Van Halen
Fair Warning


4.0
excellent

Review

by Daniel Dias USER (82 Reviews)
July 22nd, 2014 | 12 replies


Release Date: 1981 | Tracklist

Review Summary: C'mon, Dave! Give me a break!

Fair Warning marked a bit of a change for Van Halen. After 3 party albums of great commercial and critical success, Van Halen decided it was time to bring some change to the band's style and sound. Some fans started to see a slight indicator of that change in Women and Children First, VH's 3rd album. Edward Van Halen encorauged his bandmates to pursue a harder, rawer and darker sound, and while that wasn't very clear in Women and Children First, judging from party songs such as Everybody Wants Some!! and Romeo Delight, it was certainly clear enough in Fair Warning. Van Halen was different. It wasn't so upbeat and so loose, it was more angry and more aggressive. Fair Warning marked a huge artistic change in direction for the band, and it proved to do them wonders even if the album wasn't a great commercial success, probably due to the absence of a hit single. To many fans, Van Halen's 4th studio effort remains their best ever, and while that can raise some argument, there's no doubt that Fair Warning really is an underrated and excellent album.

Fair Warning shows the band at the peak of their talents. Eddie Van Halen was more creative with his guitar than ever, and that's shown in this album. His conflicts with David Lee Roth and producer Ted Templeman continued to grow, though, and that led to his increasing frustration and desire to leave the band he founded. Regardless, he remained dedicated to his music and the band, improving upon his previous works. Alex Van Halen also stands out in Fair Warning. He's more furious and aggressive than ever before, and his drumming was really elevated to a new level here. David Lee Roth continued to be... well, David Lee Roth. While he continued to deliver some great vocal performances, live and on studio, his antics on and off stage continued to be the main cause to the increasing frustration between the members of the band. Ironically, though, Van Halen's 4th album shows some great development in the band's talents and material. It's amazing to think that under such circumstances the band was still able to produce such an excellent album.

As happens in almost every other Van Halen album, Eddie Van Halen is the one who stands out the most in Fair Warning. But this album is special for him, because it was mostly written solely by him, and in a time where he was desperately seeking for more creative and artistic freedom. He was getting tired of having to argue with Roth and Templeman constantly over the band's songs, so he took some time off to write some material alone. That's when he wrote most of Fair Warning. In fact, this album shows how he considerably improved as a guitarist and a composer. From his spectacular intro to the Van Halen anthem, hard rocking Mean Street, to his aggressive and dynamic riffing in tracks such as Sinner's Swing! and Unchained, and even his option to work as more of a rhythm player from time to time, as evidenced in So This Is Love?, it's shown how he developed and became more conscious of what the band needed to become better. Out of all the classic Van Halen albums, Fair Warning is the one where Eddie had the most freedom, artistically, and the one where he stood out the most.

If there's any criticism to point out at Fair Warning is precisely that EVH became such a centre of attention in Van Halen's songs that he "kept" the other band members from sticking out as much. Besides from that, Fair Warning is a very strong album, with few flaws. Mean Street is good of an opener as it gets, driven by a dynamic riff, even featuring a great interlude and one of Dave's best performances on the album. Sinner's Swing! shows how Van Halen's sound was taken to a new level in this album, with its 3 minutes of a furious hard rock display, highlighted by Eddie's recognisable riff and Alex's pounding beat. Then, there's Unchained, that has one of Van Halen's most well known riffs ever and perhaps the best performance by the band here (there's even that classic line from producer Ted Templeman, "C'mon, Dave! Give me a break!"). Some tracks such as Hear About It Later and So This Is Love? don't stand out as much, but are very good too and show some great guitar work and a very raw sound, that's so characteristic of this album. The few weak points of Fair Warning come in songs such as Dirty Movies, that has a long and rather pointless intro, and One Foot Out The Door, that is not a bad song by any means, but doesn't seem to be a very good choice to close out the album.

From an overall standpoint, Fair Warning proved to be quite an important album for Van Halen's career. Written at a time when tensions between the band were as high as they could get, it marked a change in Van Halen's style. It didn't sell as much as the previous albums, probably because of the absence of a hit single, but it did sell considerably good. This album was much more important musically than it was commercially. After touring for promotion of Fair Warning, Van Halen didn't waste time recording for their next album, the controversial Diver Down. More on that later. As for Fair Warning, check it out if you haven't yet. It's a great album, and it's a shame that it often ends up being overlooked among VH's catalog.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
danielcardoso
July 22nd 2014


3455 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

My series of Van Halen reviews continues. Sorry for the delay, it took me a while to finish this one up.

ExplosiveOranges
Contributing Reviewer
July 22nd 2014


4260 Comments


Nice review, Dan. Pos'd.

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
July 22nd 2014


16389 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

unchained riff melts, best VH apart from debut

danielcardoso
July 22nd 2014


3455 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks, Oranges and mena. Glad to know you enjoyed reading.

Sabrutin
July 22nd 2014


1876 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is Mean Street!



I see you worked hard on this.

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menawati
Contributing Reviewer
July 22nd 2014


16389 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

love the sleazy feel of this whole album

beefshoes
July 22nd 2014


5589 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Good review. By far my favourite VH album.



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danielcardoso
July 22nd 2014


3455 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Sabrutin - yeah, it wasn't very easy for me to write it, because i'm a big fan of the album but i didn't want to come out biased. i think it turned out good.



Beefshoes - thanks for the feedback, my favorite is the debut but their first 6 albums are all great.

facupm
July 22nd 2014


9880 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

good one pos! i like thsi album, prob my 2nd fav VH after the debut

danielcardoso
July 22nd 2014


3455 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

thanks man, yeah this album is great and underrated too.

Muisc4Life26
July 22nd 2014


3153 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

awesome review and album pos

danielcardoso
July 23rd 2014


3455 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks man ;)



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