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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Van Halen

Fair Warning

Review by Gary Hill

It seems to me this disc never got the attention it deserved. By the time this came out I had pretty much given up on Van Halen because their releases were inconsistent. Well, they redeemed it here in spades. This is arguably the best album they ever produced. There’s not a weak track in the bunch. If you own only one Van Halen disc, it should be this. Sure, it might not have all the hits you are looking for, but it rocks out better than all of the rest combined.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Mean Street
Eddie Van Halen’s tapping starts us off in fine fashion and they resolve out into a jam that feels like it could have come off of the first VH album. It’s gritty and tasty with a big ole helping of cool. It’s a great way to start things off in fine fashion. There is a tasty mellower grind in the middle of this, too.
"Dirty Movies"
They bring this in with an almost fusion element. As it carries on it almost feels like Van Halen does Joe Satriani. As you might imagine that combination is very effective.
Sinner's Swing!
This is a pretty straightforward number. It’s a great rocker and has one of the better guitar solos on the album – and since this is a Van Halen album that says a lot. There’s no real surprises here, but this is quite solid.
Hear About It Later
Coming in with the more melodic sounds that made up a lot of the Sammy Hagar era of the band, this shifts out to a more rocking motif. It’s one of the cooler cuts on the disc. It’s got a catchy chorus and enough hard rock to keep it interesting, but enough melody for it to really breath. 
Unchained
This is probably my favorite cut on show here. Everything is there and in the perfect format. We get a catchy chorus, some cool oozing bits from David Lee Roth and a hard rocking musical structure. You just can’t beat this one. I love the little spoken bit in the middle, too. 
Push Comes to Shove
A funky bass driven groove starts this and they build upon this musical theme in fine style. It’s got a great character and texture and is a bit different than the rest of the album. 
So This Is Love?
The bass line that starts this makes me think of Grand Funk Railroad. Classic Van Halen is woven into this tapestry, but I really get a definite GFR groove to a lot of this. It’s another killer VH number and has both some great crunch and a catchy chorus. It’s another that feels like it would have been at home on the debut disc. The guitar solo really feels like Eddie Van Halen’s interpretation of the type of sound Grand Funk used to do so well. 
Sunday Afternoon in the Park
This is just plain mean. It feels a lot like the keyboard oriented music on the first two Dio oriented Black Sabbath albums. Although (like those cuts) this is just an instrumental introductory piece I like it a lot and it’s one of my favorite moments on the disc.
One Foot Out the Door
Coming straight out of the last cut, this combines that keyboard like sounds of that one with the more guitar edged elements that the band were known for producing. The result is a killer jam and great album closer.
 
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