Fair Warning – 1981
Fans often cite Fair Warning as their favorite Van Halen album, and it’s not without reason when the album contains such classic cuts as “Unchained” and “Dirty Movies.” Fans also call this album one of the darker Van Halen albums. I realize that my list below includes half the album, but it’s really unjust when both Van Halen “best-of” comps only include one track from this album. Maybe because it’s such a Michael Anthony album; the bass throughout gets you right in the groin.
Why Van Halen hasn’t included the album’s opener, “Mean Street,” is a mystery. The intro serves as part of Eddie’s live soloing repertoire, and the track in general is full of swagger and attitude. The track has the feeling that it’s building toward a torrential downpouring, and it brings you to the edge without fully delivering… unless, of course, the guitar solo throws you over, which it might. The bass-laden breakdown with Roth’s urchin lyrics are fabulous, and the way Eddie brings back the guitar, wow!
I wasn’t going to include this one as it’s so different from anything else Van Halen has ever done, while remaining very Van Halen. The swing is sexy and the groove is so deep that its pockets reach your ankles. But typically only dyed-in-the-wool Van Halen fans know about this one, and it’s sad really, since its sound is so accessible. It should be a law that every stripper has to dance to this one at least once a night.
There’s a lot of fun‘n’ roll swing to this one, but it still manages to be heavy as hell. Michael Anthony’s is on fire on this one and mix wise, it feels like they gave him a lot more up front; it’s really needed too, as it seems like Eddie and Alex are there to provide Michael support for a change. In general, this is just an all-around Van Halen classic.
“Sunday Afternoon in the Park/One Foot Out the Door”
OK, cheating a bit here as “Sunday Afternoon in the Park” and “One Foot Out the Door” are listed as separate tracks. Separating them, however, would be like separating Queen’s “We Will Rock You” from “We Are the Champions.” It’s just not physically or ethically possible. Together, these two tracks introduce the most obvious use of synthesizers in a Van Halen song to date, and provide a harbinger for things to come (1984). If you’re a fan of *Stranger Things, you need to check this track out; it should tickle you in the right spot.
A least favorite album also deserves more love…