Who’s Next ***** The best album The Who ever made? Yes, I think so! This disc grew out of another opera-esque project guitarist/writer/leader Pete Townshend was working on, but it failed …and THANK GOD! His other “projects” like Tommy were okay; there is definitely some great stuff on that album. Personally I never related to Quadrophenia even though many people have raved it’s the pinnacle of Who-ness! Pete Townshend had grand ambitions, and that’s super, but sometimes it is necessary to get back to basics: write killer anthems, turn everything up, and RAWK!
That’s kind of what happened and this is the result. Best album eva! Great tunes…many that literally LIVED on FM radio because they were so popular: Baba O’Reilly, My Wife, Bargain, Behind Blue Eyes, Goin’ Mobile, and the mega-monster anthem smash Won’t Get Fooled again. Even the mellow songs, Love Ain’t For Keeping and The Song is Over are super and by this point Townshend had reached the apex of his ability as songwriter for the band to connect emotionally to his audience, meld the heavy with the sensitive, the crushing with the soft and delicate and create a great canon of guitar-heavy music. While none of the riffs and tunes here were a departure from the rock style of the time they are all memorable and powerful and remain a testament to the band’s best era.
Paranoid ***** There were some albums from the 70s that almost everyone had. Or…your best friend had it if you didn’t. Black Sabbath’s second album Paranoid is totally one of those discs. A watershed moment in the history of rock and a major signpost in the development of heavy metal and all of its inevitable sub-genres. The crushing (and everyone refers to them as crushing) riffs on the album took the loud blues rock guitar of the 60s to the underworld and thus was born a new era in music! Diabolus in Musica would now be the law of the land!
Besides the headbangin’ title crack (which I think might owe a little bit to Led Zeppelin’s Communication Breakdown), there is the intense almost 8 minute guitar workout of War Pigs with its heaviness, transition parts, soloing and outro…not to mention a big dose of uber-crunch! Iron Man has a riff so easy a guitar newbie can get it down in 10 minutes. But it rules! It Rules! The dark party continues with Electric Funeral, Fairies Wear Boots and Hand of Doom and by then if you haven’t been completely pummeled into exhaustion by the sheer power of Tony Iommi’s guitar and the rest of Black Sabbath congratulations. You’re probably going to be a metalhead for life. For me though the very spacey, quiet and subdued Planet Caravan is one of my favorite Black Sabbath moments. Not only is the delicately-phrased guitar so poignant but the whole tune is strangely…beautiful.
Morrison Hotel **** Released in 1969, Morrison Hotel was heralded as The Doors’ big comeback record and it’s totally EVIL!…especially the guitar work! All of the pomp and extra instruments from the previous album, The Soft Parade and all of the acid-induced weirdness from the first two albums is stripped away and what’s left is a jazzy/blues trio fronted by a psychotic crooner-poet who drank beer for breakfast. Not only is the band tight and rollicking, but Robbie Krieger really steps up to provide perfect guitar work to all of the songs, some that became classic FM radio staples; Roadhouse Blues, the funky Peace Frog, the could’ve-only-been- written-in-the-60s Waiting for the Sun and Ship of Fools not to mention the tight rhythm and blues of You Make Me Real and Maggie M’Gill.
Whether playing bluesy bottleneck, funky single line leads, jazzy chords or delicate finger-picked figures, Krieger’s guitar forms the perfect counterpoint to Ray Manzarek’s organ and, on some songs, tack piano (really evident in You Make Me Real) and John Desmore’s measured and understated drumming. And, of course there was always Jim Morrison. Who else could’ve written The Spy or Land Ho! and still be taken seriously? The Doors were joined in the studio by guitar legend Lonnie Mack who plays bass on a few tunes and John Sebastian from the Lovin’ Spoonful, who plays harp (very noticeable on Roadhouse Blues). This is my favorite Doors album and was called their “balliest album” and “horrifying rock” when it was released. After more than forty years, it’s still a great testament to an awesome band and great guitar player.
LA Woman ***** The end of the line for the Doors, but they go out with a bang. LA Woman, the song and album, was a big radio hit, as were a couple of other tunes from album: Love Her Madly, The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat), and Riders on the Storm. By this point in their career the band had abandoned most of the excess and pomp of the psychedelic years and stripped away all superfluous material leaving behind a twisted jazz/blues trio fronted by a psychotic crooner who sang sweet songs about burning hills, killer hitch-hikers, depression, loneliness, death, and liberation.
Once again Robbie Krieger’s guitar served as an effective musical and emotional foil for Morrison’s lyrics and poetry; screaming wah-wah on The Changeling, snaky lead lines and heavy riffs on the title cut and Love Her Madly, bluesy cray-cray bottleneck on Been Down So Long, subdued blues chording on Cars Hiss by My Window, chiming, bright chords and delicate figures on Hyacinth House, heavy bluesy I’m a Man-type riffing on The Wasp and slinky jazz on Riders on the Storm. The riffs, leads, and textures are all gooey-goodness and meld very nicely with Ray Manzarek’s various keyboard work. It’s a shame the band couldn’t have made 15 more albums like this because they were very good at it…but all good things do come to an end.
2112 ****1/2 When I was 17 I met this kid named Pat who changed my life. He was a good guitar player, had great gear and loved Zeppelin and Rush. At the time all I could do was strum and do very rudimentary picking, but Pat could put the riffs, chords and even some of the lead parts all together and make it sound good. I used to watch him play the classics he knew including the main theme from this album and the other great tune Passage to Bangkok. He also knew Flight By Night, The Trees, and Closer to the Heart. Pat was really the first and only teacher I had; I studied what he told me and later I was playing just as well as he was and, in the process, became a Rush fan.
Years later 2112 is one of my two favorite Rush albums. I learned how to play the awesome Overture years ago and Passage to Bangkok is the other tune I cranked out over the years. The rest of the album I just played a lot. Rush was one of the heaviest power trios of the 70s and 80s and the straight-ahead riff-rock of their earlier albums grew to include the intricate arrangements, complex timing changes, and otherworldly textures found on 2112 and subsequent releases. Through it all guitarist Alex Lifeson was a master of power, dynamics and feel, crafting a style that became instantly recognizable and a guitar-riffer favorite.
The Yes Album **** A progressive rock masterpiece, this Yes album introduced the amazing guitarist Steve Howe to the world and in a very short time he would achieve legendary status for his clean-toned, highly technical and beautifully arranged and performed guitar parts. This disc yielded a number of the band’s most famous and radio-friendly compositions, including Seen All Good People, Yours Is No Disgrace, Starship Trooper and Howe’s acoustic instrumental Clap.
Over time, the term “Prog Rock” would become synonymous with “excessive,” and while some of that criticism was certainly valid, even as far as Yes is concerned, when it all worked, the music was a magnificent thing to behold. There was and is a certain pleasure and amazement in hearing rock music that rivals the best classical music for complexity, emotional content, and performer execution. Howe and Yes were more than capable in this regard, which is why they were one of the most popular acts of the 70s and 80s.
The Yes Album ***** The band’s best album and maybe the pinnacle of Prog Rock. Some may argue…I don’t care. ELP was never this good. Roundabout…Long Distance Runaround. Totally classic and made possible by Howe’s commercial sensibilities and guitar prowess. He comes into his own and is playing like a classical wizard possessed by the devil. Mood for a Day is a solo guitar extravaganza that is deceptively technical, while being extremely musical and emotionally beautiful. This is the kind of piece that makes any guitar and any player sound GREAT, if performed well.
With these first two albums in Yes Steve Howe became a very popular and influential guitarist, winning Best Player polls throughout the rest of the decade. His eclectic mix of influences and styles, excellent and precise execution and musical intelligence to create enduring and commercially accessible advanced guitar music has enabled him to be one of the premiere players of rock guitar.
MU The Best of Jethro Tull **** Another Prog band that was very popular in the 70s; many of these tunes got regular airplay on FM radio. I had the Aqualung and This Was albums a real long time ago and I also had this compilation, which I played the most by far. It includes the “hits” from 1969 through 1976: Aqualung, Fat Man, Bungle in the Jungle, Living in the Past, Thick as a Brick, Teacher, Nothing is Easy and the hard-rockin’ Locomotive Breath. I liked the sound of a lot of these tunes; great stoner music for sure, even though that would make Ian Anderson furrow his brow!
Although some of Tull’s stuff was a little too esoteric, they really knew how to get down to riffing and rocking when the situation warranted, which was OFTEN! Who hasn’t banged their head to Aqualung? “Skating Away”…is as beautiful as a dream and “Locomotive”, complete with great guitar/keyboard intro got about a million arena rockers completely pumped over the course of the 70s. Guitarist Martin Barre came up with many memorable guitar moments and brought a heavy classical vibe to arena rock that was sorely lacking. While I haven’t listened to the band in a long time, they definitely were a staple back in the arena rock days of yore!
Animals ****1/2 This isn’t The Floyd’s most popular album, but it is my personal favorite. The psychedelic pop sound of their early “Sid” Barrett-era releases and the ethereal progressive space rock of Dark Side of the Moon is totally absent. Instead there is Roger Waters; full of bile, bite, paranoia and musical domination…and I’m completely okay with that. While somewhat based on George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the record shows Waters’ anger at British Conservative politics and a society he felt was increasingly brutal (Dogs), manipulative and greedy (Pigs) and stupid (Sheep). Each of these animals comprise a 10 minute+ track on the album. There is a ton of guitar here and some is the best David Gilmour ever played. The outro solo on Pigs (Three Different Ones) is unlike anything he had done up to that point and while it may have been eclipsed later by the outro to Comfortably Numb, I still prefer the guitar frenzy of the former.
Gilmour’s Dogs is almost eighteen minutes long and is a guitar extravaganza. The acoustic guitar riff that the song is built on along with the acoustic Waters plays on the first and last song on the album give the disc a more organic and “now” feel compared with all of the effects (clock sounds, cash registers,) that are on other albums. Even today something like Dark Side of the Moon still sounds “futuristic, while Animals sounds “current”. The song Sheep also rocks like Floyd had never done with its insistent, chugging rhythm, slashing guitars, and rocked out vocals. Gilmour plays bass on this song as well as guitar (which he also does on Dogs) and the riff he does at the fade out is so cool even though it’s really just a simple upper register chord progression. Since Rogers plays rhythm guitar on this it might be him, but it sounds like a Gilmour part. He has built a career on making very simple, spacious, parts sound really bold, effective and memorable.
The three main pieces are bracketed by Waters’ Pigs on the Wing which two versions of the same hopeful, plaintive plea for love, sanity, help maybe? All of Waters’ lyrics on this record are very tight and hit like a roundhouse punch and combined with killer music and guitar work how can Animals be anything but a great album?
Blow by Blow ***** I list Blow by Blow in the “Rock” category, but does it really belong here? Where does Jeff Beck belong ultimately? That’s really the question of his whole career. He was already an established and respected guitar hero when he began laying tracks for this milestone album in 1974. An uncredited influence who plays a huge role in the shaping of this album is one of the giants of 1970s music, Stevie Wonder, who gave Beck 2 songs — Thelonius and ‘Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers, which Beck dedicated to fellow 6-string legend Roy Buchanan. This was and is the proverbial guitarist’s album and Beck set a very high bar for guitar technique in a decade that was chock-full of great players with great technique and execution.
What set Beck apart from others was his influences, his ears and how he used his hands in a multitude of ways to manipulate the sound that emerged from the instrument. This is evident on songs like ‘Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers which is the definitive feel song. Like trumpeter Miles Davis, who would do many things to coax emotive, human-voice quality sounds out of his horn, Beck is not just playing notes here. The same is true for the Beatles song She’s A Woman (with Talk Box effect) and the stellar Freeway Jam; bouncing, rollicking highway groove, beautiful theme, and intense Stratocaster whammy bar workout. Constipated Duck is one of my favorites just because it so funky! Great textured tones too! Beck plays echo stabs against the interesting harmonic changes. Scatterbrain is an ultra-fast picked workout that still serves as a concert favorite. The riff is a total finger-twister and is probably the only song, or one of the few that Beck bothers playing with a pick anymore. The funk is totally in the house with the lead off track, You Know What I Mean; many-layered guitars just riffing and snapping off each other as Beck builds energy and melody throughout the song. Things get beautifully symphonic for Diamond Dust which is ethereal and atmospheric as “rock” guitar music gets.
Brothers and Sisters **** The Allman Brothers had already achieved a high level of critical and popular acclaim by 1970, but the following year tragedy struck and then…a year later, struck again. Band leader and super guitarist Duane Allman and bassist Berry Oakley were killed in motorcycle accidents. Most bands would’ve crashed and disintegrated after such a heavy loss and the Allmans eventually would, but initially picked up the pieces and found new inspiration as guitarist Dickey Betts stepped into the role as band director. In the process the ABB moved in whole new direction — the rocked out country-style Ramblin’ Man, which became a mega-hit, and the instrumental jam favorite Jessica; an euphoric tune cooked up by Betts because of his influence from Django Reinhart. He set out to write a song that could be played with two fingers… and one of the premier guitar anthems of the 70s and 80s was born! The band didn’t abandon its blues roots as Betts’ other originals Southbound and Pony Boy, and Greg Allman’s tunes, Wasted Words and Come and Go Blues rounded out the album. There was also another song called Jelly, Jelly that I’ve never understood; the content or why it was on this otherwise pretty near perfect album.
The band added Chuck Leavell on keyboards and Lamar Williams on bass to replace the departed Allman and Oakley. Guitarist Les Dudek helped with the some of the guitar parts, playing some of the lead on Ramblin’ Man and some acoustic on Jessica. But this was the premier Dickey Betts album with his guitar figuring heavily in the sound and shape of the music and as a result of its success the band experienced the first of its many comebacks, becoming a concert and festival high-earner for the next few years.
Rocks **** In the early 70s a band crawled out of the gutters of New England, went on to become a favorite on the denim circuit, and achieved international superstardom with sobriety and comeback in the 80s-90s. While Toys in the Attic was Aerosmith’s breakout album, Rocks, from 1976, is a true classic. Even Kurt Cobain listed this album as a favorite and you know he hardly liked anything! Every song on Rocks is a mojo of a guitar workout and as hot and classic as this band ever got. They didn’t have the mystique or heaviness of Zeppelin or the sophisticated debauchery of The Rolling Stones, but they played no-bullshit riff rock and sang/spat out songs that their audience could understand and appreciate. Guitarists Joe Perry and Brad Whitford and bass player Tom Hamilton all brought some killer riffing, hooking and soloing to heady classics like Sick As a Dog, Combination, Rats in the Cellar, Lick and a Promise and Home Tonight (which sounds like it anticipates ballad-type Aerosmith of the 90s). Th guitar sounds are also completely brill…raunchy as all get out!
One of my favorite aspects of the band during these years was found in songs like Get the Lead Out, Last Child and Back in the Saddle (the riff played by Perry on a Fender Bass VI). They were white punks on dope playing arena funk music. Cool and chilly! This is why their collaboration with RUN DMC worked so well 10 years later. The sound of the album is also grand…all of the guitars and the drums are as big as TEXAS JAM ’78! I don’t really like much of the band post this record and think all of their latter-day stuff is especially lame, but Rocks is a total classic of the arena rock era.
Tres Hombres **** This was ZZ Top’s breakout record thanks to the radio hit La Grange, awesome playing and production, and the suave boogie they were born to play. Guitar King Billy Gibbons is all over the place with the blues riffing, the subtle fills, the sweet touch overdubs, the screaming rock bends, the tasteful phrasing, and the TONES! My goodness THE TONES! Whether you have the original vinyl or either of the remastered CDs, the guitar tones are many and they are incredibly good.
There is a very enjoyable variety to the disc, yet it never leaves the roots of blues rock n’ roll. There are straight ahead drivers like Move Me on Down the Line and Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers, blues-riff workouts like Waitin’ For the Bus, Jesus Just Left Chicago and La Grange, or storytellin’, testifyin’ blasts of wonder like Master of Sparks and Sheik. Even the two stabs at gospel-influenced ballads, Have You Heard and Hot Blue and Righteous sound like just another slice of Texas living. Any would-be guitar player can learn a lot from listening not only to how the band makes simple things sound really huge and complex, but also how Mr. Gibbons formed a guitar style that has become an institution of taste, style and coolness!
Prounounced Lynyrd Skynyrd **** The extremely impressive debut from one of the best bands of the 70s, Pronounced, set a new standard for a new style of music, perfectly suited to the decade called Southern Rock. While many give credit to the Allman Brothers Band as the originators of the genre, it was this record, the definitive 70s tune Freebird, complete with apocalyptic closing solo, and a band that mostly included 3 lead guitarists, that really kicked the Southern Rock game into overdrive. By the end of the decade there would be many bands from below the Mason-Dixon with their own “Freebird”, fired by guitar pickers who could light up theaters and arenas everywhere the road took them.
The rest of the album is just as impressive. I Ain’t the One with its impressive Gary Rossington and Allen Collins riffing and soulful vocals provided by band leader Ronnie Van Zant is the song that convinced rock guru/producer Al Kooper to sign them. As has been documented many times and in many places the band and guitar players worked their arrangements until the riffs, solos, and harmonized lead lines were tight and focused chunks of pure rock slab. While they might have been lacking in the improvisation department, they never wanted for energy, emotion, and the drive to be the best band on the planet. Gimme Three Steps, Tuesday’s Gone, Simple Man, and Poison Whiskey, along with Freebird, would prove to be a very successful template of future musical and lyrical style that led to chart-topping success and a white-hot live show.
Boston **** While Boston was certainly a fun, popular and hugely influential band and album of the time, it was never a personal favorite. I was also never a fan of the guitar sound even though Boston leader Tom Scholz was and is a guitar and electronics wunderkind. The band’s eponymous debut is as good as they ever got and it’s just packed with memorable songs…so much so that it sounds like the band’s greatest hits album. Believe it or not I can still remember the day the band’s follow-up, Don’t Look Back was released and how much of a disappointment that was compared to the unbridled hysteria this album produced in RAWK kids of the time. Everyone’s reaction was, “Well…it sounds exactly like the first album!” Yes that was the Boston sound alright!
Many credit this album with bridging the gap between heavy progressive rock and pop hits (although there were quite a few bands who developed this formula during the 70s) and all of the “hits” from the album have this flavor especially Foreplay/Long Time. Other tunes that were driven by the future Rockman guitar sound included Rock and Roll Band, Smokin’, Peace of Mind, and the mega-mega-hit More Than a Feeling (which totally does not sound like Smells Like Teen Spirit you guys!). 40+ years later most of the tunes on this album are still classic rock favorites and the band would certainly have to be part of any comprehensive soundtrack from the decade.
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars ***** A completely grand concept album, Ziggy…was actually the culmination and progression of a few years of work and a few albums by the team of David Bowie, Mick Ronson, Trevor Boulder, Mick Woodmansey and Tony Visconti. The Ziggy “show” was an elaborate production of fashion, costume, make-up, theatrical lighting, showmanship and heavy rock mixed with textured acoustic and cocktail kitsch all devoted to the story of a space-age rock star. It was a very successful production and created brought an entirely new dynamic to pop and rock music. It also (along with Marc Bolan, Sweet and a few others) led to the creation of Glam Rock.
While Ziggy was definitely Bowie’s vision (inspired somewhat by Japan, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop), guitarist Mick Ronson was instrumental in bringing the vision to life, not only through his pyrotechnic guitar, but also his production capabilities, including scoring music for string and brass. Ronson and the Spiders made the first great Bowie albums and for many this is the classic era. Though David would go on to much bigger international success and work with some great musicians, he would never rock as hard again and there would never be a guitar presence that quite lived up to the one Mick Ronson created. The best music from the album: Moonage Daydream, Suffragette City, Rock and Roll Suicide, Hang On to Yourself, and Starman all contain great guitar parts that captured the public’s imagination and made Bowie the star he always wanted to be.
Alladin Sane **** The follow-up to Ziggy was also a very successful album and contained a boatload of great musical performances including, the dense and inscrutable title cut, the Stones-y Watch that Man, Ronson guitar workouts par-excellanté Panic in Detroit, Cracked Actor, The Prettiest Star, the Jeff Beck channeled-Jean Genie… and the very beautiful, very cinematic Lady Grinning Soul. This amazing song is the album closer and it contains not only Bowie’s highest sung note on record, but also a very tasty Ronson Spanish-guitar solo over a very interesting harmonic structure.
It’s not all good though…the Rolling Stones cover Let’s Spend the Night Together is just dumb and Time is totally overwrought and not in a good way. The other lame tune, Drive in Saturday, illustrated something that has long bugged me about Bowie. He was feted as a songwriting genius even though many times he didn’t effectively communicate his ideas. Look up what Drive in Saturday is “supposed” to mean and then listen to it and see if you hear the meaning. I don’t…and if the songwriter has to explain it during interviews…well…you lose a star at The Guitar Cave. We’re hardliners here!
Frampton Comes Alive **** The most successful album of 1976 was a double, live, album recorded by a virtual unknown named Peter Frampton. After he honed his chops in Herd and Humble Pie, he was cruising along as a hot British guitar hero solo artist when the kind of success that kills people came along and…uh nearly killed him. At the time many felt it was the “pop” aspects that sold the album, but Peter was always a really tasty guitar player and the tour de force moments on this whole lotta music are many indeed. Sure it is known for the hit Baby I Love Your Way, and Les Paul guitar classics Show Me the Way, and Do You Feel Like We Do? But there were other very bright moments on the album including Shine On, Lines On My Face, I Wanna Go to the Sun and a hot cover of Jumpin’ Jack Flash.
Frampton was another in the vein of Boston and Bowie who brought hard rock to the top of the pop charts and in the process he made loud rockin’ guitar soloing and a little device called the Talkbox, completely respectable. Unfortunately he would never come close to repeating the success he had with this record, but it will forever stand as a testament to great playing and phenomenal alignment of the planets.
The Ramones ***** Is the first Ramones album a fun experience? You bet. It was so good I went through a few copies and you know you like an album if you buy it once, but if you buy it more than once. Not only was this a great record, it helped launch a whole new style of music and a movement called Punk Rock. The record is loud, fast, hard, and no-frills. The band is in, on, and out on every tune and there is no messing about. That kind of zero bullshit approach earned them eternal love from about 3 generations of music fans and critics alike.
Some of the very first songs I ever played on guitar came from this record…’cause they were fun and easy. They have become punk rock classics, but at the time they were just Ramones’ songs: Blitzkrieg Bop, Beat On the Brat, Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue, Judy is a Punk, Chain Saw, and I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend. These tunes were all classic sounds of a bygone rock and roll era: turned up, sped up and spat out. In addition to the musical assault, lyrically it was the first record I heard where it sounded like the band was just making up stupid shit and calling it lyrics because it sounded cool and went with the song. That irreverence was always my favorite quality of punk rock music. My second favorite quality was that it created a whole new window of expression for young people that would eventually lead to big changes in the music business that were completely necessary.
Nevermind the Bollocks ***** One of the greatest albums ever made and a great no-fucking about guitar disc if there ever was one. I don’t even care if the Sex Pistols were the punk rock Monkees, because most of those punk rock pretensions (that I didn’t know about when I was 19 and bouncing off the walls to this disc) were always really dumb anyhow. The band’s execution of their brand of music makes for a very singular and consistent performance on this disc; no one else sounded like this in 1976, but MANY people would sound like this by the early 80s. Great tunes include Holidays in the Sun, No Feelings, Bodies, Anarchy in the UK, EMI, God Save the Queen, and Pretty Vacant.
Steve Jones guitar style was revved-up torque-out Chuck Berry riffing and soloing with a touch of classic British rock thrown. As with the Ramones, some of these tunes like “Anarchy” and “Holidays” were the first ever anthems I played and they were great fun to crank out on the guitar. They also served as easy tunes that a band could form around because no one had to be a virtuoso and since everyone was playing as loud and as fast as possible, great fun was had. Jones (along with Johnny Ramone) probably got as many youngsters in bands as Van Halen through the 1980s and though the Pistols career was short, they cast an immense shadow on everything that came after.
Van Halen 1 ***** While there were many great guitar moments throughout the 1970s, it may be the previously mentioned Ramones album and Van Halen 1 would go on to be the most influential discs for the following decade. Edward Van Halen’s virtuosity changed the whole idea of what rock guitar was, created a new image of the guitar hero, got a whole new generation of people interested in playing wild, crazy and highly technical rock guitar, and helped initiate the modern guitar education industry. While it is kind of sad that he transcended his I play in a party band image or developed into an artist of any sort, Edward’s jazz and classical influences brought out his awesome abilities on guitar, and later keyboard and this quickly became the stuff everyone wanted to do.
There isn’t a bad song on this disc because, in addition to the guitar phenom, Van Halen 1 was a very well-written and well-arranged affair that was the result of years of practice and gigging in the LA clubs. It was also prior to the ego problem that would later plague the band, especially when EVH started listening to his own press, which definitely happened. Prior to that, tremendous guitar anthems like Running with the Devil, Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love, On Fire, Atomic Punk, I’m the One, and Feel Your Love Tonight not only had the tight musicality of a great rhythm section, incredible guitar work, and a very personable frontman who toasted the endless fun of partying, rock and roll, women, and more good times. Everyone knew Van Halen wasn’t going to save the whales or whatever, but one could have a great time at their concerts and “Wow…doesn’t EVH play amazing guitar!”
Two covers, the Kinks You Really Got Me and the old John Brim blues number Ice Cream Man, were also the best the band ever brought to the recording studio and Van Halen showed everyone how to really kick and old song up by 2-3 notches. EVH’s solo on Ice Cream Man, with its fast picking and finger stretches that work from the 12th to the 19th fret across multiple strings, was another “Nobody’s ever done that before” moment. Jamie’s Cryin’ and Little Dreamer showed that the band could play pop/rock/ballads if they wanted to and was the beginning of the 1980s pop-metal/hair metal genre. Although Fair Warning, 1984, and to a less extent 5150 would be further milestones in the Van Halen career, neither the band or the guitar player would never match the tight perfection of this album.