- Boasting superb Double Plus (A++) grades throughout, this copy of the band’s second album is guaranteed to blow the doors off any other Van Halen II you’ve heard – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
- These sides are highly resolving, smooth and full-bodied, with a huge bottom end and massive amounts of rock and roll energy – if this isn’t the right sound for Van Halen’s music, we don’t know what else could be!
- One of our favorite engineers, Donn Landee, worked his magic here (together with Ted Templeman) and the results are superb
- 4 stars: “… this feels both heavier and lighter than the debut. Heavier in that this sounds big and powerful, driven by mastodon riffs that aim straight of the gut. Lighter in that there’s a nimbleness to the attack… it’s hard not to marvel at these two frontmen, and hard not to be sucked into the vortex of some of the grandest hard rock ever made.”
This vintage Warner Brothers white label pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What The Best Sides Of Van Halen II Have To Offer Is Not Hard To Hear
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes even as late as 1979
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
What We’re Listening For On Van Halen II
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks for the guitars and drums, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
- Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the players.
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would have put them.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Credit Donn Landee (and producer Ted Templeman, as well) with the full-bodied, rich, smooth, oh-so-analog sound of the best copies of Women And Children First. He’s recorded or assisted on many of our favorite albums here at Better Records.
Most of the better Doobies Brothers albums are his; all of the good Van Halens of course; Lowell George’s wonderful Thanks I’ll Eat It Here; Little Feat’s Time Loves a Hero (not their best music but some of their best sound); Carly Simon’s Another Passenger (my favorite of all her albums); and his Masterpiece (in my humble opinion), Captain Beefheart’s mindblowing Clear Spot.
Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of later pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic that is a key part of the appeal of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.
You’re No Good
Dance The Night Away
Somebody Get Me A Doctor
Outta Love Again
Light Up The Sky
Women In Love …
It’s called Van Halen II not just because it’s the band’s second album but because it’s virtually a carbon copy of their 1978 debut, right down to how the band showcases their prowess via covers and how Eddie Van Halen gets a brief, shining moment to showcase his guitar genius. This time, he does his thing on acoustic guitars on the remarkable “Spanish Fly,” but that temporary shift from electrics to acoustics is the only true notable difference in attack here; in every other way, Van Halen II feels like its predecessor, even if there are subtle differences.
… this feels both heavier and lighter than the debut. Heavier in that this sounds big and powerful, driven by mastodon riffs that aim straight of the gut. Lighter in that there’s a nimbleness to the attack, in that there are pop hooks to the best songs, in that the group sounds emboldened by their success so they’re swaggering with a confidence that’s alluring.
If the classic ratio is slightly lighter than on the debut, there are no bad songs and the best moments here — two bona fide party anthems in “Dance the Night Away” and “Beautiful Girls,” songs that embody everything the band was about — are lighter, funnier than anything on the debut, showcases for both Diamond Dave’s knowing shuck and jive and Eddie’s phenomenal gift, so natural it seems to just flow out of him. At this point, it’s hard not to marvel at these two frontmen, and hard not to be sucked into the vortex of some of the grandest hard rock ever made.