Friday, July 20, 2007

Van Halen-Diver Down

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Warner Brothers

When I think of summer I think of sunny days, watermelon, pools, vacations and inevitably Diamond Dave era Van Halen. It just seems like summer music to me and has for a long time. However their fifth album Diver Down is probably not the first release that pops into your mind when you think of this band. Any conversation about this album inevitably will bring about a mention of the number of cover songs and instrumentals and indeed the majority of the material here falls into one of those two category. That fact used to bother me a little, but ultimately it's not always what a band does but rather how they do it. Listening to it in that way, I would say this is still very much a classic Van Halen album. Is it fun? Yes . Does Eddie play some interesting guitar passages? Yes. Is the rhythm section everything it had been on the previous four albums? Yes. Is Dave all that Dave was in the 1980's? Why indeed he is. I can see the initial hang-ups with the album to some extent. "Dancing in the street" is not my favorite track in the world, but "Pretty Woman" and the "Intruder" intro reminds more of "Fair Warning" which is a good thing. "Big bad Bill" is pure Diamond Dave and you can tell he is all over that one. I have always like "Cathedral" and the "Little Guitars (intro)" and remember rewinding my walkman to hear them again when I was younger. I have always thought that "Where have all the good times gone", "Hang 'em high" and "Full bug" are entertaining tracks and enthusiastic even if they aren't stellar. Even a few years after it's release some of the band members seemed to be apologetic or doing some finger pointing when referring to this album. Sure, it could have been better, but looking back on it I think it's nice that it was different and overall it holds up rather well for what it is. Actually it's probably on the same level as "Woman and children first" which also has different bits here and there rather just being straight forward all full length standard songs. In retrospect "Diver Down" is an interesting chapter in the all too short life of one of the best hard rock bands of our time. I think the album ultimately succeeds, it's just that we as fans may have been hoping for a little more. It's not the best Roth-era Van Halen album yet it still has enough going for it to be a good album and it's easily better than any of the post 1984 Van Halen albums. It may not be the first album I reach for by them, but I do reach for it often enough. I have to admit that I still smile when "Happy Trails" comes on. So pour yourself some ice tea, lay down in the lawn chair, listen to some classic Van Halen and enjoy the rest of the summer.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

All I think of when someone mentions DIVER DOWN is 'Happy Trails'. I had a friend in school and he happened to get a hold of the P.A. on the last day of school. He blasted 'Happy Trails'. The nuns got him but the whole song played!

12:05 AM  
Blogger Fabrulana said...

Yeah I still hum 'Happy Trails' now and again. Cool song. I don't find the album a listenable one as a whole, although there is a few good songs. But definitely a memory lane album.

1:41 AM  
Blogger bob_vinyl said...

It's clearly their worst effort of the DLR-era, but it suffers more because the other albums were so good than because it's particularly bad. I can't remember the last time I played Diver Down, but it's only because when I'm in the mood for VH, I have some true classics to pick from.

3:55 AM  
Blogger David Amulet said...

I think you got it right. This is my least favorite DLR-era album, but I still like it, too.

You nailed the summer music feel of VH. The only album that doesn't fit summer for me as much is Fair Warning, which has more of a fall or winter vibe.

-- david

4:08 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I agree that it isn't stellar, but you have a few tracks on there, especially the cover songs, that are must-haves for any VH fanatic. If you enjoy Roth over Hagar, owning this album is an imperative even if it's only for the cover songs.

5:56 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

The only track I realy don't like is "Dancing in the Street". I don't like anyones version of this song. "Intruder" is a great into and Big Bad Bill is definately a Roth tune.

How could anyone not like "Happy Trails"? It's right up there with "Ice Cream Man".

6:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The funny thing is that I first got into the VH catalog around Christmas of '84, but over the years they've become more of a summer thing to me, like Kiss.

"Diver Down" is my least favorite of the original 6 albums, but it still has great moments. According to Eddie, he totally hates the album and considers it an "embarrassment" (which is why the "Best of Vol 1" CD contains no tracks from this album).

But "Little Guitars" is one of my absolute favorite Van Halen tracks. I also love "Hang 'Em High", "Secrets", and "The Full Bug". I never liked the covers of "Pretty Woman" or "Dancing In The Street", mainly because I was never crazy about the songs to begin with. I like their cover of "Where Have All The Good Times Gone" as much as I like The Kinks original. And "Big Bad Bill" was a song even my grandparents could appreciate!

It's strange how much "1984" was closer in style to "Fair Warning" than "Diver Down". It's almost like they took a detour with this album, but it still holds up well in their catalog!

7:17 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Minus points first.
Two many cover versions.

Plus points.
The cover versions they do are great, 'Intruder' leading into 'Pretty Woman' probably being best of the bunch, love Eddies guitar work.
'Secrets' is without doubt one of the bands greatest songs, great great harmonies, whilst 'Little Guitars' IMHO is Van Halen's best song EVER!! I adore this track and have done since the first time I heard it a quarter of a century ago.
The album boasts some great ROCK tracks as well as those mentioned, 'The Full Bug' and 'Hang 'em High' rock with the best of them.
Finally I love the back cover of the album, great live pics that summed up the energy of one of Metals greatest ever bands....until Hagar came along but that's another story...

7:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with the masses on this one. My least favorite DLR which means that I really like it alot. No one did covers like DLR era VH. They, along with Pearl Jam, are the only groups I can think that can consistently take other artists songs and transform them into "their" songs. It was that magical combination of Eddie's unique guitar brilliance and Dave's "I OWN the stage" attitude.

8:23 AM  
Blogger MrRyanO said...

Mark, you are dead on with this review! I agree 100%!

Classic VH is the best summer party music ever!

Have a good weekend!

11:22 AM  
Blogger Hard Rock Hideout said...

For whatever reason, I never had a problem with the cover tunes on this disc.

I have always liked Where Have All The Good Times Gone and Little Guitars.

It isn't the best VH release, but it is far from their worst (which is VH III, IMO).

Rob Rockitt
Hard Rock Hideout

12:19 PM  
Blogger penguindevil said...

Back in the day, Fair Warning was an awesome rock monster album and after hearing it, I was intent to be the first kid at school to own their next album! The day Diver Down came out I ran to the record store (a mere block from school) and picked it up!

Needless to say I was quite surprised (let down, even?) to hear what happened when I threw it on the turntable... At 14 I never would have expected a Rock band to put out a record of oldies covers. I grew to like it though and then, once "1984" came out, Diver Down seemed like a hard rock masterpiece... Since then I have been satisfied thinking of it as their swan song.

1:45 PM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

Steve-It's a funny song.

Andre-It's a little disjointed maybe, but I still like it.

Bob-It's not their best, but perhaps it's held up fine because that line-up only did one more album.

David-I might agree about Fair Warning being a fall/winter album. It's also my favorite though.

jay-They handled the covers better than most bands.

Mike-I agree about Dancing in the street to some extent. The energy just isn't quite there.

pete-I probably listen to Diver Down more now than I did inthe 1980's.

George-I agree about the back cover.

ray-The band was magic for those six albums and it was such a shame when it ended.

rockdog-Thanks. Have a great weekend.

hard rock hideout-I have still never heard Van Halen 3 because I heard nothing good about it.

penguindevil-It's certainly the biggest "grower" of those first six albums, but once it grew on me it stuck.

6:22 PM  
Blogger On My Watch said...

this one, to me, brings memories of a big bag of david's sunflower seeds and suntan lotion. loved. it. - - especially Little Guitars.

Even though there are a couple cover songs, I think I liked it better than Women & Children First.

...bompa dida bompa dida... :)

6:48 PM  
Blogger captain corky said...

I think they do a really good job with Pretty Woman. I prefer the original version of Dancing in the Street, but I can deal with Van Halen's version.

8:16 PM  
Blogger Anonymous Mom said...

Ahhh yes....Diver Down brings back memories for me too. It was probably my least fave of the DLR years but it was fun for sure!

(your kids are so cute!)

9:35 PM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

on my watch-It certainly reminds me of the 80's.

Captain Corky-They certainly did do a good job with Pretty Woman.

barbara-Despite some criticisms people have of this album, the fact that people remember it shows the band certainly did something right.

6:31 AM  
Blogger Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

First off, you're dead-on about VH being a summer-feel kinda band, not just for "Panama" or "You Really Got Me," but I've always felt a summer vibe, particularly from VH II.

On this album, yeah, there's problems, and yeah, the inclusion of so many covers indicates that VH was quickly schlepping something together to fulfill the contractual obligation, but I also agree there's some quality stuff there, like "Cathedral" and "Little Guitars," which you mentioned, and their cover of The Kinks' "Where Have All the Good Times Gone" is just a hair better than the original. It's not the stinker I once thought it was, though I've always listened to it often (you gave this to me on vinyl for one of my birthdays, thank you, Mark) and I still pull it out, because that lead-in to "Pretty Woman" just kicks ass.

12:55 PM  
Blogger DPTH International said...

Sounds cool, I don't know this album, but I'd like to hear some of the cover songs.

10:36 AM  

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