Saturday, August 19, 2006

Double dose of Van Halen

To me Van Halen means that band with David Lee Roth. No disrespect to Sammy Hagar or Gerry Cherone, but to me the Van Halen that did those six albums between 1978 and 1984 died when Roth left in 1985. The albums done after that by the band calling themselves Van Halen had a different sound and a completely different feel to them. Here are reviews of my two favorite Van Halen albums.

Fair Warning, 1981
In an interview done in late 1984 Eddie called this his least favorite album. I like Eddie, but I just don't agree and I think it's their best album. Overall it's perhaps a bit darker and moodier than there other albums. One thing I love about all of the six albums with Dave is the band's ability to really control a song. By that I mean they control the pace and it seems very natural when they throw in odd pace changes or Dave starts doing some talking in the middle of the song. Not a lot bands attempt this and not many can pull it off, but I think this band had this natural flow to their music. Fair Warning kicks off with "Mean Street" which has some nice thick riffs and immediately lets you know that this not going to be all the typical Van Halen party music. "Dirty Movies" comes up next and it's a really interesting song. "Sinners Swing" is fast for Van Halen and they handle it very well. Then "Hear it about it later" is slightly more typical for them, but Dave really stands out here with his vocals. Eddie plays a simple, but highly effective riff as "Unchained" comes storming on. "Push comes to shove" is probably the song that has grown on me the most over the years. Next up "So this is love?" which is also a little more typical, but a very strong song. The instrumental "Sunday afternoon in the park" is next and it's very odd, but somehow intriguing. It leads into "One foot out the door" which is fast and plows along. No slackers at all on this album and of course it's very brief as all of the early Van Halen albums were. This became my favorite album after I heard it just a few times and it still gets a lot of spins.

Probably everyone else's favorite Van Halen album, but my second favorite. Diver Down was good, but a slight letdown with the number of cover songs and instrumentals. It felt more like an album of leftovers and outtakes. Yet this album managed to not only bring back the old Van Halen spirit, but to leave most other hard rock bands in their dust. More keyboards than before with "Jump" and "I'll Wait", but it's done right as the keys blend in rather than taking over. The other two singles "Panama" and "Hot for Teacher" both roar on in different styles, but both are equally memorable. It seems like the last two tacks "Girl gone bad" and "House of pain" get overlooked. They shouldn't because both are solid are fairly heavy. Both are a little raw for these guys which is part of the appeal. "Top Jimmy" has a bit of the typical fun feel this band perfected, but it's still fresh. "Drop dead legs" and "Panama" are probably my favorites here. "Drop dead legs" is a prime example of Van Halen controlling the song. It's medium-slow in tempo and catchy yet far from typical. This album is still just so good and these guys seemed so tight and they seemed to be having fun. Unfortunately what often happens is a band can't have two superegos in one band so one has to leave and one did. Still if it had to end then this was a high note to end on.

God, I still love Van Halen with Dave and it's still hard to believe it had to end. I still keep hoping that a live DVD from the 1984 tour will come put, but I am not holding my breath.

So ends the "Eight days of the 80's". I hope you have enjoyed it. In September my theme week will be "Rock movies week" and that will likely be in the second or third week of September.


Anonymous Bar said...

80's week is over :( Well thank you for it, it was very interesting and entertaining. About this Van Halen post - I agree with you 101% on everything you said!

...and somebody said," "Fair Warning, Lord, strike that poor boy down....,

11:07 PM  
Blogger OnMyWatch said...

Perfect review. I like Fair Warning the best also - all of it. And Drop Dead Legs is a killer song. Aside from the album, I don't think anyone will forget the Hot for Teacher video either - sit down Waldo! :)

Fun times and great songs but I've given up hope for a reunion for those guys. Poor Dave.

"hey, you remember when that girl was prom queen? oh, wow."

4:51 AM  
Blogger Ben Heller said...

Another great review Mark and a fitting finale to 80's week.

I'm pleased you picked out "Panama". What a fantastic song !

9:27 AM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

Bar-I think that Van Halen with Dave are the best American hard rock band of all time.

Onmywatch-Those videos made it look like they having such fun, but unfortunately that wasn't the case.

Ben-Thanks. I can't believe that it has taken me this long to get around to reviewing a Van Halen album with Dave.

1:20 PM  
Blogger David Amulet said...

Great review! I'm so with you on Fair Warning, which has been the album that has grown on me the most as well. My three favorites are the debut, Fair Warning, and <1984>.

-- david

3:32 PM  
Blogger Mimi said...

I totally agree that it was a different Van Halen after Dave. Not bad. But certainly different.

5:33 PM  
Blogger T-_Bone said...

I think Fair Warning is a real good album. Actually, the first four are all great

6:03 PM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

David-That's my top three as well. I like the first six a lot. Woman and children first is one that I have been thinking is better than I once thought.

Mimi-It was like a different world. Dave's solo stuff was decent, but it didn't have the same feel as when he was in Van Halen either.

T-bone-I like the first six a lot.

5:17 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

DLR = Van Halen
Sammy = Van Hagar
Cherone = Extreme

Any questions?

I agree with you that 1984 was their most popular album, but their first album and "Women and Childern First" are still my favorites. Runnin with the Devil, Jamie's Crying, Everybody Wants Some and Take Your Wiskey Home are great songs, IMO.

6:26 AM  

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