The Red Rocker is back with yet another band and album. Many are the different projects Hagar has been involved with since his early Montrose days which resulted in him branching out on a solo career after only two albums with Montrose where the debut is a true Rock classic. His solo career, that started in 1976, became very successful with a bunch of platinum records under his belt. After one album with a side-project with Neal Schon called HSAS in 1984, Hagar joined Van Halen after David Lee Roth’s exit in 1985 and until he left/got fired in 1996, Van Halen were even more successful than in the DLR days. It was then that Hagar got involved with a whole lot of different projects such as Chickenfoot with Joe Satirani, Michael Anthony and Chad Smith. He also continued to release albums with constellations like Sammy Hagar & The Waboritas (also called The Wabos on some records), Sammy Hagar & Friends and lately his new combo Sammy Hagar & The Circle.
The Circle have been around since 2014 but only as a touring act where he performs music from his whole career. Fact is, The Circle’s debut album At Your Service came out four years ago and was a live album as this unit was never meant as a recording act at all. But things changed and little by little new music was being written from the band, a band that contains well-known musicians that’s been involved with Hagar for a long time. Long-time friend and bassist Michael Anthony is here as well as Waboritas guitarist Vic Johnson and drummer Jason Bonham (Bonham, Virginia Wolf, Black Country Communion, Foreigner, California Breed), who’s the only “new” guy here. The album turned out to be a concept album, taking up the subject of money – or as Hagar described it himself, about “money, greed, enlightenment and truth”, something he should know something about as money hasn’t been an issue for him since 2007 when he sold 80% of his Cabo Wabo tequila company for 80 million bucks…
Opener “Devil Came To Philly” opens on a rowdy note and even if the main riff is similar to Bon Jovi back in the days when they were actually a Rock band, there’s a rough and edgy outlook here on a fat beat and an in-your-face attitude, bringing on a meaty groove. It’s a mid-paced tune and the refrain is pretty catchy but it’s mostly heavy and raw – and fans of Hagar will recognize the style here. Good one. “Full Circle Jam (Chump Change)” also brings on a heavy groove with a crunchy sound and is quite stripped. And yes, it do sound like a jam more than an actual song but within its somewhat unstructured ways there’s also a guiding melody which pretty much saves the tune. I say this one’s alright. Second single “Can’t Hang” is a twangy, camp-fire fueled cowboy rocker based on acoustic guitars and at the same time fat-grooved, juicy and rhythmic. It holds a brilliant main melody and a classic sounding Sammy Hagar refrain that sticks like glue. Great!
The moody ballad “Wide Open Space” is stripped and also based on acoustic guitar. When the electric guitars and the rhythm section jumps in, the tune changes character towards power balladry with big melodies and a striking refrain with shitloads of hooks and catchiness. Back in the days when MTV actually played music, this one would have been on heavy rotation. Very good. “Free Man” turn things around completely in its heavy, dark and edgy rowdiness. It’s a bit tuned down, riff-happy and grinds like crazy where Rock ‘n’ Metal describes the track the best. That said, it’s not without hooks and contains a memorable and even hummable main melody. Good one. “Bottom Line” is an upbeat, straightforward, pop-laden rocker with a chunky rhythm that shakes and is even danceable. It’s more of a Melodic Rock track with a big refrain, very recognizable as classic Sammy Hagar stuff – great.
“No Worries” comes with some laid-back verses but is also rhythmic and quite crunchy. But when it’s time for the chorus, the song gets faster and more in-your-face with both swing and sticky melodies. It’s Classic Rock all within the soft-rock that Sammy Hagar does so good and we all know and love. Leading single “Trust Fund Baby” brings on the action again with crunchy guitars, upbeat tempo, a kicking drive and lots of punch. Turned up to ten, this intense and highly effective rock and roll belter will kick many asses live and with a memorable vocal melody and striking refrain, it’s a clear winner. Latest single “Affirmation” is upbeat with a pumping rhythm, boogie-rock laden, a big live feel and a raunchy guitar sound. It’s not poppy but it’s catchy and the added keyboards gives it a bit of a Van Halen 5150 vibe, one the finest tracks on here. Closing track “Hey Hey (Without Greed)” is also acoustic guitar based on a groovy rhythm with electric guitars added, a catchy sing-along chanting chorus that runs almost throughout the whole song complete with hand-claps for good measure.
Some people get old, some only get older and Sammy Hagar, 72 later this year, is one of the latter – the guy shows no signs of aging, he’s just as rowdy, cocky and driven as ever, never sounding tired or beat. Vocally, at least in studio, the guy seem to have lost very little of his enormous range, power and vitality and the same goes for the rest of the lot, top musicians that delivers on all accounts – the fact that Van Halen left Anthony out on their last tour is their loss and Hagar’s win. The guy’s a rock! Song-wise, this record holds ten tracks where no one is worse than good but as a whole, the record’s not as memorable as we’re used to from Hagar. Or maybe, I need more time with it – who knows where I’ll stand on this a year from now. What’s clear is that I dig the album and it gets better with each listen so I have no problems recommending this to any Hagar-fan out there.
More Sammy Hagar reviews:
1. Devil Came To Philly
2. Full Circle Jam (Chump Change)
3. Can’t Hang
4. Wide Open Space
5. Free Man
6. Bottom Line
7. No Worries
8. Trust Fund Baby
10. Hey Hey (Without Greed)