http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/1c5de02f9e257a73371f778ee5b1db2fc687a6d5.jpg Van Halen III

Van Halen

Van Halen III

Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 2 0
March 2, 1998

This is a tale of three vocalists and the guitar player who hired them. Van Halen I (1978-85): David Lee Roth was a bozo who couldn't sing, but at least he was entertaining. Van Halen II (1985-96): Sammy Hagar was a bozo who could sing, but his by-the-numbers songwriting made Roth sound positively profound.

Which brings us to Van Halen III (1997-?), and new singer and lyricist Gary Cherone. Formerly of middling arena-rock band Extreme, Cherone sounds disconcertingly like Hagar, full of spleen-busting bluster and incapable of understatement. Though Van Halen III is conspicuously lacking in the frat-boy tomdroolery that so enamored Roth and Hagar to fans, it still contains its share of baying at the moon. "Press against your lips," Cherone heaves as he closes in on a one-night stand in "From Afar," "taste the sweetness of your breath."

Every Van Halen singer has had the extreme good fortune to be associated with one of the virtuoso pop-music talents of the last twenty years, guitarist Eddie Van Halen, who has learned how to put his six-string artillery in the service of an increasingly broad range of songs. But ever since the commercial breakthrough of 1984, his ambitions have outrun his band's ability to execute them. Cherone has one speed as a singer on III — pained exertion — and longtime bassist Michael Anthony and drummer Alex Van Halen sound as though they're lumbering at any tempo. When the band plays it heavy, it mires itself in a Seventies tar pit, with only the chorus of "Without You" achieving any sort of pop resonance. Instead, the most thrilling moments are when Eddie Van Halen waves goodbye to the songs with his gloriously warped solos or when he abandons the notion of hard rock altogether. "Once" is an ambient piano-and-synth track with a lonely guitar circling overhead, and "How Many Say I" finds the guitarist singing in a disarmingly appealing, nicotine-stained voice over a moody piano melody. One can only hope this last number is a prelude to Eddie Van Halen I: The Solo Album.

Album Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “American Girl”

    Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

    It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

    More Song Stories entries »