OK – I want to make one thing clear from the start. I LOVE SAMMY HAGAR. This means that there may be a slight bias.
I have done since being introduced to the classic Loud and Clear live album by friends of mine in the VIth Form at skool. I was lucky enough to see him on his 1982 UK tour in Southampton, promoting the equally classic Standing Hampton album. Notwithstanding the bona fide classics he has been associated with, Montrose, Paper Money, 5150, and Loud and Clear itself, It’s fair to say that although some of his output over the years has been patchy, he’s never produced an outright BAD album. Not one. Considering the volume of his output over the years, that is no mean achievement.
With that in mind I was greatly looking forward to getting my shell-likes around the Red Rocker’s new masterwork – Sammy Hagar & Friends. I was not disappointed in the least. The album opens up well with ‘Winding Down’ – a fine rocker, and the first of three songs with the word ‘down’ in the title – and is followed up by the tremendous ‘Not Going Down’ which has some great soul backing vocals from among others, the fantastically-named Omega Rae. Gotta love it. With Denny Carmassi and Bill Church playing on the same track, Sammy’s assertion in the sleeve notes that it ‘felt like I was back in ’72 with Montrose’ is right on the money.
One thing – the final ‘Down’ song is ‘Going Down’ . Come on, Sam – which is it ? Are you Going Down or not ? Make your mind up !
Next up – a startlingly unusual cover – but one that really works – as they all do on the album. Ladies and gentlemen, Sammy Hagar sings Depeche Mode !
‘Personal Jesus’ should be relatively familiar as it was a hit single, and has even been covered by Johnny Cash. DM themselves have a bona fide star in Dave Gahan, and Sammy certainly puts his mark on the song. Better still – it wasn’t ‘Just Can’t get Enough’ !
Knockdown Dragout is Sammy and Kid Rock tearing the house down – the track should be familiar to Planet Rock listeners. It’s been played enough ! Another effective cover of Bob Seger’s Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man leads to the excellent Bad on Fords and Chevrolets – with lead vocals shared with country singer Ronnie Dunn. Hard Rock meets Country in Rock n Roll’s back yard – with some great lyrics.
Before getting to the musical climax of the album – Going Down – where the mighty Neal Schon really gets his heavy on with Michael Anthony and Chad Smith (BTW – rumours abound of the return of HSAS, and yes, the initials do work) – the listener is blessed with two soothing tracks which work brilliantly as a sequential pair; Margaritaville and All We Need is as Island. They put you with a cool drink watching the sun go down – with the latter song’s lyrics making one pray for a lottery win. Sammy being Sammy has more than enough money to get an island – and indeed probably has one – but he sets the scene for those of us without one beautifully.
As an album that is akin to Slash’s ‘RnFnR’ guest-filled solo effort, Sammy Hagar and Friends stacks up very well – covering a very varied set of musical styles. A very listenable and enjoyable 8 1/2 out of 10.
One last thing – I did not expect to see it in my local HMV. But there it was – with a fair degree of promotion, too – not simply in the CD rack. What am I gonna do – NOT buy it ?
Bearing in mind the dearth of proper music available on the high street nowadays, this is indicative of a good album. Stores won’t get behind a 66 year-old rocker unless the output is hot. Sammy’s latest is certainly worthy of his illustrious canon, and in parts is RED hot.
Highly recommended – notwithstanding my personal bias.
Reviewer – HB
1. Winding Down :
2. Not Going Down :
3. Personal Jesus :
4. Father Sun :
5. Knockdown Dragout :
6. Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man :
7. Bad On Fords And Chevrolets :
8. Margaritaville :
9. All We Need Is An Island :
10. Going Down :