Just as we all have our favorite Van Halen albums, it should come as no surprise that Wolfgang Van Halen – Mammoth WVH frontman and son of late electric guitar icon Eddie Van Halen – also has his own most-loved Van Halen record.
In fact, there are two in particular that Wolfgang likes so much he included them in his list of “11 albums that changed my life” – 1981’s Fair Warning and 1995’s Balance.
Wolfgang prefaced the list – disclosed to Classic Rock (opens in new tab) – with the admission that Van Halen’s music “can’t be ignored in my upbringing and influence”, and that he’s “lived and breathed” the band his whole life.
“I don't think you can fully represent what Van Halen is without looking at both the Roth era and the Hagar era,” Wolfgang states, before revealing his first favorite Van Halen album to be Fair Warning.
“Fair Warning, the Roth-era album, is a very special album to me,” he said. “It was an album where my dad just said, ‘Fuck it,’ and did what he wanted. I think that’s why it’s a cult classic – it was never really a huge album compared to the others.”
It’s his father’s devil-may-care attitude to the guitar on Fair Warning that resonates with Wolfgang so much. Indeed, in his own words, it’s seen by the Mammoth WVH man as a “really important” installment to the Van Halen discography “because it’s where dad just went hard”.
“It’s so quick,” he also observed. “It goes by in 36 minutes or something, but it just makes you want to start it again. It's such a great, dark, fun album that I think it gets overlooked.”
As for the Hagar era, Van Halen singled out Balance for its nostalgic and sonic properties, dubbing it arguably “the best-sounding Hagar album, maybe the best-sounding Van Halen”.
“Balance was the album that meant a lot to me,” Wolfgang continued. “Technically I was alive for [1991’s] For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, but Balance was the one that I kind of remember being around when it was happening. You could argue that For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge was a better album, but Balance, for me, means more.
“It's more of a nostalgic thing. Sonically, it's a phenomenal-sounding album – it sounds incredible.”
Again, the guitar playing was key to informing the decision, with Wolfgang suggesting that “some of the most beautiful melodies [Eddie Van Halen's] ever written” can be found on Balance.
“The Hagar era shows another side of my father's playing as well,” he continued. “I like how he leaned more into the melodic stuff – some of the most beautiful melodies he's ever written have been in the Hagar era with things like Dreams or the song Not Enough from Balance. But then I love all of the Van Halen albums.”
Elsewhere, Wolfgang Van Halen’s list of 11 life-changing albums also features AC/DC’s Highway To Hell, The Beatles’ Abbey Road, Porcupine Tree’s Deadwing and Blink-182’s Enema of the State.