This VH CD is the first where the band sounds like a band and not merely 3 guys backing up Eddie’s pyrotechnics. That’s not to say Eddie’s fretwork isn’t outstanding, it is but his playing really supports and fleshes out the songs instead of the songs merely being showcases for his playing. I don’t think the band has ever rocked harder/better. From the opening roar of “…And the Will Rock” to the closing 10 seconds of the album that may have inspired the entire thrash metal genre, this CD comes on like a sledghammer in heat. Every song has the band working as a tight unit, particularly Fools and Romeo’s Delight. VH proves they can still rock with a sense of humor (Everybody Wants Some!, Take Your Whiskey Home). This album is probably also the band’s most varied without being downright weird like Diver Down. Tora! Tora! Tora!/Loss of Control is a sonic freakout. Could This Be Magic is VH’s “Bron ‘Y’ Aur Stomp”, an acoustic shuffle that is a nice counterpoint to the rest of the album’s heaviness. My only complaint is that the CD clocks in at a very brief 34 minutes. C’mon Ed, how about a boxed set of complete remastered Roth-era recordings!?
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Women And Children First is one of Van Halen’s best albums, even if it isn’t among their biggest sellers. This is clearly David Lee Roth’s album with his charisma dominating every track. They certainly could not make an album this fun with Sammy Hagar or Gary Cherone. This is Van Halen at their most laid back.Although the tracks here are longer than on their first two albums, the album never ceases to sound like a party. The most straight-forward track is the opener “And The Cradle Will Rock…” which still sounds pretty loose when compared to later albums with Roth like Fair Warning and 1984. Tracks such as “Everybody Wants Some”, “Fools”, and “Romeo Delight” are all very strong riff-rockers which sound like they were made for the concert stage. The hyperactive “Loss Of Control” leads to the more laid back classic rocker “Take Your Whiskey Home”, the strongest track here. The acoustic “Could This Be Magic?” is very catchy with the band sounding a little tipsy during the chorus. “In A Simple Rhyme” closes the album with a bang, another underrated classic. This album is best enjoyed in its entirety as each track blends into the next flawlessly. After this album, Eddie Van Halen exerted more control over the band’s direction. This lead the band to its greatest success but losing the looseness and innocence that made them special. Fans who only have the albums with Hagar or those having just the most popular albums like Van Halen or 1984 should definitely check this out.
One can tell from the keyboard-driven ‘And the Cradle Will Rock’ (processed through a guitar amp to SOUND like guitar, but it’s keys) that Women and Children First is going to be an album that strays from their first two albums quite a bit. And it does. But unlike most 3rd ‘Experiments’ from bands, this album works. And it works extremely well. Every song here is good. Romeo Delight is great hard rock, and Everybody Wants Some finds David Lee Roth at his flamboyant best. Eddie showcases his acoustic chops on Could This Be Magic?, and it’s another full-band hyper-speed boogie on ‘Loss of Control’. The highlight of the album however is the long-forgotten, highly underrated ‘In A Simple Rhyme’ a semi-epic love song that is quite possibly the single best song of the David Lee Roth era. Released as a single, this song could’ve been a sure classic. It closes the album on a high note. Women and Children First is one of Van Halen’s more underrated albums in the shadow of the excellent Fair Warning, but it’s just as good. The only shortcoming is that it, like most Roth era albums, is very breif, only a little over a half-hour long. But it’s definitly one of the highlights of the band’s early-era.
Yes, albums get remastered all the time – and more often than not, the “new improved remaster” is not drastically or noticeably different from the previous CD issue. Not here folks, the DLR-era Van Halen remasters are nearly revolutionary. It’s like listening to these albums with new ears, really – the drums are deep and tight, the bass is full and round, Eddie’s guitar is in your face and David Lee Roth is breathing down your neck. Women and Children First is usually the album I’d pick on any given day as my favorite – it shows the band at it’s most diverse. It’s got loads of those dark chord progressions that they were the kings of (until whatever happened to them that made them turn into radio-friendly unit-shifters), some of Roth’s best lyrics, and it’s even got the late great Nicolette Larson singing uncredited background vocals on “Could This Be Magic” (probably a return favor for Eddie playing uncredited guitar on “Can’t Get Away From You” on her ‘Nicolette’ album). At the time, there was no other band like Van Halen – they were path blazers and true bundles of rock and roll energy bursting with creativity and great SONGS that didn’t pander to pop radio. So, if you’re like me and were wondering if these new HDCD remasters are worth buying these CDs once again, I assure you – your ears will be amazed at what a great job was done. Oh yeah – you also get that poster shot of David Lee Roth chained up to the fence that originally came with the LP restored in the insert booklet which was proof that all the girls that had that poster up on their walls in the summer of 1980 wanted some too.
1980 saw the release of Van Halen’s “Women and Children First,” their third album in a chain of classic releases spanning the late 70s into the early 80s. “Women and Children First” is probably the bands’ most under-appreciated album. This is due to the fact that it’s in the middle of a chain of classic releases like “Van Halen,” “Van Halen II” and “1984.” Yet it hasn’t quite received the cult status of “Fair Warning” or the sales of “Diver Down.”
Although “Van Halen II” (1979) is a classic album, it’s slightly underwhelming when compared to the magnificent self-titled debut (1978). It’s the classic case of the “sophomore slump,” when a band that has been playing clubs for years uses up all its best material on the debut, and then has to use what’s left over for the follow-up (although what was “left over” was still pretty good!). For “Woman and Children First,” the band recorded a whole new batch of songs that sounded fresh, and less like leftovers.
It goes without saying that Van Halen was at their prime during the Roth years (1978-1985). The debut album and the follow-up see Van Halen young, fast and furious. This was also the case by the time Van Halen released “Women and Children First,” but the band also sounds a little more loose, more relaxed, but without losing any of the fire or passion that made them so great. Eddie’s playing, which goes without saying, sounds terrific. Every song on “Women and Children First” has one, or two killer, killer solos. Bassist Michael Anthony and drummer Alex Van Halen provide a stellar rhythm section and David Lee Roth shines as only he can. There has never been, nor will there ever be, in the history of rock n’ roll, a singer that has the charisma, charm, showmanship and ironic wit of David Lee Roth.
“Women and Children First,” starts out surprisingly mid-paced (although never tepid) with its first couple of songs. The classic rock staples “And the Cradle Will Rock…” and “Everybody Want’s Some!” get the album off to a great start. The former a dedication to the endurance of the rock n’ roll sprit and the latter a tribute to, well, what everybody wants. Both songs feature Eddie Van Halen at his best. His solos never sounded more soulful or melodic. And Dave just shines. “Everybody Wants Some” really shows classic David Lee Roth at his best, especially with his “I like way the line runs up the back of the stocking,” and “no no no no no, don’t take `em off”, and “yeah, that’s it, a little more to the right” lines. These two tracks really show classic Van Halen at there finest. The pace slows down even more for the bluesy “Fools” an ode to the powers that be that would obstruct the prowling of the Diamond one.
The pace goes into hyperdrive with the classic “Romeo Delight” which is probably one of Van Halen’s most underrated songs. The main riff is absolutely killer and Eddie’s playing is fast and furious. One of the best moments of this song comes towards the end, when the rush of the song comes to a sudden halt, and then you hear the sound of a tapping, softly at first, and then getting louder and louder. Dave’s quite melodic “oh baby, feel my heartbeat, feel my heartbeat, feel my heartbeat” over the tapping which gets increasingly louder adds the perfect effect as only Diamond Dave could. The Sabbath-like “Tora! Tora!” which leads into the anarchic “Loss of Control” are two non-song tracks that add a bit of spice to the album and are essential to its overall flow.
The band goes semi-acoustic towards the end of “Women and Children First.” “Take Your Whisky Home” sounds like an old blues song from the South. The lines “Well my baby, she don’t want me around, she says she’s tired of watching me fall down, she wants the good life, whhah, and all the rest, but I like that bottle better than the rest” show the true spirit of classic Van Halen. The acoustic “Could this be Magic” is pure magic. In it, Dave sings of the inevitable doom of what will become in his current romance, but in pure Dave kitsch. The background vocals and harmonies from Eddie, Michael and Nicolette Larson add the perfect touch. The album closes with the beautifully written ballad “In a Simple Rhyme.” This is simply one of rock’s greatest, most highly underrated love songs. It actually rocks pretty hard, but is elegant and soulful. I would go as far as to say that it’s like a “Sweet Child `O Mine” of the early 80s. Eddie and Michael’s background vocals over Dave’s soulful blues delivery is pure magic. Eddie’s thunderous solo over Michael Anthony’s melodic bass line sounds terrific. And Diamond Dave never shined so bright. Some of his best lyrics are right here:
Then she made the mountains sing
Birds against an icy sky
And I heard bells ringin’
I think I heard an angel sigh
“Woman and Children First” closes with an untitled 15 second Sabbath-like instrumental titled “Growth.” Supposedly, the follow-up album, (which turned out to be “Fair Warning” 1981) would begin with the same riff, although this turned out not to be the case. “Growth” sort of comes out of left field, but is none-the-less an interesting piece of music and a cool way to end the album.
The first six Van Halen albums are absolutely essential cornerstones to any great rock collection. Although “Women and Children First” is not the band’s most well known album, it is still a classic and a must have for any Van Halen fan, or fan of hard rock or classic rock in general.