Forty years ago today Van Halen dropped their second album less than a year after their debut Van Halen set the music world on fire. In just a year, the band had become a household name, and headliner nationally, and Eddie Van Halen, in particular, had graced the cover of many magazines for his sweet shred skills. Wanting to strike while the iron was hot, the band came right back with Van Halen II (Warner Bros.), made up of their infamous pre-record deal demos made with Gene Simmons and Ted Templeman, and a few new songs. Van Halen II had the unenviable task of following one of the greatest debut albums ever.
Picking up where they left off, VHII is chock full of bangers, loose boogie songs and blues jams as a delivery method for these amazing talents. Not as deep or memorable as their first, most of the second album is at least very good. For Eddie and David Lee Roth, they had little left to prove with scores imitating them. Following the format the band would carry through their early era, you will find catchy melodies, those great vocal harmonies, giant riffs, and massive hooks can be found throughout. The record has a few “safe” for radio songs like the huge hit but pretty milquetoast ‘Dance the Night Away’, ‘Women In Love’, ‘Beautiful Girls’ and more.
Still, there is a raging beast of muscularity in the rockers, some owing to the leftover material on tracks like ‘You’re No Good’, ‘Somebody Get Me A Doctor’, the cheeky ‘Bottoms Up’, ‘Outta Love Again’, and ‘D.O.A.’. Obviously, there is bananaballs lead and rhythm playing from Eddie everywhere, as well as more mature stuff like the flamenco shred of ‘Spanish Fly’, showing a lighter side to his personality.
Listening back to it now, VH II was clearly a more restrained take on the style the band already forged on Van Halen. Still, it’s a fun and memorable listen on the short side, that still holds up.