Sunday, February 1, 2009

February 1: Van Halen, "Van Halen"

Artist: Van Halen
Album: Van Halen
Year: 1978
Label: Warner Bros.

When it comes to solid, straightforward rock and roll, few did it better than Van Halen did during their first round with David Lee Roth on vocals. Their self-titled debut is a testament to the fact that nearly a decade after Hendrix, there was still plenty of innovation to be done in the field of guitar playing. Thought it deserves to be, the album is rarely seen as the monumental record that it is in reality.

Singer David Lee Roth and guitarist Eddie Van Halen have one very large thing in common: there is absolutely NO mistaking their sound. Roth has a limitless vocal range, and lets his sexy, arrogant swagger bleed through in the music. Then and now, critics constantly remark that, reguardless of his age, "Diamond Dave" seems to sing with the same hormonal overload of your average 17 year old.

Eddie Van Halen (not to be mistaken for his drummer brother, Alex) used the bands' first record to annouce his presnce to the world. He went from an unknown to a force to be reckoned with in less than two's called "Eruption." While in modern times, "Eruption" may seem dated or nothing special, at the time of its release, it was truly groundbreaking.

Van Halen is comprised of nine original songs, as well as covers of the classic Kinks song "You Really Got Me" as well as the bands' take on "Ice Cream Man." The other songs are, to put it simply, fun. Songs about fast cars and faster women may seem juvenile on the surface, but when Van Halen presents them, they are mature rock gems. Whether in your home or car or at a live concert, these songs are crowd pleasers that everyone wants to sing at the top of their lungs.

Though Van Halen tends to get grouped in as an Aerosmith follower, the fact is, aside from the testosterone driven rock, the bands sound nothing alike. Van Halen does (somewhat) follow the formula of Aerosmith and Zeppelin in that they are blues based rock songs, but that is where any comparison stops dead in its tracks. Perhaps a more accurate description would be, "Aerosmith, minus the drugs."

Over the years, Van Halen has released a dozen albums whilst going through three lead singers. The question of "David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar" has become a standard question of taste between music geeks (the correct answer is DLR). The bands' self titled debut shows the band with the perfect lineup playing the perfect songs. Every track on Van Halen is a classic and the fact that the band "didn't know any better" works perfectly throughout the record. While most people look to their later release, 1984, as the "must have" album, to hear the band in a more pure, more innocent, and overall more artistically accurate setting, you MUST own Van Halen.

Standout tracks: "Runnin' With The Devil," "Eruption," and "Ice Cream Man."

1 comment:

CasCbus said...

For me, it was Van Hagar...I thought he was a better overall singer. Diamond Dave had more energy & flair, but his wailing got annoying. Agreed though, this album you must have.