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    Diver Down Recent Review

    MAY 12, 2022

    LINK @ BRUTALLYHONESTROCKALBUMREVIEWS

    ALBUM REVIEW: VAN HALEN – DIVER DOWN
    Album Review: Van Halen – Diver Down
    Van Halen – Diver Down

    May 11, 2022

    ALBUM REVIEW

    OVERALL (OUT OF 10): 9




    Hard to believe that Eddie Van Halen has been gone for a year and a half now. He will never again record a single new note of his unique brand of guitar god brilliance – I don’t know about you, but I am having a little trouble adapting to a world without Eddie Van Halen. I mean yeah, we hadn’t had anything new from him really since A Different Kind of Truth in 2012, but there was always the chance he’d release something new in the future sometime. There was always hope. When I saw him on tour last in 2015 his amazing chops were still intact, there was no reason to think new music wasn’t a possibility. But now that he’s gone there isn’t the faintest glimmer of a chance of anything new from him ever again really, unless there is some truly astounding stuff locked away in his vaults somewhere that will someday see the light of day. Somehow I doubt it.

    Given what a true master artist he was, that means we need to treasure all the notes we got out of him while he was alive. Which, in a circuitous way, helps prove the point I am going to be making today that the Guys in Suits don’t always get it wrong. See, we all like to think the Suits are the bad guys in the world of rock music, and most of the time you’d get no argument from me. They are the human parasites who are making millions by overcharging us for music, and for that I will always hate them with a fierce and fervent passion. They are leeches feeding off the creativity and hard work of artists, pure and simple. If there is any justice in this universe of ours, when they die every record company executive will be condemned to an eternity of listening to Starship’s “We Built This City” on a never-ending loop. And I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.

    But every so often they do something where they actually do deserve a thank you from us, and in the spirit of credit where credit is due, we all owe some Guy in a Suit thanks for Diver Down. If not for that guy, we’d have one less Roth-era Van Halen gem, and in a world awash in crummy music we need all the Roth-era Van Halen albums we can get. See, by 1982 Van Halen had recorded four albums in four years, toured the world multiple times, and were understandably pretty worn out. You can’t blame the guys for needing a break. So to keep the Guys in Suits off their backs for a while, they decided to release a cover song as a single to tide the Suits over and then take a little well-earned break. Problem was, said single was an awesome version of “(Oh) Pretty Woman” that burned up the charts, and the Guys in the Suits get pretty interested pretty quick when they see an opportunity to make another quick couple million. So the Suits ordered a full album to go along with the new hit single post haste. And for whatever reason the biggest band on the planet didn’t feel like they could tell their label to go take a hike, and so they threw Diver Down together in a rush to once again try and get the Guys in Suits off their backs for a while.

    Now the Guys in Suits were being total jerks, no question, the boys had earned some time off. Of course, on the other hand Van Halen were big enough they probably shouldn’t have let themselves gets pushed around by their label like that, so it is kind of their own fault for not sticking up for themselves more. Be that as it may, this is gonna be one time I’ve gotta say “Thank Heavens for the Guys in Suits”, because while it isn’t the greatest Van Halen by any stretch, I personally think the world would be a little less colorful place without Diver Down in it.

    But, to be honest, I am not sure I really get the raison d’etre for Diver Down’s existence. Supercharging “(Oh) Pretty Woman” was a brilliant idea – who doesn’t love the song? And what was already a killer riff gets kicked up several notches by that Eddie Van Halen guitar magic. The song works spectacularly on that level. But for a vocalist who suffers from (if I may borrow a line from Jurassic Park) “a deplorable excess of personality”, I’m surprised at how little personality David Lee Roth brings to the song. The guy was the biggest goon on God’s green earth for sure, but as a vocalist he could be a lot of fun – and in spite of that, I don’t feel like he really brought much to the song. It’s actually a pretty lifeless, tame vocal performance from Diamond Dave, and I don’t know why he didn’t put more of his stamp on it. I mean really, what does he do for the song that Roy Orbison didn’t do for the original? Even the exclamation “Mercy!” and that growl you hear after the chorus was Roy’s to begin with. Dave doesn’t bring much to the table that wasn’t in the original. I just feel like Dave could have had a lot more fun with it than he did, I don’t know if he was hung over that day, or busy getting ready to be hung over the next day, or maybe he just didn’t like Roy Orbison. But I’m not feelin’ his vocal on this one, however wonderful Eddie’s guitar work is. I think I’d prefer if they’d mixed Roy Orbison’s original vocal over Eddie’s guitar – at least Roy sounded like he was putting something into the song, which is more than can really be said for Dave. Great cover version otherwise, but the “I’m not really in the mood for this today” vocal from Roth kind of ruins it for me.

    I mean, contrast that with their cover of “Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)” – Dave was having a great time with that one, and it shows. This one, by the way, features Eddie’s and Alex’s dad playing a hot jazzy clarinet, and its loads of fun. Van Halen understood what few rock bands seem to get – you can’t just be head bangers all the time, people like it when you break things up a bit. Dave put it best: “Why do I have to bang my head to every single song on every single album? I don’t think the audience has that much lack of creativity or imagination.” I respect the way they trusted their audience to have more musical taste than just wanting to headbang all the time. And I think Dave is right. A band having the musical range and skill to pull in other genres from time to time is definitely a plus in my book. Especially when you have a lead singer who does such a marvelous job of injecting a little fun into the proceedings – David Lee Roth is pretty much the biggest goofball who ever lived, but no question, he knew how to make a song fun. Any Neanderthal heavy metal band can be gloom-and-doom, demons-and-devils head bangers 24/7 – it takes a band with real panache to pull of something like “Big Bad Bill”. Of all the great American bands, only Aerosmith had a comparable sense of style (think “Big Ten Inch Record”).

    In that same spirit, “Happy Trails” is a riot – you can tell they are having fun, the busting up in laughter at the end of the song feels pretty real. Dave’s “bom-ba-de-dah”s slay me. And you have to give Van Halen credit, those are some pretty tight harmony vocals on that one. Diamond Dave hams the song up to his hammy little heart’s content, all in all it’s a tremendously fun listen. By comparison, “Pretty Woman”’s vocals drag, and it makes me wonder what was going on with Dave that day that he didn’t bring his A game and let a little fun into that one. As it is, “Pretty Woman” is a cover song with a phenomenal guitar part that gets dragged down by a pretty boring vocal, which isn’t something you can say for very many Roth-era songs.

    It certainly cannot be said for album opener “Where Have All the Good Times Gone?”, which marks the second time Van Halen laid claim to a song from The Kinks, and like “You Really Got Me”, there was no way Ray Davies and Company were ever getting it back once the Van Halen brothers got their hands on it. If you didn’t know better, you’d think Roth wrote the lyrics, they certainly fit his style, and he delivers them with a blustery swagger Ray Davies could never even dream of. Whether Ray knew it or not, when he wrote the song, he was writing it for Van Halen. Those lines “Daddy didn’t have no little toys/And mummy didn’t need no little boys” sounds way more 1982 than 1965 anyway, Dave manages to make them sound considerably more salacious than The Kinks did. Although I am not sure what I should think about America’s Greatest Party Music Band wondering where the good times have gone – sure, gone the good times would be eventually, but not on this album. It’s a great album opener, and Eddie’s solo reminds us all why he was on a whole other planet from everyone else. In the three planets in the solar system of rock guitarists, there is Planet Hendrix, Planet EVH, and then every other guitarist in the galaxy crowded onto that last planet.

    There’s another cover song we haven’t talked about yet, namely “Dancing in the Street”. It’s kind of an odd choice, but the interplay between the guitar and synthesizer really 80s the song up to the max, and a new version for a new decade is kind of fun. It sure kicks the crap out of the Mick Jagger/David Bowie cover version. Again, Dave sounds way more committed to this song than “Pretty Woman”, and the electronics provide a heady, hard groove I really like. Personally, I count it a success.

    Not that the album suffers for lack of original Van Halen songs. “Hang ‘Em High” is vintage Van Halen, a galloping horseride of a song with vaguely Western-ish cowboy-ish lyrics and a phenomenal extended solo by Eddie. Lyrics never mattered much with Van Halen anyway, didn’t matter what the words were in any of their songs, Dave would ham ‘em up and turn on the charm and make damn well sure the one or two good lines in the song jumped out at you. So it is with “Hang ‘Em High” – you read the lyrics and there really isn’t much there, but Diamond Dave does his thing, Eddie wows you with some guitar wizardry, and you end up not really caring if the words don’t make a lick of sense. It’s a blast, I love it, and that’s all that matters.

    “Cathedral” is one of three brief instrumentals on the album, and its really unlike any guitar playing you’ve ever heard, Eddie is conjuring new agey spaceman alien music with his guitar using effects processing and the volume knob. It doesn’t even sound like a guitar, and it is only the occasional squeak from Eddie moving his hands up and down the guitar neck that gives it away that is isn’t a synthesizer. And it’s gorgeous – I wish it were longer. But maybe there’s something to be said for an instrumental that leaves you wanting more. Thing is, it’s just Eddie and a guitar, there are no overdubs, no orchestrations or anything – and it’s still absolutely entrancing. The guy was a genius. I also wish his other guitar instrumental “Little Guitars (Intro)” were longer. It’s a tasty slice of Mexican-flavored nacho cheese guitar, and I would have liked to hear more of it. But again, brevity has its virtues. And it’s surprising that such a undisputed virtuoso took such a modest approach to his instrumentals – he could have gone all Jimmy Page 1977 tour and done a meandering half hour guitar jam, but he kept things short, sweet, and to the point – a couple of concise bursts of guitar brilliance.

    The other instrumental, “Intruder”, is pretty cool, it’s a little ominous sounding, malevolent even in parts, which is weird considering it is really just an intro to “Pretty Woman”, and was written specifically to pad the video out because when they shot it they had more video than song, and they needed some more music so they wouldn’t have to cut any of the video.

    “Secrets” is a slice of cleverly disguised smooth pop, take away Eddie’s clever guitar playing and it fits fairly comfortably in with the adult contemporary fare of the period. Dave gives it a surprisingly restrained, breathy vocal, usually it doesn’t take much to get him to go over the top, but somehow he represses his irrepressible party animal nature for a few minutes and gets the vibe on this one pitch perfect. This baby just simmers for a couple of minutes. I like the relaxed, mellow vibe, and of course as always, you gotta love Eddie’s stellar playing. He manages to pull off a red hot solo without disturbing the song’s dreamy atmosphere, no mean feat that. Really love this song.

    The rhythm guitar on “Little Guitars” is pretty unique, love the shift in dynamics in this song and the different textures. It’s also pretty cool the way that after the line “When I see you, all your little guitars sing to me”, Eddie actually makes his guitars sing, it’s a nice touch.

    Of the songs on the album, maybe the most Van Haleneqsue is “The Full Bug”. It has all the elements of a great Roth-era Van Halen song. Cool acoustic intro that explodes into a rip-roaring tempo? Check. Insanely catchy rhythm parts and jaw-dropping guitar pyrotechnics? Check. Smutty innuendoes? Check. Good-time party vocals delivered with all the outsized personality of Diamond Dave? Check and check. You even get some groovy harmonica courtesy of Dave, and all in all I consider it a neglected Van Halen classic. This one ticks all the boxes for a great Van Halen song, and I kind of think it would have made a great single, although maybe with a different name because people don’t usually like songs about bugs.

    Notice I haven’t said much about Michael Anthony and Alex Van Halen. As I explained at length in my review of Van Halen’s debut album, I’ve always thought Eddie was held back by a mediocre rhythm section. The guy could have had his pick of the world’s most amazing virtuosos, and ends up with Mr. Single Note “Bomp-bomp-bomp-bomp-bomp-bomp” on bass and Mr. Can’t Stay Off the Cymbals “Ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding” on drums. What the most creative and electrifying guitarist of his generation, if not any generation, was doing with such an unimaginative rhythm section is truly beyond me. How did the Powers That Be allow that to happen? It’s the most compelling argument against the existence of God I can think of. Michael Anthony’s background vocals were a key piece of the Van Halen puzzle though, so I guess he was worth keeping around for that, even if your average sixteen-year old bass player could handle his bass parts no problem (which was what actually happened eventually). Sure, Alex gives us a powerful beat on “Pretty Woman”, but imagine what Eddie could have created in a band with somebody like Keith Moon. I will always wish Eddie had worked at least once or twice with some musicians who were closer to his caliber.

    So, yeah, thank you Suit Guy, whoever you are, for taking time outta your busy day extorting money from the music buying public to force Van Halen to make Diver Down. Funny thing is, this one is a bit neglected in terms of Van Halen albums – even the oft-overlooked Fair Warning has the unforgettable “Unchained”, but this is an album that goes criminally underrepresented on Van Halen compilation albums. Best Of – Volume I skipped the album completely, like it didn’t even exist, and The Best of Both Worlds used a measly two songs from the album, both of them covers. On their only live album with David Lee Roth, Tokyo Dome Live in Concert, “Pretty Woman” was the only song from the album they dusted off and put on display (by the way, I can never decide if I should criticize that live album for Dave’s atrocious vocals, or admire the chutzpah in not re-recording them or Autotuning them and instead just releasing them as is, warts-n-all). When they pulled out all kinds of golden oldies for their final 2015 tour, “Little Guitars” was the sole representative from Diver Down. If you ask me, the album doesn’t get near enough love.

    Diver Down is not Van Halen’s masterpiece, except in the sense that pretty much every time Eddie Van Halen touched a guitar he made a masterpiece. But it is a worthy – nay, essential – part of their catalog. Eddie’s playing is as awe-inspiring on this album as it is on any of them, and it is therefore an album that belongs in the collection of anyone who appreciates rock guitar as an art form. And of course Diamond Dave is as entertaining as ever, showboating, engaging in acts of wild and wanton showmanship, and generally acting as though spotlights were invented solely to shine on him. With its little foray into jazz and David Lee Roth channeling Roy Rogers, it’s as diverse as any Van Halen album would ever be. And as usual Eddie makes his guitar squeal, shriek, grunt, whinny, and dive bomb plenty enough for any EVH guitar aficionado. There’s never a dull moment when Eddie’s playing guitar.

    So thank heavens for the Guys in the Suits on this one. And as for the rest of you, happy trails to you, until we meet again…

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    "Little or no filler"? Really?

    But it's the lyrics he thinks are shit? Really?
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    Well, let's see.... the total length of the album is 31:04

    There are 12 tracks on the album. Of those 12, 5 are covers. 3 are instrumental intros. Which leaves 4 original actual songs. All great songs though...

    So I guess it depends on what your definition of "filler" is. If it had been me, I would have released a 10" EP (those were trendy back in 1982) with just the original songs. Maybe left Pretty Woman on since it was apparently recorded before the rest of the album anyway.

    As far as lyrics go... I'd say "Hang Em High" is much better lyrically than "Last Night" was....

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    Quote Originally Posted by Seshmeister View Post
    "Little or no filler"? Really?

    But it's the lyrics he thinks are shit? Really?
    I actually became enraged and had to stop reading for a bit while guzzling drinks at the bar when he thanked the "suits" for forcing VH back into the studio after "Oh-Pretty Woman" charted. That more than anything destroyed the band's cohesiveness and resulted in the 1985 meltdown!!

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    But I agree overall that Van Halen's weakest effort is still a really fun and interesting summertime listening tradition...

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    Diver Down isn't terrible.

    I would say that I always liked the original material on the album a little bit better than the covers.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nickdfresh View Post
    Notice I haven’t said much about Michael Anthony and Alex Van Halen. As I explained at length in my review of Van Halen’s debut album, I’ve always thought Eddie was held back by a mediocre rhythm section. The guy could have had his pick of the world’s most amazing virtuosos, and ends up with Mr. Single Note “Bomp-bomp-bomp-bomp-bomp-bomp” on bass and Mr. Can’t Stay Off the Cymbals “Ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding” on drums. What the most creative and electrifying guitarist of his generation, if not any generation, was doing with such an unimaginative rhythm section is truly beyond me. How did the Powers That Be allow that to happen? It’s the most compelling argument against the existence of God I can think of. Michael Anthony’s background vocals were a key piece of the Van Halen puzzle though, so I guess he was worth keeping around for that, even if your average sixteen-year old bass player could handle his bass parts no problem (which was what actually happened eventually). Sure, Alex gives us a powerful beat on “Pretty Woman”, but imagine what Eddie could have created in a band with somebody like Keith Moon. I will always wish Eddie had worked at least once or twice with some musicians who were closer to his caliber.
    Here the guy is absolutely wrong. I'm surprized none of you reacted about it.

    Alex Van Halen IS a great drummer, dammit.
    And Michael Anthony's bass playing just fitted with the band's music. It was part of the overall sound. Just try to change it and it won't be the same.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jérôme Frenchise View Post
    Here the guy is absolutely wrong. I'm surprized none of you reacted about it.

    Alex Van Halen IS a great drummer, dammit.
    And Michael Anthony's bass playing just fitted with the band's music. It was part of the overall sound. Just try to change it and it won't be the same.
    The critic knows nothing about music. When you have a guitar player like Eddie Van Halen who fills up a lot of the space you need a bass player who can hold the bottom line down without getting in the way. Van Halen had a great rhythm section. They sounded great.
    Last edited by Nitro Express; 07-15-2022 at 06:44 AM.
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    I would like to find the guy who wrote that article and hand him some instruments and tell him, show us how it's done.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jérôme Frenchise View Post
    Here the guy is absolutely wrong. I'm surprized none of you reacted about it.

    Alex Van Halen IS a great drummer, dammit.
    And Michael Anthony's bass playing just fitted with the band's music. It was part of the overall sound. Just try to change it and it won't be the same.
    It was too ridiculous to even respond. The fucking idiot obviously knows nothing about the most overlooked aspect of great bands. CHEMISTRY! I'd love to hear him tell other great drummers and bass players that Al and Mike suck.

    I loved Diver Down when it was released, and I still love it today. Probably the only song I might skip, is "Dancing In The Streets". That's mostly because the dopes he mentions in his article, totally ruined it for me.

    I can't believe I'm going to say this, but this article actually made me miss Full Bong!
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    Quote Originally Posted by FORD View Post
    Well, let's see.... the total length of the album is 31:04

    There are 12 tracks on the album. Of those 12, 5 are covers. 3 are instrumental intros. Which leaves 4 original actual songs. All great songs though...
    I think of "Where Have all the Good Times Gone" as being a Van Halen song and happily can still listen to it and BBB. Pretty Woman and DITS less much.

    Even if you just take Intruder and Happy Trails as being filler which no one can deny that's 2/12 right away and nearly 10% of the running time.

    It is/was a great summer LP but my memory of it is having to get up out the sun lounger constantly to turn it over and those two start to get old quite quickly if you keep doing that...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jérôme Frenchise View Post
    Here the guy is absolutely wrong. I'm surprized none of you reacted about it.

    Alex Van Halen IS a great drummer, dammit.
    And Michael Anthony's bass playing just fitted with the band's music. It was part of the overall sound. Just try to change it and it won't be the same.
    Dead on... Alex played a key role in shaping the core of VH's compositions and Ed's unique rhythm structures.

    I hate the references to Michael's playing/compositions being over simplified... utter bullshit. As the author says a 16 year old could play the notes. We even saw that with Wolfgang. But the intricate precision in a great bass player, such as Mikey, is the microsecond timing in conjunction of the beat and rhythm within the drum piece while holding the rhythm structure of the guitar composition. This is where Michael excelled.

    You can listen to Wolfgang's playing on the classics and they lack the precision timing of the original compositions, his tone is far too distorted and most of his "extras" add noise that muddies the core rhythm of the songs.
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    I'd certainly put Hang 'Em High, Secrets, Little Guitars and The Full Bug right up there with the best Van Halen had to offer.

    (Oh)Pretty Woman I like because it follows that tradition the band had of 'Van Halen-izing' the songs they covered, along the same lines as You Really Got Me and You're No Good. Part of that includes putting the band's own stamp on the cover in terms of the attitude and delivery; if a band is going to do a cover, the least that can be expected is a performance that adds something different to the original and is as compelling as the original (because otherwise why bother?). I'd say that Dancing In The Streets does add something different to the original, although I'm quite sure it is as compelling. Where Have All The Good Times Gone has always kind of been a track that lumbered along to no particular effect for me. Seemed a bit weak as an album opening track, to be honest about it. Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now) has grown on me over the years. I didn't get the chance to hear earlier versions of it until decades later.

    Cathedral and the Little Guitars Intro I liked as showcases for Eddie's playing as much as Eruption and Spanish Fly.

    Intruder is interesting, although it comes off as a somewhat lesser version in the vein of Sunday Afternoon In The Park. Certainly sounds like what it was, which was a bit of music quickly dashed off to accompany the (Oh)Pretty Woman promo video.

    Happy Trails always worked a bit better in the live setting as a concert closer than on record.

    I'd agree with Sesh that Diver Down is (and works best for me) as an album to throw on when lounging poolside or having a few beers while lying out on a towel at the beach. And there's nothing wrong with that, either.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jérôme Frenchise View Post
    Here the guy is absolutely wrong. I'm surprized none of you reacted about it.

    Alex Van Halen IS a great drummer, dammit.
    And Michael Anthony's bass playing just fitted with the band's music. It was part of the overall sound. Just try to change it and it won't be the same.
    I only got four paragraphs into the thing, scrolled down and looked at the length of the remainder of the article and then remembered I didn't need to read the rest of it. Partly because I know how I feel about the album, but my reaction to the amount of text remaining was just like 'meh/nah'. And coming from a longwinded cunt such as myself, that's saying something!

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    Every Van Halen album had some interesting guitar work on it. Ed never rested when experimentation and innovation were concerned.

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    I never really got tired of Ed Van Halen. He always managed to keep me interested. The guy was not boring.

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    I know we have given this too much thought already but for some reason I was listening to Secrets at the weekend and it encapsulated everything the guy gets wrong perfectly from the poetic lyrics to the brilliant rhythm section but the thing that made me think of this thread is I had forgotten the super cool little bell bits that AVH does in it. I just read that fucking dumb bit of that idiots review again - fucking hell what a clueless moron.

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    Secrets was just a great...song, you know? And far from being bombastic. It was...sort of pretty, without getting too doe-eyed about it. And, yeah, all-around good performances. I always liked the little bass fill just before the second verse started.

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    I remember Ed playing Secrets live on a pretty funky looking Kramer double neck guitar.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Terry View Post
    Secrets was just a great...song, you know? And far from being bombastic. It was...sort of pretty, without getting too doe-eyed about it. And, yeah, all-around good performances. I always liked the little bass fill just before the second verse started.
    Therein lies the difference between CVH and Van Hagar.

    CVH can get mellow but never lose the cool factor. In fact the slower numbers (Secrets, Push Comes to Shove, Women in Love) are some of their most badass tunes.

    You can't say the same about Van Hagar. When they got mellow, you were provided with shit ballads and the cheese factor increased two fold.
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