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.

– 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

– 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.

The podcast portion can be streamed or downloaded from here:

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Classic Albums – Prong – Cleansing

This month’s Classic Albums Column focuses on Prong’s Cleansing. Mars Attacks Podcast episode 38 features an interview with Prong guitarist/lead singer Tommy Victor, along with comments from Gene Hoglan. 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.

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

This time around we have an interview with Ted Parsons drummer of Prong on Cleansing. As you can see from the interview he has been quite busy since his time in the band!

What was it like to write Cleansing?

It was a collaboration between Tommy , myself and sometimes Raven.. I would come up with a groove or Tommy would come up with a riff and we would jam in the studio and write tunes old school.

Tell us a little bit about the recording process.

It was the first time working with Terry date which was great. I´m sure Tommy can go in to more detail. We were all still living in NYC at the time. It was the first time I thought we finally had our sound and songs. We mixed at Electric Lady land which I thought was a big bore. I hate big fancy studios run by snobs.

Was there anything that the band was trying to accomplish with this album?

We wanted to make a great record of course, dry and in your face. I think we succeeded.

There is a big Killing Joke influence with this particular album, was this done intentionally?

Tommy and I have always been musically influenced by Killing Joke from the start. It just felt natural with Raven in the mix.

How did bringing Paul Raven and John Bechdel into the band affect the album?

Ravens bass sound was more what Tommy and I wanted. John brought in the added effects to spice up the tracks in the studio. We needed a key board player so we could do the samples live. I was playing most of the sounds using triggers and it freed me up to concentrate on drumming.

Does it surprise you that tracks off of this album are still played on metal radio, and at sporting events?

No not at all it still sounds fresh.

Does it bother you that more than a few bands have heavily “borrowed” from Prong, while not properly acknowledging the band’s influence?

No not really. Everyone rips off ideas and sounds from other people. It´s just how you present it.

In hindsight what impact do you think Cleansing made on your career and on metal?

It was definitely one of the best Prong albums in my opinion. Good songs, good drumming, great production. I never thought being in Prong as a career. Drumming is something that I needed to do and always will be doing.

Before Raven’s passing there was a rumor that this lineup might get back together again and tour, is there any truth to that?

Yes there was talk about it but nothing ever came of it. Raven was kicking around the idea to me a couple times. Tommy asked me a few years ago to come back to play with Prong after Raven died. They were opening for Soul Fly for a US tour and the drummer at the time, Aaron Rossi was off doing a Revolting Cocks tour. I was too busy with moving and other things. I can’t say if I would go back to play Prong music, but never say never.

What are you currently working on?

Building a new recording studio /rehearsal space. Jesu, Treponem Pal,Dark Drive Clinic (producer John Fryers project). Necessary, Teledubgnosis, Dub Neurotic and a host of other projects. I have done a lot of session work over the years. And been teaching drums in Oslo Norway where I live.

Where can people go to keep up to date with what you’re doing?

Facebook,and My space is a good start. Always looking for interesting bands and musicians to work with. Contact me through Facebook for some TP drumming!

Ted Parson MySpace
Ted Parson Facebook
Necessary MySpace
Jesu MySpace
Teleduenosis Official Web Site
Gretsh Drums
Remo Heads
Zildjian Artist Page
Artist Page

“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”
- Hunter S. Thompson

Here are comments that have been contributed to us by others regarding this album. 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.

Dan Lorenzo – In 1992 NON-FICTION were hoping to open for Prong in Europe. We were shot down by Tommy Victor because we “weren’t heavy enough.”. Almost 20 years later you still remember stuff like this. I don’t own or know this cd. I know Prong had a few amazing songs. I know Tommy also once said he was the first guy to tune down to C in 1994. By that time I had already recorded 3 cds tuned down to C. But Jimmy Page did it before me.

Jon Leon
– Never got into prong but they had a unique sound.

Joel Gausten – The first four songs are strong enough to make up for the dragging parts in the album’s second half. To be honest, I’ve never been a fan of the drum sound on this one, although Ted Parsons is a stellar player and one of the nicest guys on the planet.

Metal Mike – When I heard this, I said this is new. It was Metal, but not only. It has a new way of playing and structuring guitar riffs. I listened to this album non stop for a while.

Erik Kluiber – Hung out with the drummer and did a zine interview with him back in the 90s. Very down to earth guy.

Scott Middleton – Definitely one of the most underrated bands ever. I loved how heavy and simple this band could be. Tommy Victor’s vocals and guitar riffs always had purpose and carried such sinister melody. Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck is a 90′s metal classic that still sounds far more evil than most extreme metal. Combining influences from metal, industrial and post hardcore, Cleansing is truly a record that stood apart from so many other at the time.

Jane Alisabeth Grey – As riff-laden and aggressive as Prong is, what is striking about their “Cleansing” album is
their ability to groove. Bands like Prong and Faith No More sidestepped
that whole “metal can only be brutal” ethos and pioneered the idea that Heavy Music can be aggressive as hell while being unabashed about the song
having a groove to it. I feel that Prong are the obvious Progenitors of
bands like Biohazard & Pantera, however, now that industrial metal has some history, you can clearly hear the influence(recognized or not) by bands like Nine Inch Nails. This album has multiple moving guitar parts that sync together like a clock or time piece that really originate the modern industrial music sound.

JL – The 90s saw a change towards new forms of metal, Prong were pioneers in this sense. For this album, the crushing sound that has characterized Terry Date’s productions helped form a solid base that is displayed on this album. It also manifests what would become popular in metal shortly thereafter.

David Gonzalez – I actually don’t know Prong, or any of their hit. But since the album appeared on the list, I went back and listened to Cleansing. Initially it sounds like a good thrash album (with a leaning towards what seems to be their hardcore past), but the album doesn’t totally convince me. The album is possibly the band’s biggest release, and the guitars on the album sound very powerful, but I’m not fully convinced. The drumming on the album sounds too monotonous on every track. Something similar happens with the singing as well (the same thing happens when I listen to Fu Manchu), the singing just sounds all alike, and just tires me after a while. Perhaps my evaluation of this album isn’t good, and I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad album; it’s just a matter of opinion. I just feel that it doesn’t stand out as much as other albums that came out around the same time.

The podcast portion can be streamed or downloaded from here:

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