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Sammy Hagar & Friends

Frontiers (2013)
Rating: 7/10

Sammy Hagar is a man who needs no introduction anywhere hard rock or heavy metal has touched. From his early days with Montrose through solo success and his time as frontman of Van Halen and now Chickenfoot, Hagar is a living legend. Everyone who owned a radio in the 80s knows hits like ‘I Can’t Drive 55’ and ‘Give To Live’.

If you’ve ever wondered what Sammy Hagar does in his spare time, Sammy Hagar & Friends seems to be the answer. On this release the Red Rocker and a bunch of his musician pals sound like their having a blast in the studio, offering a mix of new songs and covers.

This sense of fun is what makes Sammy Hagar & Friends a worthy listen. A light-hearted blues rock approach permeates these songs, even turning a cover of Depeche Mode’s ‘Personal Jesus’ into an upbeat rocker. ‘Bad On Fords And Chevrolets’ rocks with a Georgia Satellites good time southern feel, and features guest vocals by Ronnie Dunn of Brooks And Dunn fame. Jimmy Buffet’s ‘Margaritaville’ also sees Hagar teaming up with country royalty as he shares vocals with Toby Keith in a rendition of the classic song that sounds like it has its roots around the fire at a backyard party.

Part of the charm of Sammy Hagar & Friends is how songs of various styles are reinvented into a cohesive album. Where else do you find Depeche Mode, Jimmy Buffett and Bob Seger songs sitting comfortably side by side? Seger’s ‘Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man’ is the closest to a straight cover on this release, and even that gets a little extra guitar power and Sammy’s distinctive gritty vocals.

Beyond covers, the original songs presented span genres as well. ‘All We Need Is An Island’, including vocals from Heart’s Ann Wilson, has a Hawaiian groove, complete with steel guitar and hand percussion. ‘Going Down’ is recorded live in the studio by Hagar, Neal Schon, Michael Anthony and Chad Smith. The result is the most rocking song on the release, and also the most reminiscent of Hagar’s days at the top of the metal heap in the 80s.

The list of guests on Sammy Hagar & Friends is staggeringly long. Chickenfoot alum Joe Satriani appears, as well as Sammy’s son Aaron, Kid Rock, and former Montrose bandmates Denny Carmassi and Bill Church. Listening to these songs, it’s impossible to think that an average day off for Sammy Hagar doesn’t revolve around drinks, music and friends.

This release may not redefine Sammy Hagar as an artist, but it probably wasn’t meant to. What it does do is provide ten tracks (12 if you purchase the Deluxe Edition) of feel good party rock. This is a logical step forward from Sammy and the Wabos, and will be welcomed by Sammy Hagar’s legion of fans.

Jim McDonald

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