To do a Van Halen tribute is quite an ambitious undertaking. Not only are Van Halen a truly impressive band with talented musicians, but they always sounded brilliant and had good singers to boot (the 'sounding brilliant' statement leaves out the bad sounding "Van Halen III").

You can't have such a tribute performed by unknown bands, with mediocre guitarists and death metal vocalists (Dwell Records please pay notice). Which is probably why this effort actually only had quality vocalists (in the Mark Slaughter / Joe Lynn Turner category, anyway) and a fine selection of guitarists (Malmsteen, Dweezil Zappa, Brad Gillis, George Lynch, Blues Saraceno, Albert Lee and Jake E. Lee among others). Basists? They're pretty good too - names include Tony Levin and Billy Sheehan. Drummers? You won't believe it, but among them are Vinnie Colaiuta, Gregg Bissonette, Eric Singer and Frankie Banali (honesty compells me to say that I never actually heard of Frankie, but he has a surname that leads me to think that he might put a contract out on me if I leave his name out).

What is also very important is the production. And Bob Kulick has pulled off a crisp-sounding production that would, were he dead, cause Ted Templeman to turn around in his grave. Fact is, in, um, fact, that "2000 - Tribute to Van Halen" is one of those much-too-rare tribute CDs that are actually really good. Of course there are a few awkward moments (Jake E. Lee's guitar solos are a far cry from Eddie's; Jack Russell's vocals in "Unchained" sound contrived around the "gimme a break - one break comin' up", and David Glen Eisley's singing on "Little Guitars" spoils the track), but you can't win 'em all.

A fine example of what a tribute album can be like, this one.



Written March 2000


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