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.
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 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.