A Salute to Eddie Van Halen

The world has lost one of the greatest guitar players of all-time with the death of Eddie Van Halen. Gone too soon at the age of 65, the loss of such a giant is undoubtedly saddening. But more than anything it makes me want to appreciate and celebrate the amazing music he helped bring into the world. Van Halen was one of the first rock bands my parents ever introduced to me, as I still remember my dad buying me The Best of Both Worlds as my formal introduction to the band. I played the absolute shit out of this CD set and it was a big part of what made me such a huge fan of rock at an early age.

If you were to ask me of what I think of when I think of Eddie Van Halen, there are two epic moments from him on guitar that come to mind. The first is “Eruption.” It is one of the greatest instrumental songs and one of the greatest guitar solos of all-time. It also popularized the guitar playing technique of tapping. Anyone who has ever learned guitar knows that this one of the most difficult songs of all-time because like Van Halen’s hero Jimi Hendrix, Van Halen is doing stuff on this song that most guitarists simply can’t do. It’s equal parts humbling and amazing, whether you’re a casual amateur like me or any of the professional guitarists in bands across all genres that Eddie Van Halen inspired through his work.

I mean just watch this and you’ll become mesmerized by the sheer display of excellency:

If you asked me what rock music is, this is one of the videos I would point at and say this. This is rock music. Innovation and brilliance like this rarely comes around. What’s insane is Van Halen said he messed up in the recorded version and could have did better! Van Halen said this of the recording: “I didn’t even play it right. There’s a mistake at the top end of it. To this day, whenever I hear it, I always think, ‘Man, I could’ve played it better.'”

The second iconic moment I think of when I think of Eddie Van Halen is his guitar solo on Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” It was legendary producer Quincy Jones who prompted Jackson to include a rock song on one of the all-time greatest pop albums in Thriller and suggested that Van Halen do a guitar solo for the song.

When recording the solo, the sound of the guitar caused the monitor speaker in the room to catch on fire. As the team of people who made Thriller recall in the moment in the video below, they all said the solo must be pretty damn good! And I couldn’t agree more!

While this is a legendary story known by many in rock circles, what a lot people may not know or forget is Eddie Van Halen insisted on doing the solo free of charge. When asked why, he said this: “I did it as a favor. I was a complete fool, according to the rest of the band, our manager and everyone else. I was not used. I knew what I was doing – I don’t do something unless I want to do it.”

“I don’t do something unless I want to do it.” To me that final part of the quote could not better sum up Eddie Van Halen. He was an absolutely legendary artist who played by nobody else’s rules or intentions. Van Halen did what he wanted to do it throughout his entire career and he did it damn well. You can’t get any more badass rock and roll than that.

There are many guitar icons throughout history that have left us. Berry. Hendrix. Vaughan. Prince. And now Van Halen. But once you hear an Eddie Van Halen solo, you’ll never forget him. Rock on Eddie and thank you for the music and inspiration!

Album Review – Brad Paisley’s Moonshine in the Trunk

Let’s get something straight right out front before I even begin this review: Brad Paisley is no longer one of the “good guys” of mainstream country music. We’ve all kind of known this for a while with his albums getting progressively worse and his single “River Bank” being a huge disappointment. Moonshine in the Trunk cements this fact. He already warned us months ago that this album will feature the adaptation of “the modern technology of EDM and dubstep to the classic country formula.” To add more embarrassment on top of more embarrassment, Paisley has also been engaging in one of the worst marketing ploys I’ve seen an artist engage in a good while. For the last few months he’s been “leaking” songs off the album and pretending to be fighting his record label over this poor stunt. Here’s a taste of what’s been happening on his Twitter feed:

The only country music outlet that has pointed out that this is nothing but a dumb marketing tactic is Trigger at Saving Country Music. Every other country outlet has eaten this up to be legit and real. I better stop now before I get on a real roll. Let’s get to Moonshine in the Trunk

The Best Songs on the Album

Well there aren’t many, but a few nonetheless that are decent on this album. The album’s title track is a fun song about driving around like you have moonshine in the back of the car and dropping references to how NASCAR got their start running moonshine and Uncle Jesse of Dukes of Hazzard is mentioned in the chorus. There’s a lot of electric guitar in this song, which makes “Moonshine in the Trunk” more rock than country. There are several clichés mentioned in this song, but it’s hard to hate it. It’s also one of the better written songs on the album (I’ll explain this more later in the review). This song is then followed by the second good song on the album, “Shattered Glass.” It’s about a man watching his daughter growing up and achieving lots of success in life. The shattered glass is her shattering the glass ceiling, a term used a lot in the business world for women who achieve high ranking positions. This song has a nice, subtle message about feminism and women being able to achieve whatever they want to achieve. Kind of ironic considering Paisley is part of a genre that suppresses female artists and barely give any chance to shine. I think this song would sound better coming from a female artist.

The only other song on the album that I would classify as “good” would be the bonus track “Me and Jesus.” It’s the one spot on the album where you get a glimpse into the old Brad Paisley sound. It’s a pure country song with acoustic instruments and no electronic machines to alter the sound. You actually get to hear Paisley’s voice. Yes, the lyrics are dead simple and not creative. But at least it sounds like it’s coming from the heart and not meant to play in a Walmart commercial. Speaking of commercial songs…

The Worst Songs on the Album 

If I sound repetitive in my criticisms, that’s because I’m only matching the album’s overall repetitiveness. If you repeat a problem over and over, I’m going to keep pointing it out over and over again. The album opens with “Crushin’ It,” a bro country song about crushing beer cans. This is a perfect example of Paisley desperately chasing the popular trend in an attempt to stay relevant. The song isn’t horribly offensive, but rather boring and vanilla. And then of course he drops this line in the song: “But like the great George freaking Strait I’m the king of getting unwound.” Ugh. This song tries to be dumb fun and instead it’s just dumb. I already talked about how bad “River Bank” is and you can see that full review by clicking here. “Perfect Storm” is a classy form of a bro country song (if that is possible). The song compares a woman to a good drink right from the start and then women are compared to a mix tape. Is this the 1980s? Who the hell makes mix tapes still? The lyrics aren’t too immature, but there’s a bro air surrounding them.

Gaining money through no so proud ways is the topic in “High Life.” No, Brad Paisley does not mention prostitution in this song, but he’s might as well had because that’s what he’s doing for Chick fil A in this song. The song is already bad enough with the awkward theme (celebrating getting inheritance after the death of your father doesn’t seem like it’s in good taste), but then there’s the name dropping of Chick fil A after the mother in the song slips in front of one and sues the franchise. Carrie Underwood lends her pipes for the background vocals in this song, which I guess is Paisley’s way of helping a female country artist shatter glass in the genre. Instead of making another emotionally stirring duet like “Remind Me,” they decide to have her do background vocals and then engage in a conversation with Paisley at the end of the song as they discuss how much they love Chick fil A’s waffle fries. Expect this to make a commercial for the restaurant quite soon.

“You Shouldn’t Have To” is the most pointless song on the album. The lyrics are so boring and the theme is apparently doing things you shouldn’t have to do. You could put two pigs in a room with a typewriter and they could come up with a more interesting song. “Cover Girl” features boring lyrics again. It’s a song about a girl being worthy of being a cover girl for a magazine. Dear lord. Paisley makes a song that’s perfect for a PSA about how great America is in “American Flag on the Moon.” It even has a children’s choir at the end of the song. It’s the same old shit, different album for Paisley.

Now let’s talk about the worst song on the album, which is “4WP.” Those initials stand for four wheel parked. No joke. The song opens with a lame imitation of the opener for Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher.” You then get to hear that new sound Paisley warned you about, as it’s front and center in this song. Instruments are put through stutter step machines and make for horrible sounds. The song also goes full bro country with it’s lyrics (never do this). Going parking with a girl on a dirt road is mentioned in this song. What an horrendous song!

The Rest of the Album

“Limes” is a song about making margaritas and once again has shallow lyrics. But what saves it from being a bad song is the solid electric guitar and piano play. “Gone Green” is a pure sounding country song complete with acoustic guitars, banjos and some harmonica play. Once again poor lyrics ruin a Paisley song though. It’s about going green, whether that’s buying an electric guitar or powering your house with solar power. The theme is well intentioned, but it sounds too much like a PSA song for one of the major car manufacturers green car commercials. Paisley also takes a veiled shot at coal, which is perplexing considering he comes from West Virginia, a state that heavily relies on the coal industry for it’s economy. Paisley’s friends in LA and Nashville may have gone green, but his friends and family back home still rely on coal for their lively hood. “Country Nation” is a laundry list song that name checks Chevy, Ford, small towns, cranking the radio loud and name dropping several major college football teams. I guarantee it was created for the sole reason to play in bumpers on ESPN during college football season. It isn’t bad, but it’s so commercial.

Overall Thoughts

Three reason why this album is mostly bad: poor lyrics, too commercial and bad instrumentation. I feel like I’ve outgrown this dumbed down form of country music. Most people progress as their career moves forward, but Paisley has slowly regressed with each album. He was once smart and witty with his songs, but now he’s just a big kid with 5th grade lyrics and overrated guitar play. EDM influences flare up throughout as he promised they would, but it’s just the same old Paisley schtick right behind these overproduced sounds. The songwriting on this song irritated me more than the EDM. Paisley had a hand in writing each song except “Gone Green.” Perhaps it’s time he stops writing songs because he appears to be out of fresh and creative ideas. There are plenty of talented songwriters with fantastic songs just sitting on the shelf waiting to be picked up. So Mr. Paisley if you are reading this here is my advice: Go back to your roots. Make classic country again. Get the best songwriters in Nashville to write your music. This album will either be an anomaly in Paisley’s career or mark his downfall. Moonshine in the Trunk is a major disappointment and is easily the worst album Paisley has ever produced.

Grade: 4/10