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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Van Halen

Van Halen

Review by Gary Hill

I still remember when this album first came out. It really revolutionized music. I have to say that for me it was less about Eddie Van Halen’s so well documented hammer on guitar technique that made this album stand out. No, for me the extremely hard edged sounds here and nearly punk rock elements were things that just weren’t common. Van Halen truly upped the ante. Perhaps one of the most intriguing things listening to this stuff with a fresh ear is how much the catchy hook was just about as important as the crunch and fiery guitar work. Whatever the reason this album is a classic and really deserves to be so.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Runnin' With The Devil

After an odd siren effect the bass begins its droning run and then the group launch into this punky hard rocker. The verse are stripped down. They power it up for the choruses and guitar solos. As cool as this track is, it’s perhaps a bit pedestrian compared to some of the other material on show here. Of course, part of that feeling on this end might be due to playing the track in countless bands over the years – which can kill a song’s lasting power for me.

 

Eruption

This is a killer guitar solo. You really can’t argue with that. It’s a powerhouse.

You Really Got Me
Those who point to Van Halen as being heavy metal can probably look to this cover of the Kinks classic as evidence. Personally I think of it as closer to punk rock, but I can see that argument. Whatever you want to call it, though, they take a great song and make it a true classic. While the moaning sounds on this could be considered over the top, somehow it works.
Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love

This might well be my choice for best track on the disc. This has a great melody and plenty of crunch. There’s a hard edged fire to this and it’s just incredible. Everything is just about perfect on this. The vocal hook is catchy and yet the track has a fury to it that’s awesome. There’s a mellower section that’s extremely tasty, too. Eddie Van Halen puts in some of his most expressive and tasteful guitar work on this, too. The “hey hey hey” singalong is quite punk rock-like.

I'm The One
One of the hardest rocking tracks on show here, this might not be the classic that some of the other music is, but it’s also one of the most intriguing pieces of music. It has a hard edged punk meets metal texture, yet there is also a classic soul meets rock feeling to it. They even give us a little doo wop in the middle.
Jamie's Cryin'

At its core this is almost a poppy bubble gum kind of a track. Don’t believe me, listen to the song structure. The thing is, they take this vision and wrap it some seriously crunchy sounds and turn into something sublime. This is another highlight of the CD.

Atomic Punk
Here’s another cut that’s a contender for best piece on the album. This is a powerhouse. It’s screaming in nature and has a very tasty arrangement. I know it’s not an obvious choice, but I really like this track a lot and always have. It’s another that comes pretty close to fitting the “heavy metal” label.
Feel Your Love Tonight
This is sort of pedestrian. It’s got a catchy melody and the like, but really doesn’t seem to be all that original. Sure it’s got some great guitar work, but it just doesn’t stand nearly as tall as a lot of the other stuff here.
Little Dreamer

The guitar riff that leads this off is classic. This is another of the highlights of the disc. The combination of catchy vocal arrangement and crunch guitar line is simply awesome.

 

Ice Cream Man

As odd as this is, it works. It’s a bluesy sort of tongue in cheek jam. I can tell it’s definitely very much a David Lee Roth kind of thing. It’s fun and a bit of a diversion.

On Fire
The music on this really reminds me of something from the Dead Boys, thereby bringing us pretty firmly in the punk rock zone.
 
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