Does Van Halen's 1998 album, the much-maligned 'III' or '3' ( both are used on the artwork - which is it?!) really need a reappraisal? It is after all, famously, one of the go-tos on those 'worst albums' lists. Well, yes, it does actually, because this one is personal; I was one of the few people who excitedly rushed out and bought it on the day of release - 17th March 1998 - and oh boy, what a way to spoil an Irish man's St. Patrick's Day...
In our previous column, we talked about how Anthrax's 'The Greater Of Two Evils' was recorded and released during a period of confusion and upheaval for the band, and the same is also true for Van Halen's eleventh album. In the preceding three years, VH had fired Sammy Hagar, and been rejoined by previous singer David Lee Roth. This brief union had resulted in two tracks - the underrated 'Me Wise Magic', and the "WOW!"-tastic 'Can't Get this Stuff No More' being recorded, and the band even made an appearance at the MTV awards in 1996, teasing fans that the original line-up was back.
The elation however, was short lived. It wasn't to be, and two years later, with former Extreme front man Gary Cherone on board, the band entered their third incarnation.
Now, let's not beat about the bush, 'III' was, and remains a shocking turn of events for the once mighty outfit. Placing the disc it into the tray, by the time it was all over, as I nursed the first beer of the day, I was as floored as the bloke on the cover.
This bore little resemblance to the giants of old. There were moments - the solo to 'The One I Want', for example, but it was, for the most part, tuneless. The sound was horrible, the mix muddled, the drums plodding, and the singing - from a man who possessed a beautiful and powerful voice - was strained. In short, it sounded like it had been recorded by Viz's Drunken Bakers, who had locked Cherone out of the studio, lost the key, and forced him to deliver his vocals by shouting through the letterbox.
I have regularly signed off by cautioning that, as a personal opinion, there may be worse albums in an artist's catalogue. However, let me be clear; this is without doubt, the least-likeable album that Van Halen ever released, by a wide, wide margin. It's enough to drive an Irishman to drink.
For a detailed dissection, I thoroughly recommend The HappySpaceman's 2017 YouTube assessment, which can be viewed below.
Click for #1, #2 and #3 of the Albums That Didn't Rock My World.
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