Review By: Alan Holloway
The seemingly ageless and horrendously talented Sammy Hagar returns this month with that popular concept: an album with his mates. These sort of things tend to be eclectic, interesting and occasionally downright weird, and the Red Rocker’s effort is no different.
Everything starts off well with a typical full on rocker in the shape of the Hagar penned “Winding Down”, a short, sharp blast of pure Hagar that would have fitten in nicely on either Chickenfoot album. Next up is the bluesy “Not Going Down”, written for Hagar by Rival Sons’ Jay Buchanan, who, oddly, doesn’t appear on the track. The first cover, and one that has been a bone of contention with reviewers, is Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus”, certainly not a track that anyone would have picked for Hagar to have a bash at. As with “Not Going Down”, it features the gospel-ish backing vocals of Claytoven Richardson, Sandy Griffith & Omega Rae (from Hagar’s Waboritas), and, for me, certainly improves on the depressing original, giving it a kick up the arse it sorely needed.
Hagar gets a little bit Southern with the self penned “Father Sun”, a catchy, bouncy track, then recruits five additional writers to help him out on “Kcockdown Dragout”, which drags the album back to blistering hard rock territory and includes a cool Satriani solo and Kid Rock helping out on the vocal parts.”Ramblin Gamblin Man” compares favourably with Bob Seger’s original, whilst “Bad On Ford’s & Chevrolets” rollicks along like an old Jimmy Barnes track, Hagar helped out in fine style by Ronnie Dunn (who wrote the track with fellow country boy Ray Wylie Hubbard).
Into the home stretch, and here is where it gets a little weird, starting with “Margaritaville”, a cover of the Jimmy Buffet tune that is the sort of thing you hear in lifts or in the company of old people. It’s “Under The Boardwalk” by any other name, really. With that said, it’s a pleasant, relaxing song that is helped by the excellent vocals of Hagar and yet another country boy, Toby Keith. Next up is another relaxing, bizarre track in the shape of “All We Need Is An Island”, written and performed with Ann Wilson. It’s a laid back beach tune that is, well, pleasant and rather unexciting. Just in case the listener has gone to sleep the album finishes off with another rocker, “Going Down”, recorded ‘live’ in the studio and featuring the talents of Neal Schon, Chad Smith and Michael Anthony. Unsurprisingly they rock the shit out of the Don Nix song, sounding rather like Van Halen as they do so.
So that’s the album, and it’s certainly a mixed bag, with rock, country and easy listening throwing themselves into the pot. Against my better instincts, I have come to really enjoy “Sammy Hagar & Friends” much more than I did on first listen. It’s one of those albums where you can appreciate each track for it’s individual merits without questioning if they should be anywhere near each other on a Sammy Hagar album. Maybe not to everyone’s tastes, but for me this is a fun, eclectic record that showcases a great talent just having fun.