36. Van Halen, 'Women and Children First' (1980)
With a high-powered electric piano, a hearty serving of pyrotechnic guitar and David Lee Roth's lighthearted snark ("Have you seen junior's grades?") on lead track "And the Cradle Will Rock … ," Van Halen introduced an amplified take on their trademark party-metal aesthetic on Women and Children First. The band, whose Eddie Van Halen originally wanted to name the group after Black Sabbath's "Rat Salad," had first appeared as usurpers to Sabbath's throne in 1978 when they opened up for the metal progenitors on tour, nimbly going lick for lick with their forebears on heavy hitters like "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" and Eddie's stunning "Eruption" solo, which inspired generations of young guitarists to shred. By 1980, they were headlining arenas with a harder, more metallic sound – without losing any of their looseness. "The music has grown and evolved but it hasn't matured," Roth said in a promotional interview for the LP. Women and Children First was Van Halen's heaviest album at the time, thanks to the tribal drumming and guitar noise of "Everybody Wants Some!!"; the bass-heavy plunder of "Fools" and interlude "Tora! Tora!"; the technical guitar chugging of "Romeo Delight" and "Loss of Control"; and Eddie's unabashed guitar expressionism on "Take Your Whiskey Home," amid a few lighter, acoustic moments. Throughout, Roth, rock's greatest jester, hoots, hollers, scats and squeals – something he'd scale back slightly on the group's next LP, the typically darker Fair Warning. It all culminates with "In a Simple Rhyme," a multi-movement track that contains the best of everything Van Halen offered in their early years – flashy guitar, softer moments and metal riffs, and Roth's brilliant narration of his everyman spirit ("Ain't love grand when you finally hit it?/I'm always a sucker for a real good time"), which perfectly set up the freewheeling ethos of mainstream metal in the Eighties. K.G.