Van Halen – 1978
Forming in 1972, Van Halen honed their skills on the club circuit until they dominated the scene. Then Gene Simmons took them to the studio to record a demo tape. ’ management, upon hearing the demo, said that Van Halen “had no chance of making it,” so Simmons lost interest. Soon after, in 1977, Warner Bros. Records signed the mighty Van Halen to a record contract, and the product of that signing was Van Halen’s self-titled debut album.
I think we’re all pretty familiar with the hits and radio staples “Runnin’ with the Devil,” “You Really Got Me,” “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love, and “Jamie’s Cryin’.” We also know well the influential guitar solo, “Eruption,” that changed everything we knew about guitar.
Of course, the David Lee Roth live staple, “Ice Cream Man,” should always be on a Van Halen “best-of” compilation. For fans, no Van Halen show with Roth would be complete without the inclusion of this song. Unfortunately, because it is a John Brim cover, it cannot be included on this list. Nonetheless, it’s a mystery as to why this track has never appeared on a Van Halen comp.
”I’m the One”
If the blistering tempo, the seemingly non-stop guitar solo, the harmonized backing vocals, and the back-breaking bass don’t get you, maybe the barbershop harmonization break will reel you in.
Bringing the tempo down is the muddy “Little Dreamer.” Eddie’s rhythm playing on this is superb and the tone, the brown sound, really shines through. You have to love Alex’ ride during Eddie’s solo, and Roth’s vocals… well, if you’re of the party that says he can’t sing, you obviously haven’t heard this underrated gem in the Van Halen back catalog. As always, Michael provides stunning backup vocals and a killer bass line.
Closing out one of the finest debut albums ever is the powerful “On Fire.” Again, you can’t beat Eddie’s rhythm playing on this track; in fact, Eddie’s rhythm playing probably beats most solos in contemporary metal. Michael kills it on bass (that scale and that slide and that boom, boom, boom should get anyone’s juices flowing). Roth probably delivers some his most extreme vocals, as well. Alex, well he’s crashing all over the place and it sounds incredible. The way this song opens, crash-crash-crash, the bass, the riffs and the palm mutes, jesus, you know your in for a ride from the start. This track truly displays the intensity and energy of Van Halen.
What tracks from Van Halen II made this cut?