Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog) (last update 5/23/2017)

July 4, 2013

Van Halen ~ Fair Warning

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Style: hard rock, classic rock
Label: Warner Brothers
Year: 1981
Home: California

Members: David Lee Roth ~ vocals
Eddie Van Halen ~ guitars/b. vocals
Michael Anthony ~ bass/b. vocals
Alex Van Halen ~ drums

Fair Warning is not a VH album that typically comes up in conversation, but I can't hear any reason why it really shouldn't. It spurred two minor hits in "Mean Streets" & "Unchained", but hits aren't necessarily what make for a good album. I can think of a couple hit-laden VH albums that I didn't think were as strong or as focused as this. This is not as musically experimental as other VH albums, such as III, but because of that remains far more predictable & maybe a little bit more solid & focused. David Lee Roth puts in his predictable sex-laden imagery that he seems to be unable to live without, though the Anthony/Van Halen rhythm section remains an under-rated force to be reckoned with. Fair Warning has been criticized for not being as much fun as the three VH albums that came before due to the band's heavy touring schedule & the Roth/Van Halen troubles that were beginning to put cracks in the wall, though musically its hard to hear that here as it storms along ... though the storm does have some problems. There's a tendency for the songs to be inter-changeable. While it's a strong sounding album there really isn't a strong knock you flat single like VH had previously & would continue to create. It's a bit uninspired in that sense. "Mean Streets" & "Sinner's Swing!" sound more alike than not & if it wasn't for the odd ducks in the instrumental "Sunday Afternoon In The Park" & the strange groover "One Foot Out The Door" that closes the album you might wonder if you hadn't listened to the same song over & over. There's almost no reason why the great "Hear About It Later" isn't a big VH hit ... except for the fact that it sounds like the others songs here or like others VH have done. This is a stick with what works album for the most part. Though, that is except for "Sunday Afternoon In The Park" which is everything but uninspired as an early synthesizer instrumental that almost foreshadows III & is one of those indulgent moments that so many VH albums have & are really better left on the drawing board or being incorporated into a song. But, since you can't get away from them & they are so common, it's kinda hard to knock a VH album because of them. Later albums would find VH using synthesizers to great effect. But, where this album rises up is in the fact that Eddie Van Halen's guitar hits hard & dirty in a way the party songs of the previous releases didn't always. This is undoubtedly their rawest sounding release to date, rough & tumble. It might be the biggest swagger album VH ever made where Roth is not just singing about loving girls but being messed up by them & not putting up with it. It might be an imitative sounding album, but the boys copy all the good parts that make us love VH where you almost can't go wrong, thus it ends up being stronger than it really is. Believe it or not, it was listed by Esquire magazine as one of the "75 Albums Every Man Should Own" & I would agree on some level, though it might not be the album I'd introduce a potential fan to. Check out "Push Comes To Shove" for Michael Anthony's bassline on a disco retro ballad track with under-played guitar, that is Anthony is more upfront than Van Halen which is shock. An interesting little track, a bit out of place, but kinda cool.

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