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Van Halen

Warner Brothers

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Since it features both disturbing cover art and a back-sleeve pic of the newly goateed-and-threatening Eddie, you’d figure that Van Halen’s Balance might mark the party-rock quartet’s movement toward a heavier sound. Wrong. Balance is precisely the same album that Van Halen’s been cutting since the vastly superior David Lee Roth was replaced by Sammy Hagar (presciently dubbed “the heavy metal equivalent of Cheez Whiz” by Musician magazine back in 1984). Balance hops from banal ballads (“Can’t Stop Loving You,” etc.) to dopey rockers (“Big Fat Money,” etc.) with aplomb. Even when Eddie (oops, sorry, “Edward”) Van Halen—still one of rock’s most influential guitarists—manages an innovative riff, his efforts are immediately snuffed by Hagar’s unspeakable yowl, which is at its most repugnant as he serenades Amsterdam prostitutes: “Wham, bam, oh Amsterdam.”