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The best (and worst) Van Halen albums, according to you

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It’s been seven years since we’ve been graced with a new Van Halen album, and a rumored tour for this past summer (with Metallica and Foo Fighters, no less!) failed to materialize.

But come what may - or may not - from Eddie, Alex , Dave and Wolfie (and, who knows, even Sammy and Mike) in the future, one thing we’ll always have is Van Halen’s 12 mostly great, often incredible and, in a few instances, truly monumental studio albums, featuring some of the greatest electric guitar playing of all time.

It’s a catalog that is largely unrivaled in hard-rock history - not least in part due to the fact that it all features the man Guitar World's online readers named as the greatest guitarist of all time - and thus it’s no easy task to rank the albums in any sort of value order.

Nevertheless, we asked you, our readers, to do it, and you delivered.

To see the results, head below.

12. A Different Kind Of Truth (2012)

The best (and worst) Van Halen albums

(Image credit: Warner Bros)

Van Halen’s most recent studio album was their first with Roth since 1984 (in, well, 1984), and also saw the band mix new songs with material that dated back to the Seventies and Eighties.

In spots – She’s the Woman, China Town –  it was a glorious return to form, even if it occupies the bottom slot here. But as Eddie told us about VH fans in 2012, “If they don’t like it, at least you like it. Not to be selfish, but you kind of have to be."

11. Van Halen III (1998)

The best (and worst) Van Halen albums

(Image credit: Warner Bros)

The band’s sole effort with Gary Cherone on lead vocals doesn’t tend to be remembered fondly, but clearly readers found enough redeeming music on III to elevate it out of the bottom slot here.

At the very least, the end of the Van Hagar era saw Eddie once again unleashed – his six-string acrobatics take centerstage, and, just because he can, he throws in a hefty amount of bass, piano and, um, singing as well. An outlier that, 21 years on, is worthy of revisiting.

10. Diver Down (1982)

The best (and worst) Van Halen albums

(Image credit: Warner Bros)

The slightest of all Roth-era offerings, Diver Down often gets penalized for being padded with too many cover tunes. But damn if some of ‘em – (Oh) Pretty Woman, Where Have All the Good Times Gone! – aren’t top-notch. And originals like Hang ‘Em High and the Eddie tour de force Cathedral are pretty spot-on, to boot. We demand a recount!

9. Balance (1995)

The best (and worst) Van Halen albums

(Image credit: Warner Bros)

Balance marked the final gasp of Van Hagar before the band headed into the lead singer wilderness for a spell.

While it doesn’t feature as many memorable tracks as the outfit’s three previous Sammy efforts, there’s plenty to dig into here, including the dark and churning opener, The Seventh Seal, the bonkers instrumental Baluchitherium and record’s big hit, Can’t Stop Lovin’ You, which Eddie described to us as an “awesome rock groove.”

8. OU812 (1988)

The best (and worst) Van Halen albums

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The band’s second album with Hagar saw them settle into the AOR-oriented sound that would characterize their partnership going forward.

“We were more comfortable and relaxed,” Eddie told us of the album, which included the hits When It’s Love and Finish What Ya Started. “We opened the doors and it all came out. It’s more mature, too. When we recorded When It’s Love, I was so focused.”

7. For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991)

The best (and worst) Van Halen albums

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True to its title, VH’s first album of the Nineties was a randy affair, with songs like Spanked and Poundcake (the latter featuring Ed on power drill) leading the charge. But it’s also the home of that perennial uplifter, Right Now, seen incessantly on MTV and, eventually, every other network and cable channel thanks to its use in a Pepsi commercial.

Explained Ed, “Pepsi told us they were going to do that, so we said, ‘Hey wait a minute, we might as well get the money.’ I ain’t that proud, you know. I’m not going to say, ‘No, go ahead, rip us off. And keep the money, too!’ ”

6. Women And Children First (1980)

The best (and worst) Van Halen albums

(Image credit: Warner Bros)

Sure, there's the full-throttle bombast of Everybody Wants Some!!, Fools and Romeo Delight, but Eddie also characterized WACF as "adventurous," due to songs like Could This Be Magic? and In a Simple Rhyme.

Not to mention opener And the Cradle Will Rock..., which, Ed said, "was my first encounter with the band not wanting me to play keyboards - when we did the song live, Mike [Anthony] played it. They didn’t want a guitar hero playing keyboards onstage." If only they knew what was coming...

5. Van Halen II (1979)

The best (and worst) Van Halen albums

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Van Halen’s second album builds on the template of its landmark predecessor by presenting the band pushing into heavier (D.O.A., Light Up the Sky) and also more pop-leaning (Dance the Night Away) territory.

And it turns Eruption on its head with the acoustic shred-fest Spanish Fly, demonstrating that, for Eddie, completely restructuring how we look at electric rock guitar was only the beginning of his artistic path.

4. 1984 (1984)

The best (and worst) Van Halen albums

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The last VH with DLR album for almost 30 years, and not a bad way to go out. Jump, Panama and Hot for Teacher are all avowed classics, and the deeper cuts – Drop Dead Legs, House of Pain, Top Jimmy, the icy-cool I’ll Wait – rival most other hard rockers at their strongest.

“I think the whole album sounds the best,” Ed said. “I like it all.”

3. 5150 (1986)

The best (and worst) Van Halen albums

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The band’s first album with Hagar (and first #1 on the Billboard charts) at the helm was the sound of Van Halen, um, unchained – at least in a sense. And whether or not old-school fans were happy with the lead singer swap, it’s likely that synth-pop tracks like Why Can’t This Be Love and Dreams couldn’t have existed otherwise.

And for those still craving the good ol’ days, there were also barnburners like Get Up and the title track.

2. Fair Warning (1981)

The best (and worst) Van Halen albums

(Image credit: Warner Bros)

The least commercial of all Roth-era albums is also among their tightest and hardest-hitting.

“On Van Halen, I was a young punk, and everything revolved around the fastest kid in town, gunslinger attitude,” Ed told us. “But I'd say that at the time of Fair Warning, I started concentrating more on songwriting."

Which is evident in the rock-solid, indelible grooves of classic fare like the prowling opener Mean Street and the chest-beating Unchained, both of which – sorry Ed – are pretty untouchable from a guitar slinger perspective as well.

1. Van Halen (1978)

The best (and worst) Van Halen albums

(Image credit: Warner Bros)

Van Halen’s debut sounds as explosive and immediate today as it did more than 40 years ago. From Runnin’ with the Devil to I’m the One, Atomic Punk down to On Fire, there’s not a wasted, or even a less-than-exhilarating, moment to be found across its 11 tracks.

It’s as close to a perfect hard rock album as hard rock has – and that’s without even mentioning Eruption, which vaults Van Halen from mere classic to stone-cold game changer.