gonzalo Leiva Palacios – I like the album Metallica more, but I find this album to be more technical, with a lot of precision, and a great interpretation of music. My favorite track is Eye of The Beholder, although Dyers Eve makes the album a powerhouse.

Fer Fakyea – Without taking into consideration the bands most epic album Master Of Puppets, or their best sounding album, The Black Album; ….And Justice For All is probably the band’s most emblematic album. The album contains hit after hit. It is full of perfectly elaborated melodies that have been covered hundreds of times by artist from the same genre, and others like pop or country. When Metallica comes on and you’re at a bar or at a party, changes are its something off of And Justice For All. The album combines a structured aggression, with some incredibly infectious melodies. A lot of you will hate me for what I’m about to say, but it’s true….listening to this album makes you go back in time to an era when James Hetfield knew how to sing, when Lars Ulrich played more than one drum pattern (and didn’t change what he was playing live), when Kirk Hammett knew how to play great solos, and not a series of notes that had no rhyme or reason. I love Metallica, and I hate Metallica.

Jandro Storm – That guitar sound, tuned and heavy, those dense songs, that intro, that band photo on the back cover where the band has that pissed off look on their faces…Every Friday night for about a year of my life I had a the same ritual, pop And Justice For All into my walkman before falling asleep. The song One would just leave me perplexed, although my favorite track is Harvester Of Sorrow.

David Lozano – An album that marked the transition between Metallica’s classic thrash, and the metal that would appear in the future.

Angel Rubin – I’ve been a fan of heavy metal for over 22 years; I started out with groups like Dokken, Europe, and Judas Priest. I was curious to find out about Metallica, since I had heard so many people talk about them. A friend of mine gave me a 90 minute cassette that had Kill Em All on one side, and Ride The Lightning on the other. That cassette tape changed my life forever; I had never heard a band with so much personality, originality, power, technique, rage and hooks. A few months later I listened to and knocked off my feet by Master Of Puppets. I wanted more, so in 1990 I bought And Justice For All on tape. I thought that there was no way they could reinvent themselves, and surpass what they did on those fantastic first three albums. After all, these albums have already changed my life, and boy was I wrong. On And Justice the drumming was just incredible, Lars was playing some impossible fills, some great double bass that no one had previously done. His playing on that album has influences, and been copied by millions of thrash and black metal bands.

The guitars where pushed almost to the point of saturation, Kirk was soloing frenetically all over the place. The production was like no other album up to that point. All of this combined make this album very special. I can still tell when someone is listening to the album on their head phones. This is thanks in part to the double bass on tracks like Blackened, One and And Justice For All. Another favorite of mine on the album is Shortest Straw. Frayed Ends of Sanity is another great track. The album is full of long, intense, creative tracks that never seem to get boring. The album is full of anthems that have been driving legions of fans crazy since 88.

Another thing that is often copied from this album is the great voice possessed by the hero himself James Hetfield. His voice contains a fine line between diabolical, and rabid. If I’m forced to say something about this album, it would be unsurpassable, I love its sound. Although I realize that the band isn’t really enamored with the sound of the album, I don’t think they ever thought that this album, to this day, would be a reference point and influence millions, and millions, and millions of bands worldwide. I actually have the bands logos tattoo on me.

Richard Royuela – I’ve been a big fan of the band since I first discovered them. I’ll never forget the moment I heard them for the first time, the song was Motorbreath. My relationship with And Justice For All is a bit strange, and is without a doubt the album I’ve listened to the least from the band’s classic era (considering everything up until the Black album). Maybe because my relationship didn’t start off in the best of ways. I can still remember going to the store to buy the album. I had to come back home empty handed. I had no idea it was going to be a double album; no one from my surroundings knew it was going to be a double album. I took 1,500 pesetas (Spain’s old currency), a little more than what a single album cost in those days, but not enough to cover the 1,720 peseta cost of the album. That price will always be burned into my memory. After multiple trips to the store I was able to determine that the album lacked the speed of its predecessors. The intro de Blackened was immense, but it was missing the speed that drove tracks like Battery or Fight Fire With Fire. I had to listen to the album multiple times before getting used to it. For example, the notorious mix of the album, which has become so characteristic of it, the loss of Cliff Burton, the lack of speed, etc. I finally realized that the band was evolving, and taking its first real steps toward converting themselves into a band for the masses, the biggest selling heavy metal band of all time. As mentioned above, this album became the “classic era” album that I’ve listened to the least. As a matter of a fact, when I’m in the mood to listen to Metallica I can listen to almost anything from the classic era, except And Justice For All. That said, when I want to listen to And Justice For All, it is the only album by the group that I want to listen to. Yesterday I listened to the whole album, and at times it makes me think that it’s the band’s most complete album. What I think makes the album truly special are some hidden gems that have never been overexposed within the San Francisco band’s live repertoire. Shortest Straw and Dyers Eve are the best examples of this. These are kind of like our little secrets (for long time fans of the band). That’s not to say that I don’t value songs like the title track or Harvester Of Sorrow, they’re both metal classics. Some people will ask what about One? We have to put this track on a pedestal of its own. The crescendo and the final three minutes of the track are unsurpassable, a masterpiece that goes beyond logic. These are the types of things that demonstrate the difference between any other band, and what Metallica has become. The album definitely offers so much more than the 1,720 pesetas I spent on the vinyl back in the day. As with so many other classic albums, I still enjoy listening to the album on vinyl, and have never listened to it on CD. I have reputation to live up to!

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Mars Attacks Podcast 35 – Don Jamieson

During the latest episode of the Mars Attacks Podcast we are lucky enough to welcome fellow New Jersey native, comedian Don Jamieson.

Be forewarned that this interview contains explicit content.

Don is co-host of VH1 Classic’s That Metal Show, and has just put out a live comedy album called Live and Hilarious. During the interview Don discusses what it was like to win an Emmy Award, being star struck or geeked out as he puts it when interacting with guests on That Metal Show, and the difficulties surrounding writing jokes in a PC era (among other things).

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Mars Attacks Podcast Episode 15 – Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal

For episode 15 I had the pleasure of interviewing current GNR guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal. During this episode we discuss the differences between recording and touring with GNR as opposed to his solo work, being compared to past members of the band, the re-release of The Adventures Of Bumblefoot , and his work with MS Research among other things.

Items touched upon include:

Guns N Roses, D.J. Ashba, Robin Finck, Izzy Stradlin, Chinese Democracy, The Adventures Of Bumblefoot, Shrapnel, MS Research, Rock Band, Guitars Suck, Normal, Abnormal, Guitars Still Suck, UFC, Exodus, Anthrax, Dream Theater, Zakk Wylde, In This Moment, Talking Meal On Fuse, John Ostronomy, Mark Strigl, Judas Priest, Evan Seinfeld and the Spyderz, Paul McCartney, Mike Patton, Axl Rose, L&B Spumoni Gardens, Blair’s Hot Sauce, Tommy Stinson, Frank Ferrer, Thin Lizzy, Gary Cherone, Van Halen, Eddie Trunk, Kiss, Beatles, Led Zepplin, Queen, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dizzy Reed.