Stay Frosty!!

Van Halen – A Different Kind of Truth & A “Frosty” Monks’ Ale

“Made with care and made with prayer” is the writing on this Ale’s packaging and indeed I’ve been praying for this album release since around 1986! Finally, a follow-up to “1984” that rivals any and all of the Diamond Dave era releases. Yep, I said it and I went there! This album has the same spirit and energy as their debut album when it came out in 1978. Containing elements of “Women and Children First” as well as “Fair Warning”, many would say this is because most of these songs were written back then. To that I say, who gives a shit when the songs were written! Did you listen to this album! In my opinion, this album is a breath of fresh air that has reignited my memories of youth and the spirit of rock and roll from days gone by.

Van Halen, you either love them or you hate them. When I heard the first single “Tattoo” I was honestly not expecting much from this release. What I truly discovered was that it was I that had changed and that I just wasn’t relating to the old Van Halen spirit anymore; that is until I had heard the entire album. Once I did, everything was back as it should be. It was as if a chapter of my life, finally had some sort of resolution. Upon the second playing of the album, I actually thought “Tattoo” was a pretty cool song. Still, it is probably the weakest song on the album but the fire that burns throughout the rest of this release, more than makes up for whatever may or may not be lacking from the lead off single. For the record (no pun intended) every time I hear the song “Tattoo” I like it a little bit more than the last time I heard it.

Deciding on the pairing for this album was fairly obvious. It’s not an album you want to sit back with a glass of wine to, it’s instead an album that needs a cold beer in a frosty mug and preferably a beach to go with it.

Van Halen has always been good time California Rock and Roll, nothing more and nothing less. Anyone trying to read anything more into it than that truly doesn’t understand where this band is coming from. So based on this, I went with the “Stay Frosty” theme and paired the album with a Monks’ Ale and a bowl of rice. Anyone that has already heard the song “Stay Frosty” will get this immediately. David Lee Roth is about 85% attitude and about 15% vocal and songwriting talent. Without the attitude he wouldn’t write what he does and it surely wouldn’t have the lighthearted wit about it that Dave’s contribution has always had. I truly missed him, there Dave, I said it and I said it like I meant it! 😉 They are a band that has the jovial off the cuff spirit and vibe of a 1920’s ragtime quartet (think “Big Bad Bill”) wrapped up in a monstrous locomotive called rock and roll. Van Halen music is music that never takes itself too seriously and is always about having a good time and enjoying life.

The Monks’ Ale is a smooth and creamy ale a bit on the pale side but not so pale that it avoids a rich body and silky follow-up. It’s more of a flavorful and full-bodied red ale that’s not so heavy as to weigh you down like you’ve eaten a loaf of bread. lol Actually made by Benedictine monks in New Mexico, all proceeds truly benefit the monastery!

I pre-ordered this vinyl the day the album was released and one of the coolest things about this pre-order was that you were able to also download the digital album immediately upon purchasing the pre-order! I downloaded the high-resolution mp3’s and straight away burned a couple of CD’s of the album, one for the car and one for the house. Having the digital version for a few months before the vinyl was released allowed me some time to get used to the material and know what was coming down the pipe once the vinyl arrived at the door.

I think this is a stellar way for the music industry to operate. Pre-ordering of the physical product in advance and upon ordering you get the portable digital version. The record label then knows how many to print, they have the money in advance to print it and the consumer gets to hear the music immediately, which is evidently what we all love about our digital music; immediate gratification. Even if it is a vague representation of the final product. 😉

Yet again, as I’ve been preaching allot lately, the mp3 version is nothing compared to the wealth of sonic information that is contained on the 180 gram double red vinyl. The intelligibility of what is going on is 1000% improved on the vinyl edition of this album. As with any and every album, vinyl is truly the preferred way to actually hear 100% of the music that the musicians are playing and the words that the singer is singing. Vinyl brings a natural clarity to the audio that allows the material to be represented without digital artifacts. Essentially, the vinyl absorbs sound waves much as our ears do, depending on pressure and amplitude, not one’s and zero’s.

Vinyl itself is a different kind of truth that I truly hope more and more people remember and return to or even discover for the first time. The younger generation is truly finding it out for themselves and I think this is a big reason for the resurgence in vinyl sales. It’s not just the older generations longing to reminisce; it’s the 15 to 20 year olds that have always driven music sales and they still do. Vinyl is no exception to this.

This blog is but one way I hope to remind and teach that truly wonderful recordings are still being produced today. There are tons of awesome albums coming out every year, it’s just that the end user’s playback format has degraded to the point that everything sounds somewhat lifeless. Still people say that the talent pool has degraded over the years and that this is what is wrong with the industry today. Baloney. I believe it is the extremely low quality of internet media that has degraded todays musical experience. There’s much more going on in your brain than one may realize when you’re listening to music. Digital media tens to fatigue the ears way more quickily than live or analog sources.

There is still an immense talent pool of musicians out there producing great music but the problem is that it’s rarely truly heard the way music “back in the day” was heard. CD was and is certainly light years better but it was made to create a compact format that now, the mp3 has blown out of the water.

Streaming media over the internet will never compare to an analog groove that was made by sound waves melting into vinyl. Period. I’m not saying streaming media doesn’t still have its place for marketing purposes but If you truly want to enjoy a bit of quality music listening from time to time, I highly recommend you reinvest (or invest for the first time) in a turntable that you can plug into your existing home entertainment system. You will not regret it!

Until next time, “Stay Frosty” everyone!! – John