Friday, April 29, 2016
Van Halen - Fair Warning
The cover artwork was taken from The Maze, a painting by Canadian artist William Kurelek. The autobiographical piece depicts elements from his tortured youth. Van Halen and their art designer Pete Angelus used elements from the work without the artist's permission.
Side one begins with "Mean Street", which charted at number 12 on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart. It opens with an erratic guitar solo before a funky drumbeat kicks in. The lyrics paint a picture of a troubled man in a troubled neighborhood. The title of the record comes from one of the lines later in the track.
"Dirty Movies", a reflection on the adult porn industry, has a swinging, salacious rhythm to it. It reminds me of the fact that at the time this album came out, the only place to see such films were at late night movie shows; this was before the days of cable television and the Internet. I like the opening guitar solo quite a bit.
Diamond Dave drops the F-bomb in "Sinner's Swing!", a rapid-fire ditty with a smoking hot guitar solo on the bridge.
"Hear About It Later" fakes you out with a slower opening before settling into a smooth mid-tempo groove. I really like the various instrumental elements to this one.
Side two opens with "Unchained", a song whose working title was "Hit the Ground Running" (which is repeated phrase in the chorus). As the second single, it went to number 13 on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart. The song celebrate freedom to do what you want when you want.
The next track pulls things back a bit, idling at a more sedated speed. "Push Comes to Shove" also appeared on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, peaking at number 29.
The next tune poses the question "So This Is Love?" Released as the first single, the bouncy rocker stalled at number 110 on the US Billboard Hot 200, but rallied to number 20 in Canada and number 15 on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart.
The instrumental track "Sunday Afternoon in the Park" is next, with a running time of just under two minutes. With the effects and the percussion, it has a bit of a Rush vibe to it.
The album closes with the nearly two-minute long, quick-paced "One Foot Out the Door". It actually combines well with the previous track.
I was not much into Van Halen in the early 80's until their album 1984 came out. Before that, I would hear various tracks from them in weekend blocks on the local album-oriented rock station. Still, a number of years back I was filling in my digital library and picked up the band's early catalog, including Fair Warning. Overall, I like the record; it has a freshness to it due to the lack of overexposure of some of their bigger releases.
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