Review Summary: Quite possibly, Van Halen's magnum opus.
In 1978, Van Halen released their debut, fueled by Eddie Van Halen's monstrous talent as a guitarist and his diverse techniques of guitar tapping, David Lee Roth's unique vocals and flamboyant antics as a frontman, Michael Anthony's ability to play bass and serve as backup for Eddie, and Alex Van Halen's simple but effective drumming. Initially, Van Halen was just a regular bar band from California. Eventually, KISS' Gene Simmons, impressed mainly by Eddie's virtuosity as a guitarist, approached Eddie and Alex. Gene ended up producing a demo tape for VH and tried to offer some help by sending their demo to Electric Lady Studios. They turned VH down, but well, who would've known? A little less than a year later, Van Halen
hit the stores and it soon became one of rock's most influential and successful debut albums ever.
Van Halen was a party band in every sense of the word, and that's quite evident in their debut. Quite honestly, that's what was good and special about Van Halen. Plus, most tracks in their catalog present quite a relaxed feel too. All of that is quite remarkable in Van Halen
and distinctive of the band's style. Almost right off the bat, Eruption
shows why Edward Van Halen is considered one of the best guitarists of all time. Eddie's techniques could only be matched by David Lee Roth's distinctive vocals and his antics on and off stage. It's no wonder the two represented Van Halen's driving force. It's also no wonder they shined so bright in VH's debut, presenting some great talent and some amazing performances.
Presenting standouts such as Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love
and Ice Cream Man
, to name a few, it showed how much Van Halen had to give to rock 'n' roll. Mixing rock and blues influences, they created a cornerstone album for hard rock and simultaneously shaped what would become glam metal. Van Halen
's numerous highlights defined the band's style and what they could build upon in the future. Let's go into a little bit more individual detail in Van Halen
's tracks. A special reference goes to the two cover tracks that can be found in this album, Kinks cover You Really Got Me
and John Brim cover Ice Cream Man
. The band picked up two completely distinct tracks from two completely different artists and turned those tracks into true VH classics and live staples. In You Really Got Me
, Van Halen preserves the raw energy of the original version but adds their own style and technical proficiency into it, and in Ice Cream Man
a stupendous electric guitar solo by Eddie (it's Eddie Van Halen, what else did you expect?) is added to the original version's bluesy touch, making it a much more entertaining tune.
It's in VH's original compositions that they sound most comfortable and strong. That says some great stuff about Van Halen
, because the covers are also amazing tracks. Aside from the outstanding instrumental Eruption
, some of VH's most blues-influenced and best tracks can be found in Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love
and Little Dreamer
. There is also time for the most feel-good tracks, such as I'm The One
, that features a hilarious interlude, Jamie's Cryin'
, that has one of the album's catchiest choruses, a great use of Eddie's wah-wah guitar and one of Michael Anthony's best performances, and Feel Your Love Tonight
, that is probably not as consistent or as entertaining as the other tracks, but it still does a pretty good job at showcasing everyone's talent. Lastly, there are also the album's most straightforward rock tracks, such as Atomic Punk
and the opener Runnin' With the Devil
, that is probably among VH's most well known songs, presenting one of Eddie's most melodic solos. Basically, in Van Halen's debut, there is something for everybody to enjoy. Van Halen
presents a lot of diversity, and that was important to make it as special and regarded as it is today.
It's no wonder Van Halen
is regarded as a classic. Remember when Led Zeppelin
was released, back in 1969? Remember when Are You Experienced?
was released, a couple of years before? Remember when, in 1970, Black Sabbath
was released? Remember what critics said? Stuff such as "They'll never make an album again"
and "In a couple of years, no one's gonna remember 'em"
. It's true that as a band, Van Halen is not as regarded or as recognised as Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix or Black Sabbath. But what happened with Van Halen at first is similar to what happened to those bands when they were getting started. Misunderstood by casual listeners and hammered down by critics. But it wouldn't be long before people realized that those bands were a lot better than people imagined. What happened to VH is quite similar. Initially, no one gave Van Halen any credit or thought they could ever make something special. But it took people some time to understand that they had already created something special, in their very first album. Van Halen
is a classic and it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. If you haven't heard it yet, buy it, download it or steal it from a friend. Just listen to it and be amazed. Because Van Halen
has a little bit for everyone to enjoy.