The staff at Loudersound has gone through their Van Halen album collection to highlight the ones they say are most worthy of a needle drop.
“Van Halen albums have it all: One of the most innovative guitarists of all time, your choice of rock star frontmen, and some great tunes,” writes Paul Elliott. “If ever a back catalogue epitomized the American Dream, it’s the albums of Van Halen.”
Of the twelve studio albums Van Halen released between 1978 and 2012 nine were recommended. Below are Loudersound‘s top three picks:
Van Halen (1978)
As one of the classic debut albums, this 10-million seller is up there with Zeppelin’s and Sabbath’s and Appetite For Destruction. Van Halen was like a bomb going off. With its short, punchy songs, technical flash, testosterone-charged swagger and sense of daring, it kick-started the 80s two years early. “We were not afraid of defying convention,” said David Lee Roth. “Everybody was ascending.”
Eruption was Eddie’s volcanic showpiece. And the orthodox songs were equally explosive, from Runnin’ With The Devil through to frenetic closer On Fire. Classic Rock’s Geoff Barton, then reviewing for Sounds, called the album “senses-shattering”. Van Halen had arrived – with an almighty bang.
The last of the definitive Roth-era albums was also the one that made Van Halen a household name on this side of the Atlantic when its lead single, Jump, hit No.7 on the UK chart. In playing this simple rock song on a keyboard, guitar hero Eddie beat all those airy-fairy synth-pop acts at their own game.
I’ll Wait, the album’s other big pop crossover hit, was also powered by a keyboard riff, but the hard rock crunch of Panama and Hot For Teacher ensured that the band’s hairy fan base wasn’t alienated.
On 1984, Van Halen could do no wrong… But by 1985 Roth was gone, and the band, in whatever guise, would never be as great again.
Van Halen II (1979)
How do you follow a belter of a debut album? Many have dropped the ball, from Montrose to The Darkness. But Van Halen walked it, banging out their brilliant second album in just six days. It sounds like it, too: fresh, a little loose, fizzing with energy, its air of beer-fuelled spontaneity encapsulated in Roth’s fumbled lyric and giggles on Bottoms Up!
Shrewdly, Van Halen didn’t try to top the fire-power of Van Halen, opting instead for a lighter, more playful vibe, running from the jammed intro to You’re No Good (such chutzpah!) to Roth’s farewell kiss on the closing Beautiful Girls. And in Dance The Night Away they delivered the perfect pop-metal song.
So which six albums follow? Which three didn’t make Loudersound‘s list? Read the rest HERE to find out and give us your comments below!