by Tim Durling
Label: Redline Records
Produced by Chickenfoot and Andy Johns
Sammy Hagar – lead vocals
Joe Satriani – guitar
Michael Anthony – bass, backing vocals
Chad Smith – drums
A little surprised no one’s reviewed this one yet, but I think it’s safe to say it’s been a hectic summer for most of us. This is a fantastic album for lovers of good, old-fashioned, no Pro Tools or auto tune bullshit, just four guys jamming their asses off. Indeed you don’t necessarily have to be a fan of any of the varied backgrounds of these guys to enjoy this; having said that if you’re not a Hagar fan this might be a hard sell. Here I sit, August 2nd at home typing this out, when just eight hours away in Halifax Chickenfoot are performing. When I first saw Halifax on the tour dates, I had every intention of going. Then I found out that it wasn’t just Chickenfoot playing at a club or theater by themselves, it was actually a Canadian Forces Rock Festival happening with a bunch of (in my opinion) awful groups like Sloan and Our F**king Lady Peace. Arrgh words cannot describe how I hate their music. Let me take you back almost 13 years to the day. Old Orchard Beach, Maine, Van Halen, Balance Tour 1995. Me and five buddies make the trek across the border to catch our heroes. None of us read or knew anything about who the opening act was, or indeed if there was an opening act. So we get to the venue and see Skid Row SubHuman Race posters slathered everywhere. Now this was a bonus, as 1) we were all Skid Row fans and 2) like VH, this tour was the end of an era for the band. Not long after, we learn that Skid Row were indeed not going to be there, which sucked but whatever…then we discover their replacement is none other than Our Lady Peace. Ugh. Right up there with the Doors and Nirvana in my list of least favourite bands, and apologies to any fans of those groups, this is simply my opinion. One of precious few times in my life I can say I was embarrassed to be Canadian. You tell me, where is it written that if I want to see a band with Hagar and Anthony that I have to sit through OLP?? Huh?? So no, I didn’t go. However, I figured this was as good a time as any to review a fine album that I’ve been enjoying ever since I got it on Father’s Day.
1) Avenida Revolution – A fade-in guitar burst Satch starts things off, as Sammy regales us with a tale of a drug smuggler on the run. Actually a lot has been made about Sammy’s lyrics on this album, how they were thrown in with little thought. Ya know what? Shut up and crank this album up, ok?
2) Soap on a Rope – Of course Sammy made some tequila-fueled comments about how the Foot was better than the Zep, but he has since chalked it up to inebriation and just plain excitement about the music they were creating. This song has a touch of the Led Zep “stop and start” a la “Black Dog” or “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” but not a direct ripoff. But then diehard Zeppelin fans always think everyone rips them off, which is so hypocritical but let’s stay on topic. Satriani keeps the shredding to a minimum here, but really rips at the end of this one.
3) Sexy Little Thing – A slightly exotic riff starts this one off, but soon enough it kicks into a vintage AC/DC/Stones feel. First real singalong chorus here, just a fun song period. Features one of Hagar’s favourite ad-libs, “jump on it.”
4) Oh Yeah – The first single from the album, destined to become a fan favourite with its shouted refrain of, well, “OH!! YEAH!!” This song actually has quite an interesting little mid section and an incredible solo from Joe. I’ll be honest, I’m not really that familiar with Satch, ironically I was always more into Steve Vai, one of his students. I’m guessing he’s reigning himself in on the album, to keep it more back to basics, or very possibly to avoid Van Halen comparisons.
5) Runnin’ Out – Man, it’s been way too long since those patented Hagar/Anthony vocals have been put to use on new material. This is one of very few songs on here that are even slightly reminiscent of anything Sam and Mike did previously, the verses in this song remind me of “Runaround” from For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, but just a bit.
6) Get it Up – On 5150, Hagar’s first VH album, there was a song called “Get Up,” but that’s where the similarities end. I really love the cool, climbing riff on this one. Not really much of a chorus, but hey whatever. Another great solo.
7) Down the Drain – If you watch the Chickenfoot youtube videos, you will learn this song was pretty much done off the cuff. In fact you can hear Sammy ask Satch “is that that new thing Joe?” and laugh. Sure it was probably rehearsed but it’s still cool. If Mikey changed his sixteenth notes to eighths, you could very easily segue into “Runnin’ With the Devil,” just sayin’. I’ve made it this far into the review without mentioning that when I first read about this group and its personnel, my reaction was mixed. Sam and Mike together? Sure, makes perfect sense, bandmates and good buddies, yeah I get it. Joe Satriani? Hmmm…seems to me Sam and Mike have played with a guitar hero before, but I forget Now, Chad Smith from RHCP? Didn’t click with me at first, but the more I thought about it, the more it dawned on me that Chad’s drumming was about the only thing that gave any of the Peppers’ music any weight. He’s a rock-solid drummer, and he and Mikey have become a formidable rhythm section that sounds like they’ve been playing together for years. Now this song is about the only one that reminds me in any way of the Chili Peppers, the verses are ever so slightly reminiscent of “Give it Away,” but I’m guessing it’s a coincidence. Great groove rocker, and 61-year-old Sammy Hagar once again proves he’s still got every bit of his chops with one of his classic screams at the end. After all these years, nobody screams like Sammy!!
8) My Kinda Girl – This song is probably the poppiest thing on here, the song which most likely could have appeared on one of Sammy’s 80’s solo albums, but that’s not a slight. It’s a great song which would make a good single, with more great Hagar/Anthony harmony vocals.
9) Learning to Fall – One of very few mis-steps on this album, this lengthy ballad shares its feel and indeed almost a title with “Learning to See,” one of the three new songs which appeared on Van Halen’s Best of Both Worlds package. Lyrically it rehashes themes from “Deeper Kinda Love” from Sammy’s 2000 album Ten 13. Also slightly reminiscent of “Feelin’” from the Balance album with it’s “déjà vu” feeling. It’s ok, just kind of breaks the flow of the album. A short but sweet solo.
10) Turnin’ Left – A quirky little rocker, which for some reason reminds me of something from Fair Warning, always my favourite Roth-era Van Halen album. Love that chorus!
11) Future in the Past – Sammy’s lyrics have sometimes dabbled in a bit of mysticism/spirituality/etc. which always made a curious contrast to some of his more blatantly sexual lyrics like “Dick in the Dirt” or “Black and Blue.” Here we find about the only trace of that train of thought on the album. Not a standout by any means, but hey the consistency factor on the CD is pretty damn high, not all of them can be A-listers, right?
12) Bitten By the Wolf – This is the bonus track on the album, a New Orleans/Voodoo type lyric which curiously reminds me of something from the Coverdale/Page album from 1993. Not bad.
So there it is, again take it with a grain of salt I’m obviously a Sammy supporter, but this is definitely the best and most consistent Hagar-sung album since ‘97’s Marching to Mars. It seems working in a group situation (no slight to the Waboritas) brings out the best in Sam. I’m also pleased to see how well this album is doing, as of this writing these are the chart positions in Billboard.
#4 (! Unheard of these days, I fully expected it to drop to the 30s or something)
#40 (on the way back up!)
Last time I tracked an album like this it was Journey’s Revelation which eventually went platinum. This album deserves the same fate for sure. I should also make mention of the heat sensitive packaging. I’m normally not into what I call “gimmick” packaging but I like this one. Basically if it’s a cool morning and you leave this in your car, you can’t the band members on the front cover or the song titles on the back. If it turns hot when you come back, you see everything. I dunno, I’ve heard criticism but at least it’s not like the new Metallica or Dream Theater where the credits flip out every time you pick it up. And if you read the credits and see Bryan Adams listed as photographer, yes it's the same Bryan Adams.