The biggest news for Van Halen fans is that this is the first full album recorded with original frontman David Lee Roth in 28 years. Two tracks were recorded with Roth in 1996 for their "Best Of Volume 1" hits collection, but a heated exchange backstage at the 1996 MTV Video Music Awards ended any reunion possibilities, until 2007. Unfortunately for fans of the original lineup, bassist and founding member Michael Anthony was replaced by Eddie Van Halen's son Wolfgang, which Anthony had not been told officially and learned while reading news about the tour online. The 2007-2008 tour is the band's most profitable tour to date despite the lineup change, although it's been widely speculated that the band used recordings of Anthony's backing vocals.
Former frontman Sammy Hagar (1985-1996) has been very vocal about how poorly Anthony was treated by Eddie, first in 2004 when he forced Anthony to take a significant pay cut and sign away his rights to any future earnings, and again by replacing him as retribution for playing with Hagar during Van Halen's silent years. Hagar also slammed Eddie's decision to use his son on tour, stating that the current lineup is not what the fans want to see. Judging from comments on sites like Blabbermouth.net, the Red Rocker is exactly right. Meanwhile, since being ousted from Van Halen, Michael Anthony and Sammy Hagar have been busy enjoying the success of their band Chickenfoot, whose debut was certified Gold. They are currently touring in support of their second album, titled "III", which Hagar calls "the best album I've ever made."
Despite his unflattering remarks towards Eddie in his tell-all memoir "Red: My Uncensored Life In Rock", Sammy maintained confidence that he and Michael Anthony would be in Van Halen again, going as far as calling it "inevitable", mostly due to his disbelief in the possibility that they could actually finish an album with Roth. With the arrival of news of the upcoming Van Halen album, it seems that the least likely reunion at this point is one that involves Anthony or Hagar but the steady success of Chickenfoot compared to the slow progress of Van Halen proves that they're right where they should be.
For fans of Van Halen, the wait is finally over and January 10th will either be a day of excitement or disappointment. While I agree with Van Halen's most loyal fans that the true Van Halen sound exists in their early days, I favor Sammy's vocals and prefer the music made during his tenure. Either way, it's not the same without Michael Anthony in the band and that fact is made clear on Chickenfoot's second album, in which Anthony's vocals are more present than ever as he and Sammy are locked in like never before. Like Sammy, I hope that for the benefit of Van Halen's fans that this new album is nothing short of spectacular. If not, I'm sure Chickenfoot would be honored to let Van Halen open for their next tour.