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 VAN HALEN  a.k.a. "VAN HALEN 1"

 

VAN HALEN I ALBUM REVIEW  

Van Halen 1 Review by Chris Gossett; Edward Van Halen Sets The Music World On Fire

"VAN HALEN," the first Van Halen album, is the easiest to review as it is the greatest Van Halen album that was ever made.  It is unsurpassed in the Top Van Halen Songs page.  Historically it is the highest grossing album in the band's history.  It is the measure by which all Van Halen albums are compared.  The reason the album had such power then and today is because the band had 60 songs written, approximately, and knew even more covers; all played with absolute proficiency.  It wasn't easy for the band to pick these eleven tracks.

RUNNIN' WITH THE DEVIL

ERUPTION
YOU REALLY GOT ME
AIN'T TALKIN' 'BOUT LOVE
I'M THE ONE
JAMIE'S CRYIN'
ATOMIC PUNK
FEEL YOUR LOVE TONIGHT
LITTLE DREAMER
ICE CREAM MAN
ON FIRE

I believe the foundation for the greatest composer of the 20th (and so far, the 21st century) century was laid on this album.  Subsequent works and pieces by Edward Van Halen would also be created and then credited and hailed with the likes of Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Dvorak and all the rest of the great composers; Van Halen WILL be a name forever remembered by mankind.  Is it over the top to equate Edward to these others?  No.  These others were not even as innovative.  I know that would stir a lot of panties on elitist musicians; it wouldn't if it weren't truth!  Edward Van Halen came up with more ways to play guitar than any musician has come up with playing any particular instrument, guitar or other instrument. 

"VAN HALEN," "VAN HALEN 1" or "the first VAN HALEN album" as it is also known was produced by Ted Templeman.  The album was filled with many innovations including the use of Alex Van Halen's Opel, Edward Van Halen's Volvo, a Mercedes Benz and a VW car horn used in unison to play the opening note, the reel to reel tape was then slowed down by applying palm pressure to the sending wheel while the mastering was done, to create the feel of those opening notes slowing and lowering in a creepy fashion, to a slow, bass, heart beat.  "Runnin' with the Devil" works well today remaining timeless as much due to that heart beat from the bass as the guitar playing.  

This opening song was the tune that Gene Simmons had heard live, first, and he says he knew immediately that the band would be famous.   "Runnin' With The Devil" was to become an icon of rebellion for the frustrated late 1970s disco-bored teen-agers.  It was the ideal way to start the first VAN HALEN album.  When Gene Simmons first created the Van Halen demos he first implemented the horns idea on "House Of Pain" which later showed up on 1984, six years after the fact of Van Halen 1.

Jaws were already dropped to the floor when the listener gets blasted by the second track, when the jaw would roll out the door to "Eruption," which was an innovation from start to finish.  Not only the playing but the production has as much of Eddie Van Halen's signature on it, and the product was unlike anything before or since.  From the start of the song which Eddie Van Halen did not ever intend to put on the album to the final note you were left with your jaw dropped to the floor the first time you heard it.  You remember where you were when you heard it. I'll never forget, I was sitting in my bedroom in Lima, Ohio, listening to my sister's boyfriend's record of it.  Of course the LED lights were lit up as I was recording the astonishing body of work that just blew me away.  The use of technology by Eddie was something that fooled people who couldn't figure out "how does that guy make that sound.  Is it this?"  The answer, nine out of ten times, was something totally different that the person ever considered.  People thought the closing of "Eruption" was either created by use of the wammy bar and / or the use of the tuning keys.  It was neither.  Though it "dive bombs" it was a phase shifter, which must be AFTER a delay pedal in the line of the output of equipment; so it was two pieces of equipment.  You step on the delay pedal and activate it with the final note and turn the speed dial down to "slow" the sound down.  Every guitar player thought it was a de-tuning technique or a dive bomb with the wammy bar, a combination or some derivative.  It was none. 

"You Really Got Me" was ahead of its time.  It almost didn't make it out IN time to be the only version on the radio because Eddie played it for some friends of his, another band, who then went immediately into the studio to record their version of it.  Eddie's manager caught wind of it and told him that they had to push the release of the album and first push the release of the single "You Really Got Me" so in reality, the first song the unsuspecting public heard from Van Halen was the remake of the Kinks "You Really Got Me."  The song was also included in the box office hit, "Over the Edge" which was one of Matt Dillon's first movies.  'Very psychadelic.

 

"Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" was and still is a crowd favorite, from David Lee Roth, through Sammy Hagar, even Gary Cherone, and of course now again with David Lee Roth.  It's a great song with guitar chord shifts that new guitarists will find difficult to emulate but fun to play once they master it.  The song was originally written by Edward to be a way to poke fun of punk rock.  It sure stuck!  2 Live Crew later used a riff from this song they sampled directly from it and Van Halen sued their asses, rightfully so.

"I'm The One" was originally called "Show Your Love" and was another crowd favorite before the release of the first album.  The effects of the palm muting, scratching across the strings above the pickups, couple with the slap back delay pedal feature was, again, so unheard of in the day.  It's amazing how much was brought to the table for guitar players, by Edward Van Halen, that he is adequately credited for. 

"Jamie's Cryin' " was Van Halen at his sultriest.  It is THE ONLY SONG written for Van Halen 1 in the studio.  Therefore it was the "newest" song to the band when the album released as the rest of the songs were pre-arranged.  It's a great song that remains popular, as all of these songs do, to this day.  Michael Anthony's high notes were vocally obvious on this song.  If you didn't get it before about him, this song "got you." 

On "Atomic Punk" Eddie Van Halen again did something never before seen.  He used a phase shifter and a delay pedal to create the fast sounds between the percussive up and down motion of the muting palm over the guitar pick ups.  On this whole album the use of phase shifters, delay pedals, wammy bars were so innovative but compared to Edward's actual playing, his riffs, techniques, speed and mastery were unlike anything seen before.  Since then his innovations in playing made a path for new rock and roll to have bombastic guitar.  Nearly every one of the guitar players who started since 1978 have been in some way influenced by Eddie Van Halen.  All who have achieved fame owe credit and inspiration to Edward Van Halen.  No album exemplifies this more than the first Van Halen album.

 

"Feel Your Love Tonight" is a feel good song that seems to be the forgotten track of Van Halen 1.  Every other song makes the radio but this one, it seems.  It's actually really cool and looser sounding, like a lot of the cover songs Van Halen played in their bar days. 

"Little Dreamer" again showcases Van Halen in a mellow light, with some smoking guitar to go over it.  'Very blues-esque in its nature.  It's very easy to get lost in this song and consider it a ballad but it's about looking back at someone voted "least likely to succeed."  Talking about the times she cried makes it a little slow to sing.  It's a country vocal set to Van Halen rock. 

"Ice Cream Man" is a mainstay in concert to this day.  It is a fan favorite for many reasons and in fact a remake of a song by John Brim.  Most people don't realize that.  David Lee Roth plays acoustic guitar live, tuned to open E tuning, to this song.  He loves to make a song intro by playing and telling a story before starting the song.  The story is always relative to the delivery of the song.

"On Fire" is the most fun Van Halen song to play on guitar, bar none.  It is a blast to play on full volume, on the album or from your amp.  This is one of the best Van Halen songs ever.  You can't let go of something you feel you're riding, like a dragon you control.  It's insanity.  It is one song that stays forever fresh, albeit over a third of a century old!  This is a great show opener and a terrific album closer.  Demos had Dave and Mike singing the verses together.

Van Halen 1 is the most influential rock and roll album in history, bar none.  This album gets a 10 out of 10, or 4 stars out of 4 for a review.  The fact that the first Van Halen album was and remains the most famous album for Van Halen and rock guitar is simple: Edward had written so much music that creating new music was not required for the first album - none of it was new to the band, whatsoever.  The actual recording process was very short.  There was no creative surge or creative lull because the creation was made by Edward Van Halen who put his stamp on rock guitar by dotting the "i", crossing the "t" and the result?  'A whole new way of playing guitar, to influence generations to come, more than any other guitarist before or since.

Van Halen has seen it all and lived through it all.  Glam rock and roll was begat by Heavy Metal, which was begat by Acid Rock.  All were begat by Edward Van Halen and the first Van Halen album.  This is the number one album of all time, of all music, rock and roll and other genres alike; Van Halen - Van Halen scores a 15 out of 10 ! !

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