Ah, the live album everyone hates… except me!
It is understandable though. Objectively speaking, it has some pretty terrible moments that even I will skip. Every time. So, let’s get the negative bits out of the way:
Is Live: Right Here, Right Now truly a live album? Well, we know parts of it were recorded live in a studio! I’ll let Sammy himself explain with an excerpt from his book:
The problem was they re-recorded almost the entire live album, because Eddie was out of tune, or Al had sped up or slowed down. They fixed everything. Only now that Eddie was playing in tune, my singing’s off-key. And where Al sped up in “Runaround”, now I’m singing ahead of the beat. Now I had to go back in the studio and redo all my vocals. I wanted to kill those guys. They put me in a room with the video of the concert, gave me my microphone, and I stood there and sang the whole fucking concert one time through. Just like it was a live performance.”
Who knows how much of that is truth and how much is hyperbole? To me, it doesn’t feel much like a live album. The crowd noise often appears to be tacked on, flat and without much variation. So, I can believe some of what Sammy said.
Is this even a Van Halen album? Well, it says so on the cover… but this, without a doubt, is a Sammy Hagar album. He just happens to be backed up by Van Halen. Ironic are the people who have told me they don’t like or are not interested in Live because they don’t want to hear Sammy singing David Lee Roth tunes. There are only four of them!
Ain’t Talking ’bout Love is done very well. I think Sammy liked that one. Jump is a bit paint by numbers with Sammy ad libs here and there, but its serviceable.
You Really Got Me and Panama, both get Sammied as he can’t help but to turn them into one of his own songs. Panama is gutted with his weird “fuck tomorrow” wrap and a back and forth with audience as he screams “Right Now”. You Really Got Me bookends an entire performance of Cabo Wabo from OU812 and I would have much preferred for each to have their own track.
The rest are all Sammy tunes.
Including two solo songs. One Way to Rock, at least fits the band. It is a standard rocker, but not bad. The other, Give to Live could have been dropped. It features a solo Sammy on vocals and acoustic guitar. It is nothing special as far as solo acoustic guitar songs go.
And I sure hope you love that one Van Halen album because out of the 16 Van Hagar tunes on here, 10 of them are from For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.
If we let their… let’s say interesting cover of The Who’s Won’t Get Fooled Again slide, there is only one more major sin. The solos. You get a bass, drum, AND guitar solo.
Woah… I’m gonna complain about a guitar solo on a Van Halen album?!?!? When it’s 316, you’re damn right I am!
OK, Eddie does very briefly slip into some Mean Streets and then hits some Eruption-ish stuff, but they are sparse in an 11-plus minute, mostly dormant track. I have heard that his performance here was more of a spectacle than auditory experience, but audio is all I have to go on.
As for the drum and bass solos… I love Alex Van Halen and Michael Anthony. They make for a phenomenal rhythm section with a truly unique drive. But their solos are overlong as they are lifeless. These are the parts I skip. Every time.
So, with all of these complaints… how can I still enjoy this “live” album?
Well, I admit to part of it being nostalgia. For most of my teens, my Van Halen collection looked like this:
I got Live from my parents for Christmas of ’93, thinking that it would make for a compact and convenient way to explore Van Halen’s back catalog. It didn’t exactly do that but without a massive music library you end up listening to the same albums in your small collection a lot. And this one got a ton of play from me. Because it’s all I had, and it ain’t that bad.
I happen to be one of the people who enjoys For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge and its tunes here are like alternate takes.
The other Van Hagar songs are simply great. Best of Both Worlds and Dreams have that slightly quicker live tempo which really gives them a boost. Sammy’s ad lib is a little cringe-y during Finish What Ya Started but it is a solid version overall. And the three ballads, Love Walks In, When It’s Love, and Why Can’t This Be Love are highlights.
So, if I break down the track list 2Loud2OldMusic style:
- Poundcake – Keep
- Judgement Day – Keep
- When It’s Love – Keep
- Spanked – Drop
- Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love – Keep
- In ‘n’ Out – Keep
- Dreams – KEEP
- Man on a Mission – Keep
- Ultra Bass (Michael Anthony bass solo) – Drop
- Pleasure Dome/Drum Solo – Drop
- Panama – Keep, but drop the Right Now part
- Love Walks In – Keep
- Runaround – Keep
- Right Now – Keep-ish
- One Way to Rock (Hagar tune) – Keep
- Why Can’t This Be Love – Keep
- Give to Live (Hagar tune) – Drop
- Finish What Ya Started – Keep
- Best of Both Worlds – KEEP
- 316 – Drop
- You Really Got Me / Cabo Wabo – Drop
- Won’t Get Fooled Again (The Who cover) – Drop
- Jump – Keep
- Top of the World – Keep
Keep 17 out of 24 songs? That’s not bad.
Today I have access to Van Halen’s entire catalog but this one I went to after reading about the passing of Eddie Van Halen the other day. Maybe it was for comfort. Maybe it brought me back to a time when I felt safer and more hopeful for the future. Maybe this takes me back to those better feelings. Maybe I wouldn’t enjoy Live very much if it wasn’t wrapped in nostalgia. But it is.