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Van Halen

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★★★★½
(328 Reviews)

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  • In 1978 the L.A. based rock group VAN HALEN released a self-titled album (known to most fans as VAN HALEN 1) that pushed the limits of the genre and changed the way every longhaired rock and roller played the guitar. Considering the impact this one record had on all rock music that was to follow, it is undeniably one of the most important rock records ever made.Now imitated to death, Eddie Van Halen’s wildly inventive guitar technique of two-handed hammer-on pull-off finger tapping on the fretboard set the new standard for guitar wizardry in the late 1970’s. The strength of the Van Halen brothers’ musicianship could have made VAN HALEN 1 an essential record, but Michael Anthony’s pounding eighth-note anchoring and David Lee Roth’s Roger Daltry meets Wayne Newton wailing assured the group a spot in the annals of rock superiority.The group started out playing small clubs around LA, quickly becoming one of the most popular local acts. Gene Simmons of KISS financed the demo recording that led to the group signing with Warner Brothers and releasing their breakthrough debut album. Strong radio support and constant touring established the group as the leaders of the coming wave of 80’s heavy metal. It’s painfully obvious that every lead guitarist in every 80’s metal band was directly descended from Eddie Van Halen’s lineage. Most of these guitarists unquestionably honed their technique by learning to play “Eruption” the instrumental second track on VAN HALEN 1.The first VAN HALEN album produced 4 “hits” that became staples of AOR radio: “Runnin With the Devil”, a cover of the KINKS’ “You Really Got Me”, “Ain’t Talkin Bout Love”, and “Jamie’s Cryin”. (An aside: the opening drum fill from “Jamies Cryin” was sampled for TONE LOC’s hit “Wild Thing”)VAN HALEN 1 is not the best VAN HALEN album. Most fans will tell you either FAIR WARNING or WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST hold that dubious title. Regardless of which one is the best, this one is the most historically important. It set new standards as far as guitar playing is concerned, and David Lee Roth took the rock and roll frontman schtick to a new level. What Roth may have lacked in vocal talent he made up for in sheer ballsyness (in spades!). Roth raised the vault bar for all rock singers, and no one was ever able to top it. His James Brown like embellishments on songs like “You Really Got Me” and “Atomic Punk” ooze with sexuality and something that was missing from much late 70’s white-boy rock: soul.The remastered disc of VAN HALEN 1 is the best way to hear this album. The old Warner Brothers CD pressing suffers the same problem that many early CD issues suffer: low sound quality.The rumor mills keep churning about a supposed reunion between the estranged Roth and the Van Halen brothers. Whether or not that happens is probably irrelevant, as neither side has done anything groundbreaking in 20 years… but back in 1978, VAN HALEN 1 was the most groundbreaking thing the world of rock and roll had heard since Jimi Hendrix asked us if we were experienced.

    Posted on December 29, 2009