Before The Eruption (The Godfatherecords G.R.705/706)
Disc 1 Tracks 2-11 Gene Simmons Demos recorded at Village Recorder Studios in Los Angeles and Electric Ladyland Studios in New York May 1976.
Disc 1 Tracks 12-24 Disc 2 Tracks 1-12 are from the 1977 demo produced by Ted Templeman and Mo Ostin for Warner Bros. in Los Angeles late 1977.
Disc 2 Tracks 13-16 are unused sessions and alternate takes.
Disc 2 Tracks 17-21 are rehearsals from Pasadena, Ca. USA Convention Center October 15, 1977
Disc 1 (77:48) Intro, On Fire, Woman In Love, House Of Pain, Runnini’ With The Devil, She’s The Woman, Let’s Get Rockin’, Big Trouble, Somebody Get Me A Doctor, Babe, Don’t Leave Me Alone, Put Out The Lights, Let’s Get Rockin’, We Die Bold, Voodoo Queen, Little Dreamer, House Of Pain, Runnin’ With The Devil, On Fire, Babe Don’t Leave Me Alone, Bring On The Girls, Young & Wild, Last Night, Light Up The Sky, Get The Show On The Road
Disc 2 ( D.O.A., Somebody Get Me A Doctor, Show Your Love, She’s The Woman, Put Out The Lights, Big Trouble, I Wanna Be Your Lover, Feel Your Love Tonight, In A Simple Rhyme, Piece Of Mind, You Really Got Me, Happy Trails, Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love, House Of Pain, Runnin’ With The Devil, On Fire, On Fire, Voodoo Queen, Atomic Punk, Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love, On Fire
With the upcoming release of a new Van Halen record, the first with David Lee Roth since 1984, Godfathers takes us back to the pre record deal days of the mid 70’s when the band was playing the clubs of California and any where else they could and would eventually catch the eye of one Mr. Gene Simmons of KISS fame.
He recorded a set of demos and tried to shop them around but since KISS was at the height of their popularity could not give the band the attention they deserved. Enter Warner Brothers and another batch of demos produced by Ted Templeman and so the rest would be as they say history.
The bulk of the set comes from a homemade label named S.T.O.H. Production who gathered both demos in superb quality back in 2004 called Complete Zero and it quickly made the rounds in the collecting community, I got my first taste of this via a popular torrent site and who could resist as this is the stuff dreams are made of.
The interesting thing about the set is how much original music the band had in their catalog by this point, most of the songs have seen release of official Van Halen records in form or another and is a testament to their talent as musicians and song writers.
The first disc begins with an Asian interviewer asking about the future of rock…..Dave answers in Dave fashion saying Van Halen is the future of Rock in America and for the world……and we begin with the Simmons Demo.
On Fire was a staple back then and is pretty much similar to the version on VH, all the vocals and harmonies are there and a slightly different vocal delivery from Dave. Women in Love is not the song from VHII but a typical sounding song with a 70’s rock feel but with some great back up vocals from Mike Anthony and Eddie. House of Pain was a live staple but with different lyrics and slightly different arrangements but the main riff and feel is there and there is some effects that would be at the start of Runnin’ With The Devil on the first record. Speaking of Runnin’ the version here is again slightly different to the one we all know and love but is pretty much together lyrically but Dave sounds a little subdued in this version and there is more of the chorus in the song. She’s The Woman is a title that should be familiar as the band have re worked it for their new record. It has a great riff and vibe with great bass and a piece of the guitar solo from Mean Street. Let’s Get Rockin’ is fast paced style song with some horrid lyrics (Bettie Lou ?) and full of the trademark backing vocals that was an important part of the bands sound, cool solo that sounds a little like Hot For Teacher (at the beginning). Big Trouble is a gem, that was apparently considered for both the Diver Down record where it would have fit perfectly but sounds for sophisticated than some of the other unreleased songs…very catchy.
Somebody Get Me A Doctor is what you would expect…heavy as hell. It has a different intro before the familiar riff explodes that kind of slows the song down for me. It is similar to the live versions from the mid 70’s and is pretty much all there lyrically and musically, this versions sounds like it has a hint of UFO to me.
Babe, Don’t Leave Me Alone is song that was a regular on the live set list and performed into 1978 but never made it on a record, good song but would not have fit on the earlier records, supposedly about a girl who but was getting to big. Put Out The Lights is another un released song that sounds very similar to Babe Don’t Leave Me Alone, average lyric and not a lot going on. The quality on the Simmons demos is superb and the light mastering Godfathers used is spot on and sounds great loud.
The Warner Bros Demos are very good but sound more like demos and not as crisp as the Simmons version but could be a case of tape generation.
Let’s Get Rockin’ sounds a little faster and more confident that the Simmons demo but has the same lyrics, there is some great bass playing on this version also. We Die Bold sounds like it would have fit on Fair Warning, also know as We Die Young and features some nice playing from Eddie. Voodoo Queen is an early version of Mean Street with completely different lyrics, Dave has cool howling type whooping vocals that gives the song a jungle feel. Little Dreamer is very similar to the VH version, same cool riff and lyrics, great harmonizing vocals give it the haunting feel…..Dave ends the song with “Are You Experienced?” .
House of Pain has a heavier feel over the Simmons demo and at times Dave seems to growl the lyrics.
This version of Runnin sounds again more confident and closer to the VH version, thankfully a lot less chorus. On Fire has some cool Eddie guitar over the familiar version, kind of a whammy bar tremlbo thing going on, again the band is honing the song closer to the VH one and features Dave and Michael doing some wailing. Bring on The girls is an early take on Beautiful Girls from VHII, the music and some of the lyrics are pretty much there and even though it would ultimately need more work the feel of the song is the same.
Young And Wild was written by Kim Fowley & Stephen Tetsch and was covered by The Runaways, this is the Van Halen take on it, slightly re worked. Last Night is an early version of Hang En High with different lyrics but pretty much in tact, nice and fast an one of Eddies funner riffs with a fast boogie style, good stuff.
Light In The Sky, another unreleased song but is not a take on the similarly title song from VHII it has a slow beginning that reminds me of something from Judas Priest’s Sin After Sin, but never really rocks but keeps with a mellower feel. Get The Show On The Road features some snippets of Romeo’s Delight from the excellent Women and Children, both musically and lyrically.
The second disc continues the Warner Demos starting with D.O.A., musically it is very similar to the VHII version but with some different lyrics and as is with their best work the song is very together and shines.
Somebody Get Me A Doctor is similar to the Simmons demo and while in need of refinement it has the more aggressive vocals, both lead and harmony. Show Your Love is the same thing as I’m The One from the debut record, it is pretty much complete and has all the great Eddie playing, lots of soloing and it is fantastic.
Another take on She’s The woman is next, again more confident sounding with Dave hitting a stride vocally with the song, it has a catchy feel but this version lacks the Mean Street segment heard on the Simmons demo. I Wanna Be Your Lover has a Women and Children First feel to it but fails to really start the fire so to speak. Feel Your Love Tonight is very similar to the VH version, there are some tape problems and song fluctuates in sound. In A Simple Rhyme is a song that dates back to the very early days when the band was know as Mammoth and they did a demo referred to as the Cherokee Demo. As legend has it was given to Michael Anthony to learn the bass parts when he first joined the group. This song would eventually appear on the Women and Children First record, the music would still need to be refined and the lyrics changed but this is a great early version. Piece Of Mind is an unreleased song that never really gets off the ground IMO, it has a nice solo but just fails to excite. A cool demo of the classic song by the Kinks and mastered by VH, the version is loose and Dave misses the beginning to the second verse but the song has such great vide it only adds to the character. Happy Trails is and early version of the Diver Down classic, the band played all they had save for this acapella version, very loose and fun, a great way to close the Warner Demos.
The next four songs are uptakes or unused sessions beginning with Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love, The song has a live feel to it and sounds as if it could be a rehearsal, the song is very similar to live versions from the late 77 to 78. House Of Pain sounds like a working version that Eddie is trying out his solos on, the track is intact but sounds like he is playing over it. The last five tracks are from the rehearsals at the Pasadena Civic where the band played later that night in which a SB source exists and was pressed on vinyl under the title Atomic Punks Maniac Guitar Records EN-6372 and subsequently copied many times on both vinyl and compact disc. The first three songs are instrumentals and the final two have vocals but the quality is merely average and nothing like the evenings show (the show was originally dated 12/20/77 but the show was confirmed to have been from October of 1977).
I am sure some may ask why release these since they have been available for some time of CD-R, for me these are an important piece of Van Halen’s legacy and deserve to have a deluxe treatment. Since the band has not given us anything in regards to this kind of material via the remasters or a box set, this material should be considered essential and is great to have in one set, beautifully packaged in the typical Godfathers tri fold cover, the inside picture of the band on roller skates is great, Roth looks to be levitating !
A great release and easily recommended.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)