On this day back in 1988 OU812 was release 28 years ago today
OU812 is the eighth studio album by American hard rock band Van Halen, released in 1988, and the second to feature vocalist Sammy Hagar. Van Halen started work on the album in September 1987 and completed it in April 1988, just one month before its release.
The album’s front cover is an homage to the classic cover of With the Beatles. The cover is also similar to that of Blue Cheer’s Vincebus Eruptum (1968) and King Crimson’s Red (1974). Album artwork for the back cover is Hugo Rheinhold’s statuette Affe mit Schädel.
The track listing on the back cover is arranged in alphabetical order, instead of in sequence on some releases.
The album is dedicated to Eddie and Alex Van Halen’s father, Jan, who died in December 1986 at the age of 66. The inner linings of the album include the words, “This one’s for you, Pa”. Jan had previously appeared playing clarinet on one track, “Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)”, on Van Halen’s 1982 album, Diver Down.
Reviews for OU812 were initially mixed. The Village Voice’s Robert Christgau rated the album a C, which signifies “a record of clear professionalism or barely discernible inspiration, but not both.” He noted that “trading Dave for Sammy sure wrecked their shot at Led Zep of the ’80s–master guitarist, signature vocalist, underrated rhythm section.” However, he stated: “Eddie’s obsessed with technique, Roth’s contemptuous of technique, rhythm section’s got enough technique and no klutz genius. But Sammy . . . like wow. If I can’t claim the new boy owns them […], you can’t deny he defines them.”
Rolling Stone’s David Fricke rated the album three-and-a-half out of five stars. He said of “Source of Infection”: “While Eddie Van Halen sprays you with a machine-gun succession of speed-metal-guitar arpeggios, Sammy Hagar sends out the party invitations with his usual savoir-faire — “Hey! All right! Whoo!” Alex Van Halen and Michael Anthony, of course, take him at his word, shooting into hyper-beat space before you can say, “Jump.”” He noted that “Van Halen, contrary to purist grumbling, did not wimp out when Diamond Dave hit the bricks. Nor did the band go — ugh! — pop: the 5150 ladies’ choice “Why Can’t This Be Love” wasn’t really a ballad; it was more like Big Rock Melancholia. In fact, all the 5150-model Van Halen did was replace one mighty mouth with another and trot out some hip, new songwriting tricks.” Still, he stated that “the curve balls … don’t always hit the strike zone. “Finish What Ya Started” is an unexpected turn into wheat-field-rock country.” Despite this, he concluded that “maybe Eddie and company haven’t been pushing the envelope, so to speak, far enough in terms of songwriting. But “Mine All Mine” is a good teaser for the future, the slow stuff is classy radio fare, and at its best, OU812 is a veritable feast of great white rock & roll wow.”
A retrospective review from AllMusic’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine was fairly positive. Erlewine stated that “when David Lee Roth fronted the band, almost everything that Van Halen did seemed easy – as big, boisterous, and raucous as an actual party – but Van Hagar makes good times seem like tough work here.” Still, he stated that “the riffs are complicated, not catchy, the rhythms plod, they don’t rock, and Sammy strains to inject some good times by singing too hard.” However, he concluded that “if it isn’t as good as [Fair Warning] (even if it’s nearly not as much fun), it’s nevertheless the best showcase of the instrumental abilities of Van Hagar.”
All songs written by Van Halen, except where noted.
1. “Mine All Mine”
2. “When It’s Love”
3. “A.F.U. (Naturally Wired)”
4. “Cabo Wabo”
5. “Source of Infection”
6. “Feels So Good”
7. “Finish What Ya Started”
8. “Black and Blue”
9. “Sucker in a 3 Piece”
10. “A Apolitical Blues” (Lowell George)
The original European release (as shipped in France, Germany, Italy and the UK) is missing track 10, as are all vinyl pressings of the album. All US CD’s and few cassette versions have track 10.
Eddie Van Halen – lead guitar, keyboards, synthesizers, slide guitar, piano and backing vocals
Alex Van Halen – drums, percussion, backing vocals
Sammy Hagar – lead, backing vocals, acoustic guitar on “Finish What Ya Started”, rhythm guitar on “A Apolitical Blues”
Michael Anthony – bass guitar, backing vocals
Producer: Van Halen, Donn Landee
Engineer: Donn Landee
Assistant engineer: Ken Deane
Mastering: Bobby Hata
Art direction: Jeri Heiden, Maura P. McLaughlin
Photography: Eika Aoshima, Stuart Watson