Last week was a bit difficult for me to put my finger on. Good? Yes. My thing? No. But, that’s okay. Eugene doesn’t expect me to like everything, but he does expect me to give it a fair shake. That, I did. Jon is in the ether somewhere. Let’s do this week…
#45 – Fair Warning by Van Halen.
Eugene says this is his favorite Van Halen album. I can see that. It is not my favorite Van Halen album, however, I do believe it is better than both its immediate predecessor and successor. Women and Children First was a decent album but kind of a departure from the same quality as the first two VH albums. Diver Down, to me, was David Lee Roth’s cover album; an appeasement. Both good but neither fall on my favorite list. This, however, is one that I can listen to over and over. The songs are inventive for Eddie and a good showcase for DLR. And, it was still “raw” for a Van Halen album. That, you will find, is low on my priority list but for this album, it really works.
One thing I noticed is that part of the outro from “Hear About It Later” is, at the very least, an inspiration to the intro to 1984‘s “Girl Gone Bad.” And, time signatures? Don’t get me started. Well, actually, it’s not about the time signatures themselves, generally, it’s the fact that the band syncopates the living shite out of it. “Unchained” is a perfect example. Try counting that bad boy in 4/4 time. You can’t really until you get to the part where the drums and bass come in. And, going back after you find that time, you see that Eddie starts on the “four and” beat and alternates back and forth between the “four and” and the “one.” Sorry to geek out on the music theory there, but EVH is one that takes theory and rewrites it. It’s always an exercise in “suspending the musical theory disbelief.”
Another interesting and important thing in VH lore is the opening track, “Mean Street.” Eddie uses the intro to this tune in his solos, even if they don’t play the whole song. It’s innovative because it’s his famed tapping but in an even more percussive manner. Yes, technically tapping is percussive but this is more slapping the fretboard that gently tapping it.
This whole album is a bit of a departure from the “fun” that the first three had. I don’t mean that it doesn’t have its humorous moments. I mean, David Lee Roth is involved. It just doesn’t have that “party” atmosphere that, up until this point, was evident with VH records. It’s darker, for sure.
One thing that is an absolute is that if you are familiar with the first three VH albums and you didn’t know what you were about to listen to, you’d know right away that this is a VH album upon the first listen. Part of it is that you know Eddie’s playing and you know Ted Templeman’s production.
Not that Michael Anthony needed any “highlight time” but “‘Dirty Movies'” does get to showcase his bass abilities and man, no matter how good Wolfie (Van Halen, the current bassist for the band) is, he’ll not be able to emulate those backing vocals the same way that Michael does. His chops could almost rival EVH’s as he has to play the same riffs in places and he hangs the whole time. The whole album is splattered with his awesomeness.
What can be said about Alex Van Halen that hasn’t already been said? Nothing much. He is a showman, a wildman, and one of the finest drummers you’ll find. He’s flash. He’s definitely flash, but he can back it up. For most drummers, this could be chaos. But, he still keeps it all classy and it all fits no matter how much flash he displays. It’s always thunderous. I guess he’s the storm of the band.
And DLR, as much as I have my eye-rolling moments with him, he’s still one of the greatest frontmen, especially at this time, in rock and roll. Not the greatest voice, but definitely a distinct and unique voice. Not many people can break their voice in two like he could. He could harmonize with himself on the shrieks.
My favorite tunes on this album are “Mean Street,” Hear About It Later,” “Unchained” and “So is This Love?” Sure, they’re the main tunes on the album, but as I said, it’s not my favorite VH album, so I like the hits. Incidentally, my top 5 VH albums (in order)? 1984, 5150, Van Halen, Fair Warning, OU812. Don’t hate, I like what I like.
One last note, I got to listen to this on vinyl because I own it. I enjoy the ones that I have on vinyl. I never got to listen to most of this as a kid, at least in this way. Thank you Eug for having this one on the list. It was comforting to me to have something at least familiar. I know that’s not the point of this exercise, but it was still welcomed. Jon…
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“Hey, you remember when that girl was prom queen?” – “‘Dirty Movies'” (Van Halen/Van Halen/Anthony/Roth)