Fair Warning

Van Halen

Warner Brothers, 1981


REVIEW BY: Bruce Rusk


Fair Warning, the fourth release from Van Halen, comes as a bit of a relief to my ears as it shows a greater degree of the aggressive, muscular sound I felt was lacking in Van Halen II and Women And Children First. After the hard rocking masterpiece that is their debut album, the two follow-ups left me wanting more. Following disappointing slop like "Dance The Night Away" and"Beautiful Girls," this album is a refreshing relief. Why? Because they put first things first, as they should be. Eddie's guitar is in the forefront almost every second of this album, right where it belongs. The core of what made VH the success it was is purely and simply the virtuoso playing of Eddie Van Halen, and this album is a tribute to that talent.

On the subject of the Brothers Van Halen, I want to give props here to Eddie's big brother Alex, whom I consider an unsung hero among drummers. He may not be the most technical player, but he is rock-solid, consistent, and powerful. I like to compare him to John Bonham (Led Zeppelin). Bonzo was never an artiste per se, but he had incredible power and was a critical part of the sound of the Zep. Like Bonzo, Alex is top-drawer and will always rank among my favorites, and he kicks ass on this album. We now we return to the album review already in progress…

The band seems to have lost a bit of the light-heartedness that was present on the first three albums, which may have been the result of tension that was growing between frontman David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen. Eddie wanted to branch out musically, and DLR was trying to keep the band on the poster-children-for-partying track. In the long run, it seems Eddie won this round, as demonstrated the complete lack of cover songs. DLR was a big fan of the covers, and was responsible in large part for their inclusion on many VH albums (or so the legend tells). Eddie, on the other hand, reportedly hated the covers, and agreed to record them partly to keep the peace, and probably for the commercial potential as well. Not a bad idea really; after all, it was their cover of The Kinks' "You Really Got Me" that launched their career in the first place. Still, I have always felt that the cover songs were the least effective of any of their work. With a few exceptions, the cover songs tend to leave me flat. So, I was happy to find them missing here.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Fair Warning spawned two absolutely stellar hard rockers, "Mean Streets" and "Unchained." First, the album opener "Mean Streets" showcases what VH always was, and always should be about, the badass guitar playing that put them on the map. The song begins with a blistering guitar intro, and Eddie lays down a nasty, funky groove that sets the standard for the rest of the album. This song is classic VH and ranks among my favorites. DLR is in his element as well, as this is the perfect vehicle for his particular style. Roth never had a great voice, but more than made up for it with great timing, attitude and knowing how to stay within his limited range. This song in particular shows Diamond Dave at his best.

"Unchained" is another example of a timeless VH tune. A driving rhythm, another original groove by Eddie, and lyrics that are completely irrelevant. Everything I love in a VH track. DLR goes into one of his now classic smarmy voice-overs ("Hey man! That suit is you! You'll get some leg tonight for sure!") that has since become synonymous with the VH legacy. This is a great song, and has become a staple of classic rocks stations, for good reason.

The disc drags a bit when you hit the meandering "Push Comes to Shove," but the boys get right back in the groove and hit it out of the park with the next track "So This Is Love," a timeless full-tilt boogie. Why they bothered with the lackluster instrumental "Sunday Afternoon In The Park" is beyond me. It doesn't even make a good intro for the closer "One Foot Out The Door," which closes the album the way it opens, as it should, with Eddie shredding off into the sunset as only he can The other high points on this disc, "Sinners' Swing" and "Dirty Movies," are textbook VH tunes, hard rockers that are derivative of the VH standard template. The album in its entirety is guitar oriented, hard rocking and showcases all four members at their peak. Probably the heaviest of any VH album, and one that bears revisiting. No VH album will ever match their debut in my opinion, but Fair Warning comes close to that level of power and energy.

Rating: A-

User Rating: A-


great album. my favorite Van Halen album not gonna lie t00 yuhh. it has 9 songs. its a short album but who cares? i dnt care if it has 9 short songs, i care if i get into an album. 9 songs, which 8 i got into. they r Mean Street, Dirty Movies, Sinner's Swing!, Hear About it Later, Unchained, So This is Love?, Sunday Afternoon in the Park, and One Foot Out the Door. it has some great guitar work. like the last song, One Foot Out the Door, almost 2 minuts long, really short, but has a killer guitar solo, and thats a great way t00 end the album. the opening track Mean Street, 5 minuts long, great song. awesome intro riff thats after the finger tapping intro, and thats the perfect way t00 start off a Van Halen album.

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