How do you celebrate four decades in the music business?
You could write a tell-all book, but there’s a price to be paid for that.
You could mine your archives for your best material and release a career retrospective but those records aren’t always welcomed by your fans because they’ve already bought everything you released and don’t want to buy them all over again.
You could do something you’ve always meant to do but just never got around to, like snorkeling off the Great Barrier Reef.
Sammy Hagar chose to mark the occasion by bringing some of his best friends into the studio to make a brand new record.
I like the way he thinks.
I like the record he came out of those sessions with even more.
Sammy Hagar and Friends features collaborations with musical friends from across a broad musical spectrum and from almost every period in his career, starting with Bill Church and Denny Carmassi, who played with Hagar in Montrose starting in the early 70s.
Sadly Ronnie Montrose died last year or he might have been on deck as well. Still, there’s no shortage of talent on deck here.
In addition to Hagar’s Montrose bandmates you’ll also find Kid Rock, Neal Schon, (Santana, Journey, Hagar Schon Aaronson Shrieve), Taj Mahal, Heart’s Nancy Wilson, Ronnie Dunn, Toby Keith and his Chickenfoot bandmates, Joe Satriani, Chad Smith and Michael Anthony.
With that diverse a line-up you just knew the mix was going to be diverse as well.
There are gutsy, flat out rockers with wailing guitars, rootsy blues numbers with serious Dobro work, reinvented pop songs and hot country rockers with four on the floor.
Hagar wrote or co-wrote four of the record’s 10 tracks. The remaining tracks came from a variety of sources.
Other contributors included Ronnie Dunn, legendary Memphis tunesmith Don Nix and British rocker Martin Gore, represented here by Personal Jesus, a track he charted with in the late 80s with his own band, Depeche Mode.
There are some other covers on the record as well, Bob Seger’s Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man and Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, the latter recorded as a duet with Toby Keith.
The Seger track fares well. The Buffett track takes time to grow on you because Hagar has chosen to slow it down. A little too laidback perhaps.
The deluxe edition of Sammy Hagar and Friends features an additional track, a solid live performance of Space Station No. 5, a track Hagar co-wrote with Ronnie Montrose.
This performance is from the Ronnie Montrose Tribute Concert in San Francisco in April of last year.
As you might expect, given the talent Hagar lured into the studio, there are some absolutely killer performances on this record, not the least of which is Hagar belting some serious blues.
The record comes across as one big party.
That apparently was the way it felt in the studio too.
Producer John Cuniberti said he’d never seen anybody have as much fun making a record as Hagar had making this one.
He said Hagar came into the studio every day with the energy of a 15-year-old, full of enthusiasm, and that his energy and enthusiasm were infectious.
Choice offerings on this set include Personal Jesus, Going Down, Bad On Fords and Chevrolets, Knockdown Dragout and Winding Down.
The deluxe package, I should add, also includes a DVD.
(Rating 3 out of 5 stars)
Doug Gallant, a reporter with The Guardian, writes his music review column for The Guardian every week. He welcomes comments from readers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 629-6000, ext. 6057.