Friday, September 20, 2013

RECORD REVIEW: Sammy Hagar & Friends

Frontiers Records

What's more frightening 
than Sammy Hagar 
covering "Margaritaville?" 

Nothing — except 
maybe Sammy Hagar 
covering "Margaritaville"
with Toby Keith.

After recently celebrating 40 spectacular, chart-topping, platinum-selling, nut-busting  years in the music biz, Sammy Hagar reached out to an iconic collective to create his latest record. Wow, sounds good, right? Uh, well...

Possessing all of the pizazz and gusto of a Bret Michaels solo release, Sammy Hagar & Friends oozes content that's sure to delight Kenny Chesney fans everywhere.

Joined by blues legend, Taj Mahal, Sammy kicks off  his all-star effort  with "Winding Down" — a track so natural-sounding, that it prompted me to ponder whether authentic blues guys snicker during these types of recording sessions, or do they wait until after cashing the check.

"Not Going Down" reunites Sammy with his former Montrose colleagues, drummer Denny Carmassi  and bassist Bill "The Electric" Church. Vic Johnson provides the grungy and gritty guitar work that makes this one listenable.

It's realistic to expect that a supergroup ensemble will deliver a superstar track. However, the remake of Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus" also got me thinking — and I can just picture the scene. Journey guitar ace Neal Schon stands in the corner of the control room, sexting pics of his junk to his hot 40-something married girlfriend as former Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony leans across the mixing console and whispers in Sammy's ear. "Uh, you know this one sucks, right?" A statement to which Sammy replies, "That's okay, it's kinda bluesy, so it can't be criticized." "Yeah, but it really sucks, Sam," Anthony reiterates. "Aw, don't sweat it, bro," Sammy reassures. "When it gets slammed, we can just say that the critic is a frustrated wannabe who's not sophisticated enough to understand the blues. Trust me, it's worked for Pat Travers for years!" In the meantime, Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith is holed up in the studio green room with a compassionate local pastor who reminds him that Jesus paid the price for all sins — even this one.

Layered with accordion, mandolin and lap steel tracks, "Father Sun" inspired me to offer the "Red Rocker" a new pseudo name — Sammy Cougar Hagarcamp. 'Nuff said. And when you see and hear this new name repeated, reprinted and re-Tweeted everywhere (and you will), just remember that you saw it HERE first!

Now THIS was a real Sammy Hagar record!
And be sure that "Knockdown Dragout" IS the exact same track as Sammy's "Mas Tequila" from 1999, but only with slightly revised lyrics woven (again) into Gary Glitter's 1972 anthem, "Rock and Roll." Kid Rock provides a co-lead vocal on this one, which is hard to believe because he's never been known to create any generic, crossbred pabulum in the past.

Then there's the castrated remake of Bob Seger's classic, "Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man." Okay Bob, just relax, click your heels together and repeat after me — There's nothing like a royalty check. There's nothing like a royalty check. There's nothing like a royalty check.

Alrighty — moving on to "Bad on Fords and Chevrolets." Now please excuse my naiveté, but I've just gotta ask — how rocking is a "Red Rocker" record when the most rocking track was co-written and co-performed by the guy from Brooks and Dunn. Anybody? Hello? Is this thing on?

As for the remake of Jimmy Buffett's "Margaritaville," the duet between Sammy and country superstar Toby Keith certainly is not the worst atrocity of all-time. However, it may  very well be a greater crime against humanity than The Hangover II (or III). And I bet that you didn't think that was possible!

Oh, what evil hath Kenny Chesney wrought upon our once great land? Fortunately only clocking in at 2:43, the tropical-sounding, cheese-flavored, "All We Need is an Island" is a lethal-size dose of aural horse tranquilizer. And not even the supreme, angelic excellence of Nancy Wilson's co-vocal or the guest  percussion work of Mickey Hart can neutralize this potential health hazard.

HOWEVER — "Going Down" is SIMPLY AMAZING! It perfectly showcases Sammy Hagar, Neal Schon, Michael Anthony and Chad Smith as the hard-rocking, guitar-driven supergroup that they are. Written by Don Nix, the best-known version of this true classic is perhaps The Jeff Beck Group's  from 1972. The sheer intensity, fire, passion and energy of  this closing track exemplifies exactly  how awesome the entire record could and should have been.

-Christopher Long
(September 2013)

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  1. Sammy Cougar Hagarcamp..Love it! However, this album is now at the top of my list....of albums that I WILL NOT be buying. lol Wasn't Joe Satriani on this album too?

    1. Hey Bill! Good hearing from you. Yes, Joe played on a couple of tracks.


  2. And that's why you're a critic . . . cause you're untalented and stupid.

    1. Thanks for stopping by and for taking the time to read my work. Sorry we didn't connect on this one.

  3. Well I´ve read many reviews ´bout this Sammy H. album and the most are pretty much the same in saying that this album is not what it should be....