Van Halen : 1986 – 1996 : Studio Albums and Rarities : CD Box Set Review

Van Halen : 1986 – 1996 : Vol 2 : Sammy Hagar Years – Studio Albums and Rarities : CD Box Set Review

The Van Halen Volume 2 CD Box Set, encompasses the Sammy Hagar era from 1986 to 1996. After the vinyl unboxing for Vol 1, which sparked considerable interest, it was only fitting to delve into the CD counterpart, offering not just the iconic studio albums but also an additional disc packed with rarities.

A Treasure Trove of Remastered Classics
This collection is a five CD feast, showcasing LP replica sleeves remastered from the original tapes by the legendary Bernie Grundman. The titles include “5150,” “OU812,” “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge,” “Balance,” and a disc dedicated to “Studio Rarities.” It’s housed in a slipcase box mirroring its vinyl sibling, albeit tailored for compact discs.

A Notch Above the Rest
Warner’s Rhino has meticulously replicated the original vinyl packaging, ensuring that even the paper stock remains true to what fans originally held in their hands. As I sifted through the sleeves, it was clear that the details were attended to with reverence, down to the spines and lyric sheets.

Sound Quality: A Leap Forward
Bernie Grundman’s remastering resonates through each album, not as a jarring overhaul but as a subtle enhancement, bringing forth clarity and depth that aligns with Van Halen’s quintessential sound. It’s an audible improvement over the original CDs, delivering a more authentic experience.

The Rarity Disc: A Nostalgic Trip
The bonus disc is a real treat, with tracks from as far back as 1989 to 2004, including gems from the “Best of Both Worlds” compilation and standout pieces like “Humans Being” from the “Twister” soundtrack. The instrumental “Respect the Wind” is a poignant reminder of Eddie Van Halen’s genius, a beautiful piece that could’ve paved the way for an all-instrumental album had he still been with us.

Van Hagar: A Fresh Chapter
Now, let’s rewind to 1986’s “5150.” It marked a new era post-David Lee Roth – with Sammy Hagar at the helm. The band’s evolution was palpable, with “Why Can’t This Be Love” and “Dreams” catapulting them to new heights. Then came “OU812” in 1988, a personal favorite for many, including my wife, with tracks like “When It’s Love” reflecting Eddie’s maturing guitar prowess and the band’s unwavering dominion over rock charts.

Climbing to New Peaks
1991’s “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge” ramped up the intensity with “Poundcake” and “Right Now,” while 1995’s “Balance” seemed like a step down at its release. However, revisiting it now, the progression and depth of the album shine through, arguably standing as a forward leap in their musical journey.

The Verdict
After a thorough listen, how do they stack up? Surprisingly, “Balance” takes the top spot for its forward-looking innovation, followed by “OU812” with its impactful songwriting and production. “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge” places third with its powerhouse tracks, and “5150,” although fourth, marked the exciting start of the Van Hagar era.

In conclusion, this Van Halen Volume 2 CD Box Set not only revisits the band’s legacy but enhances it, offering a crisp sound experience and a bounty of unheard treasures for fans old and new. Whether you’re reliving the nostalgia or discovering it anew, this collection is an essential testament to Van Halen’s enduring impact on rock music.

Phil Aston | Now Spinning Magazine

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