In Unchained: A Van Halen User Manual, Martin Popoff emcees, drink foisted high, a kaleidoscopic celebration of Eddie, Alex, Mikey, Diamond Dave, Sammy and even Gary and Wolfgang.
Indeed, in the spirit of the title, Popoff unchains himself from typical bookish flow, creating a guide to make full-bodied mastery of one’s Van Halen catalogue, sending the user and abuser scurrying back to the songs, headphones on, looking for sonic nuggets likely missed the first hundred times passed during too light a repast.
And so, over the course of these pages, look for meditations swirling around the following:
- top 20 Alex moments
- top keyboard songs
- the album covers critiqued and ranked
- analysis through the words of the band members on each album
- Sammy very frankly on his relationship with the guys
- lengthy analysis of the US Festival
- Van Halen songs in movies and TV
- origins of the songs on A Different Kind of Truth
- covers by Van Halen in the club days as well as after the band’s signing
- a history of tapping
- Alex’s kits over the years
- full timeline birth to the present
- 20 connections to Montrose
- top 20 covers of Van Halen
- history of Dave solo with Steve Vai and Billy Sheehan
- four-fold appendices presenting fan comments and poll results of songs, album, Eddie solos and most contentiously, Sam vs. Dave
- top 20 rarities
- sound effects and ear candy
- the Sam and Dave tour
- list of support acts
- top tribute acts
- the Hall of Fame fiasco
- a look at the band’s gold and platinum certifications.
All of this is handled through a symphony of recurring pull-boxes spanning the otherwise sturdy chapter-per-album framework, peppered as well by both black-and-white and colour images. To reiterate, the intention, once the manual’s been studied, is full mastery on the part of the listener of one’s personal Van Halen library. Time to love Van Halen all over again, and here’s the manual to get you there.
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