Sammy Hagar with Vic Johnson – Lite Roast
2014, Mailboat Records
Buy the album
1. Red Voodoo
2. One Sip
3. Finish What Ya Started
4. Eagles Fly
5. The Love
6. Father Sun
8. Deeper Kinda Love
9. Who Has the Right?
11. Halfway to Memphis
Well, it’s no surprise that Sammy’s latest release comes from Jimmy Buffett’s record label as it seems like Hagar has tried to emulate elements of Jimmy Buffett over the last decade (right down to covering his songs and touring with him). As the album cover and title would suggest, Lite Roast is a laid back and mellow acoustic affair. What’s notable is that Hagar’s longtime guitarist, Vic Johnson from the Waboritas, is featured on the cover and the album is officially credited to them both.
Essentially, this is kind of a compilation of solo/Van Hagar tracks reworked acoustically. “The Love”, from Hagar’s 1999 album Red Voodoo is excellent in this setting. I think I might actually prefer this stripped down version over the original. It’s also nice to see the inclusion of that album’s title track as Red Voodoo holds a special nostalgic place in my heart. Yes, I’m nostalgic about a Sammy Hagar album that was released in 1999.
There’s a couple of tracks that fall flat with me (okay, more than a couple). “One Sip” is from Hagar’s Buffett-inspired Livin’ It Up! album which was co-written with another Buffett emulator Kenny Chesney. That was an album I passed on and “One Sip” proves to me I was right. I doubt the original version is any better. “Sailin'” is also from that album is, frankly, a bland ballad. Van Halen’s “Finish What Ya Started” holds up well, as expected, when given the full acoustic treatment. “Dreams” also sounds good here. MelodicRock.com said this version of “Dreams” is “horrible” but I don’t get that at all. I think it holds up well.
Despite the spotty picks of tracks, one thing I like about this album is the production. It sounds like there’s not a whole lot and I mean that in a good way. It really sounds like Sammy and Vic simply pulled up a couple of stools, started playing and recorded everything live. I’m not sure if that’s what actually happened, but every track sounds like it was done that way in an intimate setting. There’s no attempt to set the atmosphere with a piano or anything. Just a couple of guys with acoustic guitars singing.
I guess it’s no surprise that I found myself most enjoying the songs that I already knew. Much of Hagar’s solo work beyond Red Voodoo has been very uninspired and, dare I say, lazy (although I LOVE “Serious Juju” from Ten 13). Lite Roast is a mixed bag of varying quality coffee grounds. There’s really only four tracks here that I think are enjoyable. The rest is kinda forgettable and boring. A Sammy Hagar acoustic album isn’t a bad idea, it’s just that the song selection is pretty poor. I’d like Hagar to revisit the acoustic setting at some point with the idea of doing a greatest hits package.
Highlight: “Finish What Ya Started”, “Eagles Fly”, “The Love”, “Dreams”
Mr. Big – Live From the Living Room
(2012, Frontiers Records)
1. Undertow … 5:30
2. Still Ain’t Enough For Me … 3:24
3. As Far As I Can See … 4:05
4. Voodoo Kiss … 4:11
5. Take Cover … 5:34
6. Around the World … 4:23
7. Stranger In My Life … 5:15
8. All the Way Up … 5:17
9. To Be With You … 4:35
10. Nobody Left to Blame … 5:54
Eric Martin – Lead Vocals
Paul Gilbert – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Billy Sheehan – Bass, Backing Vocals
Pat Torpey – Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals
Producer: Mr. Big & Pat Regan
Recorded during January 2011 in Tokyo, Japan in front of a small studio audience, Live from the Living Room captures Mr. Big’s very first acoustic show. Since the show was done during and for promotion of 2010’s What If… album, seven of the ten tracks from this set are stripped down versions of songs from that album. Of course it’d be crazy for Mr. Big to do their first ever acoustic show and not perform their biggest hit “To Be With You” (from 1991’s Lean Into It). Completing the set is “Voodoo Kiss”, which comes from the same album as “To Be With You” and “Take Cover” from 1996’s Hey Man.
Technically speaking, the band is very good. That should come as no surprise. Eric Martin sounds great and obviously Paul Gilbert & Billy Sheehan haven’t lost a step over the years. But… Mr. Big has never been one of my favorite bands. Despite the fact that they are great musicians, I’ve never really felt a big connection to them outside a few songs. Still, this live acoustic album should be an enjoyable listen that’s sure to please those that are big fans of What If… and Mr. Big in general.
Highlights: “Undertow”, “Take Cover”, “Around the World”, “Stranger In My Life”, “To Be With You”