It must be great being Sammy Hagar. Not only has he sung in two of the most influential rock bands ever – Montrose and Van Halen – he also sells shitloads of records as soon as he releases a solo album and the two Chickenfoot albums, the band he has with guitarist Joe Satriani, former Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ groove master, drummer Chad Smith, have both gone platinum. Add that to the fact that he sold 80 % of his Cabo Wabo Tequila company for 80 million dollars, and that’s why he can relax in the sun on the beach in one of his houses in Mexico or Hawaii, write a bunch of songs, call his friends and just record an album without worrying about studio costs or whether the album will sell at all. But it will sell, I can guarantee that. Oh yes, it must be great being Sammy Hagar!
Now, these “And Friends” albums are usually pretty loose efforts and when stuff gets a bit too loose, then you’re running the risk of recording an album that really doesn’t say anything and feels like a shrug. When that happens, those albums aren’t fun at all and you’re wondering why the hell the album was ever released. But with a guy like Hagar, that doesn’t worry me one bit. I mean, Hagar is a pretty loose character no matter what he does, so my guess is that this album will be the same.
After one spin, my guess turned out be right – but that wasn’t exactly a shocker. I got the feeling that this album is about nothing else than good ole fun and that recording this was one big party. The first song is called “Winding Down”, a Hagar original and it’s based on acoustic guitars, but it’s not an all acoustic track, it’s a great country and blues rocker and it features Taj Mahal who helps Sammy out on the lead vocal part, “Not Going Down” is bit darker, a blues rocker written by Jay Buchanan from Rival Sons and reminds me of Sammy’s first band Montrose – said band’s bassist and drummer Bill Church and Denny Carmassi therefore plays on the song. The first cover track on the album is Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” (also done by Marilyn Manson some years ago) and it has been given the blues rock treatment. The players on this song are Chickenfoot, but with Journey’s Neal Schon on guitar instead of Joe Satriani. They have made a killer cover here with a groove that neither Depeche themselves or Marilyn Manson succeed with. Carmassi is back on drums for “Father Sun”, an acoustic rocker with folk rock influences that actually features Sammy’s son Aaron on backing vocals. Sammy brings in his good friend Kid Rock to rock out to another Montrose shaped tune, “Knockdown Dragout” which also features Carmassi and Satriani, the Bob Seger song “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” has this 70’s Rolling Stones kind of feel and Sammy’s old solo drummer David Lauser was brought in for the groove and Lauser also drums on another Stones-y rocker, “Bad On Fords And Chevrolets” and on “Margaritaville” the title says it all. It’s a Jimmy Buffett cover and the whole song sounds like lying on the beach, sipping drinks and looking at girls. Country singer Toby Keith guests on it and the song is just wonderfully laid back. So is “All We Need Is An Island” as it continues on the sun and beach topic and on this one you find yourself on a tropical island, kicking back while Sammy and Heart guitarist / vocalist Nancy Wilson stands for the entertainment. The last song on the album is called “Going Down (Live In Studio Take)” and Chickenfoot fans will recognize this as it is more or less “Bigfoot” off Chickenfoot’s second album III. The song also features the whole Chickenfoot line up, but again with Schon instead of Satriani
If you buy the de luxe edition, you’ll get the old Montrose song “Space Station # 5” featuring the whole original Montrose line up, with Hagar, Church and Carmassi, but with Joe Satriani filling in for the late Ronnie Montrose. Feels like it’s really worth getting the de luxe edition, I mean we all love the first Montrose album, don’t we? To sum this album, I don’t think this album should be taken seriously, but on the other hand, it’s not a shrug either. The album sounds really good and for a Sammy Hagar fan, it’s a must. It’s really awesome that at the age of 65, Hagar still nails everything vocally – the guy is so underrated it’s ridiculous. I look at this album as an intermission while we’re waiting for the next Chickenfoot album, but what an intermission it is. I really like every song on here, nothing even remotely close to a filler, everything grooves and I can’t help smiling while listening to this. But if I should mention anything negative, I think the album is a little short on original songs. With the three covers and the studio out take, I would have liked a couple of originals more. But we can’t have everything in life and it’s really no big deal. You dig Sammy Hagar? Well, get this then!
Jon Wilmenius (8/10)
1. Winding Down (with Taj Mahal)
2. Not Going Down (with Bill Church & Denny Carmassi)
3. Personal Jesus (with Neal Schon, Michael Anthony & Chad Smith)
4. Father Sun (with Denny Carmassi & Aaron Hagar)
5. Knockdown Dragout (with Kid Rock, Joe Satriani, Denny Carmassi)
6. Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man (with David Lauser, Mona Gnader & Vic Johnson)
7. Bad On Fords and Chevrolets (with Ronnie Dunn, David Lauser, Mona Gnader & Vic Johnson)
8. Margaritaville (with Toby Keith)
9. All We Need Is An Island (with Nancy Wilson & Mickey Hart)
10. Going Down (with Neal Schon, Michael Anthony & Chad Smith)
11. Space Station #5 (with Denny Carmassi, Bill Church, Joe Satriani)