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Van Halen Studio Recordings: 1978-1984 High-Resolution Download Review

The Collection

[Rating:4.5/5]

Van Halen  (actually there are two Van Halens in this iconic rock n’roll group, brothers Eddie and Alex) hit the big time when they recruited power singer David Lee Roth and bassist Michael Anthony.  Legendary manager/recordist Ted Templeman signed VH to the Warner Bros. label and their eponymous Van Halen was released in 1978.  A multi-million seller, with hits like “Runnin’ with the Devil,” Jamie’s Cryin’,” and “You Really Got Me,” this album led the charge and everything else just followed. The group’s second album Van Halen II, was released in 1979, with the infectious hit, “Dance The Night Away,” reaching No. 6 on the Billboard Top 200 list. Women and Children First hit the charts in 1980 with “And the Cradle Will Rock,” and  “Could This Be Magic,” also landing at No. 6.  In 1981, Fair Warning solidified the group’s status as a top rock n’ roll act. Diver Down was released the following year with group’s pounding coverage of the Roy Orbison classic, “(Oh) Pretty Woman,” driving the album to No. 3. Of course, 1984 blasted to the very top of the charts led by the band’s dance favorite, “Jump.”

An easy choice for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, Van Halen has survived personnel changes (Roth left after 1984 but was successfully replaced by Sammy Hagar). Van Halen pressed on in the new millennium with monster tours. Many die-hard VH fans will doubtless consider the first six studio albums as offered in this collection to represent the high water for these talented rockers. The complete 60-cut collection is listed below:

Disc 1: Van Halen     

  • Runnin’ With The Devil
  • Eruption
  • You Really Got Me
  • Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love
  • I’m The One
  • Jamie’s Cryin’
  • Atomic Punk
  • Feel Your Love Tonight
  • Little Dreamer
  • Ice Cream Man
  • On Fire

Disc 2:  Van Halen II

  • You’re No Good
  • Dance The Night Away
  • Somebody Get Me A Doctor
  • Bottoms Up!
  • Outta Love Again
  • Light Up The Sky
  • Spanish Fly
  • D.O.A.
  • Women in Love
  • Beautiful Girls

Disc 3:  Women and Children First

  • And The Cradle Will Rock…
  • Everybody Wants Some!
  • Fools
  • Romeo Delight
  • Tora! Tora!
  • Loss of Control
  • Take Your Whiskey Home
  • Could This Be Magic?
  • In A Simple Rhyme

Disc 4:  Fair Warning

  • Mean Street
  • Dirty Movies
  • Sinner’s Swing!
  • Hear About It Later
  • Unchained
  • Push Comes to Shove
  • So This Is Love?
  • Sunday Afternoon in The Park
  • One Foot Out The Door

Disc 5:  Diver Down

  • Where Have All the Good Times Gone?
  • Hang ’em High
  • Cathedral
  • Secrets
  • Intruder
  • (Oh) Pretty Woman
  • Dancing In The Street
  • Little Guitars (Intro)
  • Little Guitars
  • Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)
  • The Full Bug
  • Happy Trails

Disc 6: 1984

  • 1984
  • Jump
  • Panama
  • Top Jimmy
  • Drop Dead Legs
  • Hot For Teacher
  • I’ll Wait
  • Girl Gone Bad
  • House of Pain

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

So how good are these 192kHz/24-bit remasters? I had most of these albums on vinyl once upon a time and foolishly parted with them when the 2000 reissued CD (HDCD) versions hit the music shop racks. Well, we all make mistakes, as I found the CDs to be compressed, often disappointingly so, when compared with their analog predecessors. As a rule, this is loud, often very loud, in-your-face music, and, 30-year old aural memories aside, these digital downloads albums sounded at least as good as I remembered their vinyl counterparts to be. This is not surprising since the downloads were sourced from the original EQ analog master tapes. Most cuts are very dynamic and room-filling, but not shy on detail. If you listen to “Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)” or “Could This Be Magic,” you get rare acoustic moments that are crystal clear. Of course, there is 1984’s “Jump” (not my favorite VH number) with its incessant synthesizer ground at least as listenable as I have heard it. Thankfully, this last album’s big percussion opening of “Hot For The Teacher” gives us what we really expect from Van Halen.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:0/5]

Unfortunately, all we get for our money is cover art where liner notes would have been most welcome to VH veterans and newcomers alike.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

Metal might not be to everyone’s liking, but this group plays it as well as any of the ‘80’s head-banging rockers. Taken individually, the original Van Halen featured some damn good musicians who could play just about any musical genre. This reissue gives listeners a generous collection of some of the best VH numbers. If the original releases were not the very last word in audiophile recordings (and they were not), here they are given a strong remastering effort, particularly in the 192kHz/24-bit versions supplied for this review. As this is being written, Warner Bros. has released this six-album set as a deluxe CD box, going for about half of the price of this HD download collection. Really, 44.1 kHz/16-bits rather than 192kHz/24-bits, anyone?  Taken as a 3-hour sitting and frequently ear-bleeding orgy, or sampled cut-by-cut (what I would recommend), this is probably as good a way as any to get reacquainted with some true American rock n’ roll legends. We can’t relive our lost youth, but Van Halen Studio Recordings 1978-1984 takes us back there, at least for a few hours. Thanks, Rhino/Warner Bros; thanks, HDtracks.

Purchase Van Halen Studio Recordings: 1978-1984  on www.HDTracks.com

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5 COMMENTS

    • Hi dslo,

      These are completely new remasters taken from the original master tapes. As Lawrence points out in his review, the 2002 CD remasters, which sound awful, do not even compare to the sound quality of these. Like him, having heard them both, I can back him up on that. These high-res downloads from HD Tracks are warm, dynamic, and analogue in tone. Those HDCD remasters were brittle, compressed, peak limited, and terrible tweaked in the high end.

      Of course, I can let Lawrence speak for himself if he agrees. :-)

      • You didn’t answer the original poster’s question, which I also share.

        He did not ask whether the hi-res downloads are superior. He asked whether the new CD box set contains the same remasters as the 2000 HDCD remasters.

        Are they the same or aren’t they? I don’t care about the hi-res download.

        • Hmm, I guess maybe you missed the very first sentence in my reply “These are completely new remasters taken from the original master tapes.” And, if you don’t care about the hi-res download, why are you even asking? This review, in case you missed it, is about the hi-res download. O_o

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