Review by Brian McGowan
Sammy Hagar & Friends is an album on which Hagar’s affinity for blues, folk and country is writ large.
And it’s as good a rock’n’roll album as you’ll hear this year.
Guests include Ronnie (Brooks And) Dunn, Neal Schon, Denny Carmassi, Toby Keith, Nancy Wilson, Kid Rock and Joe Satriani.
After meeting SH&F on tour, Jay Buchanan of the Rival Sons wrote a song for Hagar to perform on stage. Hagar thought the song so good it appears here. It‘s a peach, a slow burning tour de force with all the bluesrock gravitas of Led Zeppelin, dramatised by a sparingly applied lap steel guitar and sweetened by a gospel choir. You might think that Hagar’s tuneless, brutally raw howl, declaiming his assurance that he is ‘Not Going Down’ might pull the rug out from under, but instead it serves to emphasise the power behind the sentiment, a climactic explosion of emotion that’s hard to ignore and impossible to forget.
It’s arguably the album’s outstanding moment.
The quality of Hagar’s songwriting remains resolutely solid. The simple sentiments, witty rhymes and lilting melody of the evocative ‘An Island’ (a duet with Nancy Wilson) are all the proof we need.
Elsewhere, the foot tapping, hand clapping, Mountain music simplicity of ‘Father Sun‘, driven by skittering mandolins and wheezing accordions becomes, in time, a folk-blues celebration of one musician’s surgical skill, splicing two living, breathing genres together to create as handsome a hybrid monster as ever created by the album’s principal guest, Taj Mahal.
You would think a song written by a committee would have neither shape nor form. ‘Knockdown Dragout’ has no less than 6 collaborators, yet has a singularly sleazy style, born from the marriage of a glorious Glamrock stomp to the dirtiest, most fertile groove this side of the Mississippi Delta.
Covers of Depeche Mode’s ‘Personal Jesus’, Bob Seger’s ‘Gamblin man’ and Jimmy Buffet’s ‘Margaritaville’ all fit neatly into Hagar’s revitalised pocket of creativity, their disparity adding width and texture to the new material.
A reverential, Van Halen-esque version of Memphis Soul legend, Don Nix’s equally legendary ‘Going Down’, a song covered by many, including Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Delaney&Bonnie, closes the album out in style.
With this new release, you get the feeling that it is an album that Hagar always wanted to make. It was worth the wait.
9 out of 10
- Winding Down (with Taj Mahal)
- Not Going Down (with Bill Church & Denny Carmassi)
- Personal Jesus (with Neal Schon, Michael Anthony & Chad Smith)
- Father Sun (with Denny Carmassi & Aaron Hagar)
- Knockdown Dragout (with Kid Rock, Joe Satriani, Denny Carmassi)
- Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man (with David Lauser, Mona Gnader & Vic Johnson)
- Bad On Fords and Chevrolets (with Ronnie Dunn, David Lauser, Mona Gnader & Vic Johnson)
- Margaritaville (with Toby Keith)
- All We Need Is An Island (with Nancy Wilson & Mickey Hart)
- Going Down (with Neal Schon, Michael Anthony & Chad Smith)