Sammy Hagar has keeping busy lately as part of the rock super group Chickenfoot, which has Michael Anthony, Chad Smith and Joe Satriani filling in the rest of the lineup. This new project has kept Hagar busy for the past four years, what with Chickenfoot releasing two studio albums and completing extensive tours of the United States.
Up until most recently this prevented any consistent work on a follow up to his previous solo album, 2008’s ‘Universal Cosmic Fashion’.
Those fans who have been eagerly awaiting for Sammy to make a return as a solo artist no longer have to hold their breath, as the former Van Halen vocalist just recently released his sixteenth solo album: well, that’s if you dare to call it a solo album. For ‘Sammy Hagar & Friends’, Hagar recruited an impressive line of talent to back him up, and not just limited to musicians from the rock and roll spectrum. Renowned blues musician Taj Mahal teams up with Sammy on the opening track, “Winding Down”, a song about sitting back and watching the rest of the world chaotically racing through their lives.
Former Montrose band mates Denny Carmassi and Bill Church reunite with Hagar on the album’s second track, “Not Going Down”, which has to be the heaviest sounding song on the new record. One of the more surprising tracks on the album is Sammy’s cover of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus”, which has been completely transformed with exceptional guitar work and standout group vocal harmonies from The Wabos. This track in particular ended up being one of my favorites, just considering how well it turned out; of course, it helps to be backed by Journey’s Neal Schon, Chad Smith and Michael Anthony.
“Personal Jesus” is only one of the three cover songs which make an appearance on ‘Sammy Hagar & Friends’. Sammy pays tribute to Bob Segar with his knockout cover of “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man”, and slows down the pace with his own take on Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville”. The latter of these two songs features a guest appearance by country music singer Toby Keith, who takes turns with Hagar singing the verse. “All We Need Is An Island” is one of the more “out there” songs included on the new record. Built heavily around some exotic pedal steel and Tahitian ukulele playing, as well as some standout vocal melodies from Heart’s Nancy Wilson, you can almost feel the tropical breeze coming out of your speakers.
“Going Down” closes out the album: a song filled with the eccentric guitar work of Neal Schon, the rhythmic bass playing from Michael Anthony, Chad Smith’s tight percussion backbone, and some impressive primal screams from Sammy which hark back to his ‘For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge’ years. What’s even more notable, is the fact that this song was mastered in just one take in the studio. “Going Down” couldn’t be a better track to close out Sammy Hagar’s latest offering, and considering the fact that Sammy wants to do the rest of his future solo albums the same way, is a great sign of things to come.