No Sheep Allowed
[Warner Bros - 1982]
Much-maligned by the band's titular siblings—despite the presence of their beloved dad, the late Jan Van Halen, playing clarinet on “Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)”—the existence of this album was not just a fluke but also another reminder of a time in which major labels exerted undue pressure on their artists, even the multi-platinum selling ones.
Coming off the Fair Warning tour, the band was in real need of a break but wanted to keep their fans engaged, so they released "(Oh) Pretty Woman" as a one-off single in early 1982. But when their cover of the Roy Orbison classic blew up the charts, Warner Bros. smelled blood in the water and forced the band back into the studio, mere weeks after returning from the road, to record a new album.
Misgivings aside, a sunnier and recently regained sophomoric disposition—evidenced in the album’s title, and the band dubbing its attendant concert schedule the “Hide Your Sheep” tour—was present this time out, perhaps due to Fair Warning bearing a bit of an overcast vibe and not having as strong sales figures as its predecessors.
This was ultimately the catalyst for 5 of this album’s eleven tracks being covers—including another stroll through the Ray Davies songbook with “Where Have All The Good Times Gone?”; the aforementioned “(Oh) Pretty Woman” and "Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)”; the awkwardly out of place Motown classic “Dancing In The Streets”; and a Roy Rogers tribute, closing track “Happy Trails”—a move prompted by their label. The originals do stand up, thankfully, especially the vintage VH rockers “Hang ‘Em High” and “The Full Bug” along with the more pop-oriented singles “Secrets” and “Little Guitars”.
The end result was their most diverse album with DLR and one that, although not a classic, should be revisited with fresh ears when in the mood for some fun, ballsy rock and roll.
Released April 14, 1982.