Every band that has been around for a while and released great records runs into this debate; what is their greatest album? The greatest album is…is a column dedicated to tackling that age old question. What is the greatest album recorded by Van Halen? Join with us now as the question is answered and arguments are made that the greatest Van Halen album is Women And Children First.
After releasing one of the greatest debut records in rock and roll history and following it up with an exciting, yet not as spectacular, sophomore effort, Van Halen had a lot riding on their third release. So when the band decided that they weren’t going to produce more of the same, I’m sure that certain record executives got nervous. Fortunately for the fans, Van Halen did not let that hold them back. Decidedly different and amazingly original, Van Halen’s third release, Women And Children First, is a masterpiece in its own right.
Almost any casual fan of the band would certainly pick a different record for the greatest album Van Halen has ever recorded. Most diehard fans would have a tough time debating between the eponymous first record and the last (until recently) with David Lee Roth at the vocal helm, 1984. And while strong arguments could be made for either of those records, it is Women And Children First that rises above all other Van Halen releases to take the title of the greatest album in their vast catalog.
By the time the band recorded Women And Children First they were road tested and battle worthy. They had released two records, were more in tune with the process, and arriving at the peak of their creativity. They also weren’t afraid to take chances. There was nothing that was going to hold them back and the music was much deeper and thought out because of that.
The record opens with the mystifyingly unique sound of a Wurlitzer being phased through an amp, that most fans always believed was Eddie Van Halen working some new magic on his guitar. And based on what he already achieved to that point, it is completely understandable why people felt that way. Openings aside, “And The Cradle Will Rock…” is an amazing song from start to finish that thrust a new light on the band, moving them in directions they had not gone before, both musically and lyrically. While past albums focused on women, booze, and rocking, Women And Children First showed the world a new side of Van Halen, delving into family life, emotional stratospheres, and darker components of the world.
“Everybody Wants Some!!” pushes the limits even further and rallies for the title of best Van Halen song ever recorded. From the opening pounding of the tom toms by Alex Van Halen, the cheetah screeching by David Lee Roth, the thumping bass from Michael Anthony, and the crackle of the guitar in the always amazing Eddie Van Halen’s hands, “Everybody Wants Some” is pure musical bliss. It is an absolutely flawless song that could never be duplicated. “Everybody Wants Some!!” is one of a kind.
Women And Children First found David Lee Roth really coming into his own persona. His scats on the vocals for “Fools” and delightful howls on “Everybody Wants Some!!” continue on several of the other album tracks. On prior albums, this version of Roth wasn’t as evident, and for the most part, was practically nonexistent. Yet, on Women And Children First David Lee Roth lets his freak scat fly---and the world of music becomes much better off because of it.
There is also the often overlooked gem of “Could This Be Magic?,” the first all acoustic number that Van Halen recorded, and for some reason has pretty much forgotten exists ever since. “Could This Be Magic?” is a fantastic song that deserves more attention than it has ever had. A harmonious blend of acoustic bliss and delightful vocals, “Could This Be Magic?” is one of the most vastly underrated songs in the entire Van Halen catalog.
What truly makes Women And Children First worthy of the title of greatest Van Halen album is the originality which is contained on the record. Songs like “Loss Of Control,” “Could This Be Magic?” and even “And The Cradle Will Rock…” may not have been attempted by an earlier incarnation of the band, and certainly wouldn’t even be dreamed about in today’s version of Van Halen. Women And Children First is probably the only place that a fan can find that much originality and brilliant creativity.
There has never been another Van Halen record like it, and there probably never will be. If the band were to take this entire album out on their next tour, it would almost guarantee sellouts at every stop. The greatest album is… Women And Children First.
Produced By: Ted Templeman
Release Date: March 26, 1980
RIAA Sales: 3x platinum
Peak Position On Billboard Chart: 6
Nicolette Larson sang backing vocals on “Could This Be Magic?”
And The Cradle Will Rock…
And The Cradle Will Rock…
Everybody Wants Some!!
Loss Of Control
Take Your Whiskey Home
Could This Be Magic?
In A Simple Rhyme
David Lee Roth – Vocals
Eddie Van Halen – Guitars
Michael Anthony – Bass
Alex Van Halen - Drums