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Sammy Hagar and The Circle – At Your Service [Album Review]

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Sammy Hagar & The Circle – At Your Service
2015, Mailboat Records

Buy the album

1. There’s Only One Way to Rock
2. Rock Candy
3. Good Times Bad Times
4. Poundcake
5. I Can’t Drive 55
6. Mikey bass solo
7. When It’s Love
8. Whole Lotta Love
9. Little White Lie
10. When the Levee Breaks
11. Jason solo/Moby Dick
12. Why Can’t This Be Love
13. Finish What Ya Started
14. Heavy Metal
15. Vic guitar solo
16. Best of Both Worlds
17. Right Now
18. Rock and Roll
19. Dreams

Band:
Sammy Hagar – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Vic Johnson – Guitar
Michael Anthony – Bass, Backing Vocals
Jason Bonham – Drums

Yet another “and friends”-style release from the Red Rocker (see Cosmic Universal FashionSammy Hagar & Friends and Lite Roast). Or is this a super group? I don’t know. The guy is obviously just killing time at this point in his career and doing whatever he thinks is fun. Live albums, acoustic cover albums, supergroup projects… whatever. The line-up here is actually pretty good: guitarist Vic Johnson (from Sammy’s The Waboritas backing band), Chickenfoot/ex-Van Halen bassist Micheal Anthony and highly respected journeyman drummer Jason Bonham.

At You Service is a live release recorded throughout 2014. I never knew these guys played together until this album came out, but apparently The Circle group was a small tour and this album is compilation of the dozen or so shows they did. I’m sure Sammy simply recruited whomever he felt like playing with. The set list focuses mostly on Hagar’s career (Montrose, Van Halen and solo work) but also features four Led Zeppelin songs. I’m quite sure that Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham’s son being in the band influenced that decision. The only portion of Hagar’s career that isn’t reflected is Chickenfoot.

All told, this isn’t a bad album if you’re a fan of live releases. Myself? I could take ’em or leave ’em but considering the line-up here, I was interested in hearing this one. Despite their ages, the voices of Hagar & Anthony don’t seem to show wear or tear. The Led Zeppelin numbers are done quite well, too. If Jimmy Page ever considered going out and doing a bunch of Zeppelin songs without Robert Plant, Sammy Hagar would be a pretty solid choice as the vocalist… certainly a much better choice than Steven Tyler!

Fans of Hagar’s entire career (and Zeppelin) should find plenty to enjoy here and hopefully this will lead to an original project from these guys.

Sammy Hagar with Vic Johnson – Lite Roast [Review]

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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
7. Dreams
8. Deeper Kinda Love
9. Who Has the Right?
10. Sailin’
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”

Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock by Sammy Hagar (Book Review)

Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock
By Sammy Hagar with Joel Selvin
(2011, It Books)

At 238 pages, I was able to read this one over the course of a week. Let me tell you, considering how long it usually takes me to read through a book, I’m pretty proud of myself for that. I’m not one of those people that can pick up a book and knock out most of it in one sitting. It usually takes me weeks to get just one book finished.

Anyway, Red is good light reading but it has some darker moments like when Sammy talks about his abusive alcoholic dad and his wife slowly having a nervous breakddown. Other moments like when Hagar talks about the VH reunion tour back in 2003 are just plain sad because of how out of it Eddie was at the time. But it’s weird because when Sammy talks about his dad it’s almost as if he is glorifying him, yet the Van Halen brothers come across as low-lifes.

For the most part, Sammy is pretty upbeat on his view of life but obviously still has issues with Van Halen. He seems so free-spirited and easy-going about everything in life… except his old band. Sammy even makes the (oft-repeated and ridiculous) claim that Van Hagar sold more albums than the DLR era. Not even close. Why do people continue to say this? The feather in the cap of Van Hagar is that their albums always debuted at #1, not that they sold more.

The book does not revolve entirely around Van Halen. Hagar talks about his childhood, working the club circuit, Montrose, solo career, Mexico and his various business ventures. If my memory serves correctly, there’s a few chapters that didn’t make the book that were posted online at one time. One dealt with the divorce from his first wive and the other involved some more shady business dealings with VH and the new manager they had taken on at the time (that Sammy was not getting along with).

A good read overall. There’s enough Van Halen drama for those that like their biographies to dish the dirt while giving us a deeper look into the world of Sammy Hagar. Recommended.

Buy ‘Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock’ at Amazon.com

Chickenfoot – III

Chickenfoot – III [Classic Rock Fan Pack Exclusive Limited Edition] (2011, earMUSIC)

1. “Last Temptation” … 4:02
2. “Alright Alright” … 4:39
3. “Different Devil” … 4:24
4. “Up Next” … 4:33
5. “Lighten Up” … 5:12
6. “Come Closer” … 4:08
7. “Three and a Half Letters” … 4:07
8. “Big Foot” … 3:49
9. “Dubai Blues” … 5:02
10. “Something Going Wrong” … 5:16
Bonus Tracks
11. “Down the Drain” (Live in Phoenix) … 9:13
12. “Oh Yeah” (Live in Phoenix) … 6:23

Band:
Sammy Hagar – Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals
Joe Satriani – Guitar
Michael Anthony – Bass, Backing Vocals
Chad Smith – Drums, Percussion

Producer: Chickenfoot & Mike Fraser

This super group’s debut was decent but nothing particularly thrilling. It sounded like a bunch of guys having fun but it didn’t really translate when it came to the songs in my opinion. Well, on Chickenfoot III (they skipped the second album) this very much feels more like a band that has written real songs and not bunch of guys jamming.

Because of how underwhelmed the debut left me, I wasn’t sure if I was going to pick this album up. I saw Classic Rock magazine was doing yet another “Fan Pack” release and figured if I ever was going to buy the album that I might as get the album that comes with a magazine. It’s a bit more bare bones than the Alice Cooper release (or even Whitesnake): 132-page 3-D magazine, a pack of 5 Chickenfoot guitar picks and a pair of 3-D glasses. The artwork inside and out of the album packaging are in 3-D as is the CD label itself but all of that I believe is standard with the first pressed copy of the album (just like the “heat sensitive” version of the debut).

Onto the music, what can you say as far as the playing goes? Sammy’s vocals sound just as good as ever, no one’s going to say Satriani can’t play guitar and Chad Smith is the perfect drummer for this type of band. Then you have Michael Anthony who in addition to bass is adding his usual fantastic backing vocals to help enhance things (the VH boys have some real balls letting him go based on backing vocals alone).

Like I said earlier, this very much feels like more of band now. Hagar says the first album came together very quickly while III was a much more laborious project. Well, if that means gelling better and Joe & Sammy writing better songs together… that’s fine by me! In fact, the only that I think fall a bit flat are “Dubai Blues” and “Lighten Up”. The rest of the album are just great rockers, good ballads (“Different Devil” sounds like something Van Hagar would’ve done), something socially relevant (“Three and a Half Letters”) and the albums ends with something a bit experimental that uses acoustic guitars and a banjo — the excellent “Something Going Wrong”.

Bonus live tracks are always kind of a throwaway to me. They are exclusive to this Fan Pack edition. “Down the Drain” and “Oh Yeah” may be two of the better songs from the debut but all they do is really highlight how mediocre that debut was and how much better this album is.

Chickenfoot’s III had revived my interest in this band after milquetoast debut, is one of the year’s best releases and I hope we get to see a third album (IV?) from these guy down the line.

Highlights: “Last Temptation”, “Alright Alright”, “Different Devil”, “Up Next”, “Come Closer”, “Three and a Half Letters”, “Big Foot”, “Something Going Wrong”

http://www.facebook.com/chickenfoot
http://www.chickenfoot.us/

Buy ‘III’ at Amazon.com!

Concerts! Part II

This past April, I mentioned a number of concerts I would be attending this summer. A few more have been announced/come to my attention so I thought I’d provide an update as to who I’m going to see this summer. Here’s my complete dance card!

July 1st
Scorpions w/ Cinderella
DTE Energy Music Theatre
Clarkston, MI

Less than a month away! This was the second concert I had lined up this year and Scorpios are one of my all-time faves so I’m pretty excited about it. Cinderella’s great too, I just wish they had some NEW material to play.

July 16th
Alice Cooper w/ Tesla
Common Ground Music Festival
Lansing, MI

Finally bought my tickets for this last night. It’s all general admission so there was no rush to get’em, even though they’ve been on sale for close to month now. In addition to Sammy Hagar playing on another night, Buckcherry and Bret Michaels were recently added as headliners for the nights they play and Cinderella is now playing a date too (not as headliners though). I would love to see all three of them but I’ve seen Buckcherry three times already, saw Poison last summer and I’ll be seeing Cinderella with Scorpions, so I gotta go with Alice! I’ve wanted to see him forever, he’s one of my favorite acts and the fact that I’ll see Tesla too is a really cool bonus.

July 17th
Iron Maiden w/ Dream Theater
DTE Energy Music Theatre
Clarkston, MI

First concert tickets I bought for 2010. I just saw the set list for the tour and I’m kinda disappointed because it mostly focuses on their music from ’90s through today. It’s understandable since their last tour was built around their ’80s catalog but for this being my first time seeing Maiden, I wanted all the signature songs!

July 22nd
Huey Lewis & The News
DTE Energy Music Theatre
Clarkston, MI

I actually like this band a lot, at least when it comes to their “hits”. I have one of their albums and two greatest hits. Lawn tickets were only $7 so I figured why not? Should be fun.

Aug 31st
Aerosmith w/ Sammy Hagar & The Waboritas
The Palace of Auburn Hills
Auburn Hills, MI

Haven’t bought the tickets yet (they go on sale next Wednesday but I won’t be able to buy them until the Wednesday AFTER next Wednesday) but I’m really excited for this show. Tickets are pricey but it’s AEROSMITH! With Sammy Hagar! I don’t want to pass up seeing Aerosmith at least once in my life.

Sept 5th
Ted Nugent
DTE Energy Music Theatre
Clarkston, MI

Another $7 lawn seat ticket. Ted’s a really cool guy but he’s another act I’m not all too familiar outside of his signature songs. Still, I think it should be a fun show. Haven’t bought these tickets yet but I will the same time I buy the Aerosmith tickets.

Sept 11th – Saturday
KISS w/ The Academy Is
DTE Energy Music Theatre
Clarkston, MI

Definitely HAD to buy these tickets, got’em yesterday. Since the great ‘Rock The Nation’ show cancellation back in 2004 (Paul got heat exhaustion and the Pensacola, FL show I had tickets to got canceled and was never made up), I made a promise to myself that I would always go see KISS should they ever be in my neighborhood. How could you expect any less of me when they’re my favorite band? Well, I saw ’em last September as they were one of the last acts to ever play the historic Cobo in Detroit and I’ll see them this September too! DTE’s site lists The Academy Is as the support (they kinda suck and are way too indie rock/pop to be supporting KISS, IMO) but KISS is also holding a contest for a different unsigned band to get the opening slot in each city. Could be interesting…

So that’s my summer concert series! Should anything else pop up, I’ll be sure to report on it here and I’ll definitely be doing my concert reviews for each and every one of these shows.

Concerts!

I can’t remember if I mentioned it already but I bought my few concert tickets for 2010 a month or two back. I’ll be heading off to DTE Energy Music Theatre in Clarkston, Michigan (for my fourth time) to see Iron Maiden and their special guests Dream Theater on July 17th! Should be a great show. I like Dream Theater but the real draw for me is Iron Maiden. They’re one of those bands that’s been on my unwritten “must see live” list forever.

Well, I have some more good news to add to that. Today I found about THREE great acts coming to area. Here in downtown Lansing, there’s the week-long Common Ground Music Festival that takes place every summer. This will be the festival’s 11th year and in the past they’ve featured acts like Sammy Hagar, Snoop Dogg, Sheryl Crow. Last year, Stone Temple Pilots were one of the headlining acts.

Despite living in Lansing for nearly four years now, I’ve never gone before just because I couldn’t bring myself to spend $30 on a ticket to see only one act. I like Sammy, I like STP but thirty bucks was too much in my book to just see them (and them only) AND have to deal with the summer heat and huge crowd that gathers down by the Grand River. The Red Rocker is returning once again this year (I think this is his 4th performance at Common Ground) and appears to be sharing headliner status with none other than…

ALICE COOPER!

Alice is another one of my all-time favorite acts and just recently I had been complaining about how he never seems to get close enough to Lansing or Detroit (though he almost always pops up in Michigan somewhere during the summer every year). I noticed the newspaper this morning talking about Common Ground and they mentioned Alice will be performing July 16th and it will be full of his usual theatrics.

And the icing on the cake? Well, Tesla will also be performing on the 16th! Hagar performs on the 14th and I’d like to see him but Alice alone is enough to win out over Hagar and when you throw Tesla into the mix, it’s a no-brainer that this is the year I need to shell out $30. Heck, even if Tesla wasn’t performing, just seeing Alice is worth the money, in my opinion.

Common Ground still have a number of slots to fill and promises more artists to be announced but I can’t imagine anyone topping Alice Cooper! Tickets aren’t on sale yet. I think they go on sale next Wednesday and I’ll definitely be picking two tickets up then.

So what a great weekend I’ll have! Friday, July 17th: Alice Cooper & Tesla. Saturday, July 18th: Iron Maiden & Dream Theater!

BUT WAIT… There’s more!

I received confirmation earlier this afternoon that the Scorpions will be storming the stage of DTE on July 1st! Tickets go on sale this coming Saturday morning (gee, thanks for the heads up!). Ratt, Cinderella or Dokken are opening most of their shows but as luck would have it, the DTE show is one of the few where there is no opener. Oh well. I would’ve love to have seen Ratt but I won’t complain about an extended show from the Scorps! Scratch another all-time fave off the “must see” list. July is going to be a great month for me!

Do YOU have any concert plans for the summer?

VAN HALEN – OU812

Van Halen – OU812 (1988, Warner Bros. Records)

1. “Mine All Mine” … 5:11
2. “When It’s Love” … 5:36
3. “A.F.U. (Naturally Wired)” … 4:28
4. “Cabo Wabo” … 7:04
5. “Source of Infection” … 3:58
6. “Feels So Good” … 4:27
7. “Finish What Ya Started” … 4:20
8. “Black and Blue” … 5:24
9. “Sucker in a 3 Piece” … 5:52
10. “A Apolitical Blues” … 3:50

Band:
Sammy Hagar – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Eddie Van Halen – Guitar, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Michael Anthony – Bass, Backing Vocals
Alex Van Halen – Drums, Percussion

Produced by: Van Halen and Don Landee

Van Hagar Halen continues their descent into the “adult contemporary” genre, just take a look at that cover and tell me it doesn’t scream “BORING”. Looks like something from the ’60s or ’70s. It started with the band’s debut with Hagar on 1986’s 5150 (which was actually was a really good slick hard rock/pop album), but this time that fun vibe that album continued over from the David Lee Roth era is gone.

Sure, some of the good time subject matter is still here (sex, booze, partying in general), but it seems a bit more grown up and dark, if that’s possible when talking about having a good time. The album is definitely lifted by the great pop ballad “When It’s Love” and the awesome country-picking of “Finish What Ya Started” (two of my favorite Van Hagar songs).

OU812 is a really odd departure for the band that never really gets out of 2nd gear outside of “Source of Infection”, which sounds like the hard rockin’ Van Halen of old. Even more odd when you consider this album is sandwiched in between the two most fun and most Roth-like Van Hagar albums: 5150 and For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.

Highlights: “Mine All Mine”, “When It’s Love”, “Source of Infection”, “Feels So Good”, “Finish What Ya Started”

www.van-halen.com

VAN HALEN – 5150

Van Halen – 5150 (1986, Warner Bros. Records)

1. “Good Enough” … 4:04
2. “Why Can’t This Be Love” … 3:47
3. “Get Up” … 4:37
4. “Dreams” … 4:54
5. “Summer Nights” … 5:06
6. “Best of Both Worlds” … 4:48
7. “Love Walks In” … 5:11
8. “5150” … 5:44
9. “Inside” … 5:02

Band:
Sammy Hagar – Vocals, Guitar
Eddie Van Halen – Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Michael Anthony – Bass, Backing Vocals
Alex Van Halen – Drums, Percussion

Produced by: Mick Jones, Don Landee, Van Halen

Ladies and gentlemen, David Lee Roth has left the building!

I prefer Roth-era Van Halen, but Van Hagar kicked off to a very promising start with this release, which I would rank right behind For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge for the Hagar albums.

“Why Can’t This Be Love”, “Love Walks In” and “Dreams” had been three of my favorite Van Halen songs since before I was even heavily into the band. It spelled out the change in the direction towards an adult contemporary sound the band would explore even more on the slightly disappointing OU812, but they are still great songs.

“Best of Both Worlds” is another VH classic, regardless of which era you prefer and “Get Up” is a tremendous rocker which would’ve been a great album opener.

This was the last VH album I needed to complete my collection and I got it probably 5 years ago or so. Well, honestly, I still have never picked up the Gary Cherone fronted Van Halen III, but I’ve heard enough to know it’s horrible and that I’ll probably never pick it up. I held off for so long just because I was so familiar already with “Love Walks In”, “Dreams”, “Why Can’t This Be Love” and “Best of Both Worlds” that I was in no urgent rush to hear the rest.

The album would eventually go platinum six times over and was Van Halen’s FIRST album to hit #1 on the Billboard charts.

Highlights: “Why Can’t This Be Love”, “Get Up”, “Dreams”, “Summer Nights”, “Best of Both Worlds”, “Love Walks In”

www.van-halen.com

CHICKENFOOT – Chickenfoot

Chickenfoot – Chickenfoot (2009, Redline Entertainment)

1. “Avenida Revolution” … 5:56
2. “Soap on a Rope” … 5:32
3. “Sexy Little Thing” … 4:14
4. “Oh Yeah” … 4:54
5. “Runnin’ Out” … 3:52
6. “Get It Up” … 4:41
7. “Down the Drain” … 6:17
8. “My Kinda Girl” … 4:32
9. “Learning to Fall” … 5:13
10. “Turnin’ Left” … 5:48
11. “Future in the Past” … 6:38

Band:
Sammy Hagar – Vocals
Joe Satriani – Guitar, Bass, Harmonica
Michael Anthony – Bass, Backing Vocals
Chad Smith – Drums, Percussion

Produced by: Chickenfoot and Andy Johns

With a name like Chickenfoot, you’d think this was a Buckethead project/album.

I’ve already seen tons of reviews trashing this album, talking about the lack of chemistry, “sub-Metallica” tunes like “Avenida Revolution” (WTF does that even mean?) and the restrained, unemotional playing of Joe Satriani. Well, this album isn’t a home run, but don’t let the critics fool you, it’s a GOOD album.

The whole album is pretty much on par with “Soap on a Rope” and “Down the Drain”, both were songs that the band released months ago for streaming online. If you like those songs, you’ll like the rest. It took me quite a few spins to get into the album, but now I”m picking it apart and liking it a lot. I didn’t like “Soap on a Rope” or “Down the Drain” all that much when I first heard those either, but now they’ve grown on me too.

Basically, to me, this album sounds like a Sammy Hagar solo disc with a few Van Halen tunes thrown in. By the way, how great is it to hear Michael Anthony backing Hagar on vocals again? The songs that remind me most of Van Halen are “Sexy Little Thing” (which is the best song on the album, IMO), “Oh Yeah”, “Runnin’ Out” and “My Kind Girl”.

The rest seems like what you might hear from Sammy Hagar as a solo act– it’s a mix of good time party rock and songs with a message about love, life and the state of the world.

I’m a bit dismayed Satriani doesn’t have much more to do on this album. Sure, he has his moments, but his playing is definitely more restrained than I thought it would be. Not that the guitar should be the star of the album, but I figured we get a few more smokin’ solos and we don’t. He’s plays for the songs and the songs only.

For the amount of talent of the band, I had really high hopes. I think everyone did. And while it wasn’t quite Van Halen + Joe Satriani + Red Hot Chili Peppers, it’s still a darn good party rock album and I hope this band will not be a one-time deal.

In a smart move, this release was a Best Buy exclusive. Not that I think it’s smart to go exclusive with Best Buy (who REALLY dropped the ball with Chinese Democracy), but going exclusive is a safer bet in today’s musical climate for veteran acts and artists.

The front/back covers are pretty cool. They are heat sensitive and go from black to revealing the band members on the front and the track listing on the back. Nice, fun touch.

Highlights: “Soap on a Rope” “Sexy Little Thing”, “Oh Yeah”, “Runnin’ Out”, “Down the Drain”, “My Kinda Girl”, “Learning to Fall”

www.chickenfoot.us
www.myspace.com/thechickenfoot

Chickenfoot Streaming Two Songs Online

Chickenfoot, the rock super group featuring Sammy Hagar, Joe Satriani, Michael Anthony (ex-Van Halen) and Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers), now has two songs up for streaming on their MySpace page and official website.

It’s good stuff, but I don’t understand why Sammy felt he had to hype of up their music as the equivalent of Van Halen and Led Zeppelin, because it’s definitely not.

“Soap On A Rope” reminds me a bit of early 90s Van Halen, but that’s about it. Really cool to hear Michael Anthony on backing vocals and Satch in an actual band environment. =)

“Down the Drain” is my favorite of the two songs.

What do you think?

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