This would probably be a 10 if weren't between Van Halen 1 and Women and Children first. Gave it an 8 because of great songs like Mean Street and Unchained, and the underrated So this is Love. A few boring fillers at the end though.
For the most part, I still feel the same way about Fair Warning now as I did way back in 1981:
Three outstanding rockers ("Mean Streets", "Hear About It Later" and "So This Is Love"), three rocking album tracks ("Dirty Movies", "Sinner's Swing" and "Unchained"), one hodge-podge album track that is neither here nor there ("Sunday Afternoon In The Park/One Foot Out The Door") and one ok filler track ("Push Comes To Shove").
I used to like the dark, swarthy low-end vibe to this album, but I do wish it had just a touch of the acoustic brilliance that the first two albums had. That's probably my only criticism. It doesn't count against them, it's just a personal observation. I always liked Eddie's new guitar sound on this album, and his use of synths didn't turn me off because he used them sparingly. It was different, but in a good way. I guess you could argue that everything about this album was different -- some for the better, and maybe some not as much.
I rate it as "Great". 7 out of 10. Probably in 3rd position after I and II respectively, and ahead of Women, Diver and 1984 (also respectively).
"Fair Warning" is kind of the black sheep album in the Van Halen catalogue. Other than "Unchained" the album did not receive a lot of airplay (at least compared to the band's other Roth era discs) and is probably the least commercial of their late 70's early 80's works. The band took some chances on this one which for me is a good thing. This is also probably the least party / fun oriented album of the Roth years. There was tension within the band by this point and it shows. There are no acoustic guitars to be found here either as the majority of the album is hard and heavy. The first use of keyboards by Eddie can be found here on "Sunday Afternoon In The Park". These would become more and more a part of the Van Halen sound on later albums. The album really starts out strong with "Mean Streets", "Dirty Movies", "Sinners Swing", "Unchained" and "Hear About It Later" all solid tunes. The second half of the album is not quite as good, but still decent. I gave it a 6.