SAMMY HAGAR

"Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock" (!t Books; 2011)

Reviewed by Jeff Rogers

I've always liked Sammy Hagar, also known as "The Red Rocker." He's got a style all his own, his voice is instantly recognizable and unmistakable. He's got the coolness to go along with his vocal swagger and he just seems cool and approachable. And that's what makes this book so readable. If you want Sammy's side of it, you're going to get it, no holds barred and no bull either. He's very optimistic and even a bad situation won't get him down. He starts life on a tough note and ends on a positive one.

The book starts out with his days in Montrose. There, he learned the business side of rock. He just wanted to sing but he found out that it's not called the talent business, it's called the music business for a reason. From there he weaves a tale of going solo and his decision to join Van Halen and take them to higher heights. You'll get the lowdown on how they wrote the music and how eventually his stint as the lead singer of VH ran its course. He doesn't trash Eddie Van Halen, but he does question the guy's sanity at times. I've never read anywhere that Sammy bashes Van Halen. He was there to sing and create music. He did that and he's proud of his accomplishment. If the Van Halen camp had a problem, then that was their problem.

You'll also hear about how Sammy started his liquor business and how the track "Cabo Wabo" from "OU812" spawned more than just a song on an album. Sammy also includes his family matters and how he's always tried to do the right thing when it came to the woman he really loved and wanted to spend the rest of his life with. He tells about Chickenfoot and his other bands. He's always got Michael Anthony with him; in fact, Mike even writes a forward in the book.

All in all, you'll find Sammy to be one of the nicest guys in rock. He just wants to sing and have a good time. He doesn't like dealing with crap and since he's made a name for himself he really doesn't have to prove anything to anybody.

For more information, check out http://www.redrocker.com

"Cosmic Universal Fashion" (Loud & Proud; 2008)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

The Red Rocker returns to a harder rock'n'roll style with "Cosmic Universal Fashion." As much as I enjoyed Hagar's milder previous CD, "Livin' It Up," I'll take the harder stuff any day!

"Cosmic Universal Fashion" begins with the title track, a song that Hagar wrote with an Iraqi musician and that re-visits Van Halen's "Right Now." It's a little different from your average Hagar tune but I believe that was the point. "Psycho Vertigo" is up next, and brings to mind the early days of Montrose. The kinky hard-rocking "Peephole" is next followed by one of the albums best tracks: "Loud."  "Loud" is a pure celebration of the word, from loud cars to loud guitars to loud women. It's one of those anthems that Hagar will play for years to come in his live shows. 

The Beastie Boys' classic "Fight For Your Right (To Party)" is covered next and Hagar smoothes it out a little too much; his live version of the song rocks harder and it's tough to beat the Beastie Boys' version anyway. The Aerosmith-like "Switch on the Light" is next, followed by  a modern Country song entitled "The Sun Don't Shine," which could be a crossover hit for Hagar. Two more classic Hagar anthems follow: "24365" (which makes more sense if you think of it as 24/365) and the blistering "I'm on a Roll." The CD closes out with a live version of Van Halen's "Dreams" and Hagar's own "Cabo Wabo," in which the Red Rocker truly sings from the heart.

Whereas "Livin' It Up" was more in a Jimmy Buffet type vein, "Cosmic Universal Fashion" is more similar to recent albums like "Ten 13." It's still got that great Sammy Hagar vibe, but it kicks a little more ass. And speaking of Hagar, the man's voice sounds awesome. After all these years, he's still got one of the best set of pipes in rock'n'roll. If anything, "Cosmic Universal Fashion" gives him the chance to show off even more of his vocal talent and Hagar rises to the occasion nicely.

Fans of Sammy Hagar's previous material, especially the harder stuff, will definitely enjoy "Cosmic Universal Fashion."

For more information, check out http://www.redrocker.com

"Livin' It Up" (Cabo Wabo/Rhino; 2006)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

It should be pointed out before I begin this review that I am a huge Sammy Hagar fan. I love the man's music, I love his lifestyle, I love his tequila; hell, I even love his fashion sense. I've been known to joke that when I grow up, I want to be just like Sammy Hagar (it's more truth than joke) and I've traveled great distances to attend Red Rocker events (i.e., the opening of the Cabo Wabo Cantina in Lake Tahoe).

So when there's a new Sammy Hagar album released, I'm always there to buy it the first day it hits stores. "Livin' It Up" was no exception. And I like the new CD, I really do. It's not one of Sammy's harder edged CDs which, of course, are my favorites, but rather a milder, more relaxed CD with an emphasis on enjoying life to the fullest. I've got no problem with that, either.

What bothers me a little about "Livin' It Up," however, is that it almost plays like a 40-minute advertisement for everything Hagar has become. There are songs about the good life ("Living on a Coastline," "Mexico," "The Way We Live," "Sailin," and "Let Me Take You There") and there are songs about drinking and having a good time ("One Sip" and covers of Toby Keith's "I Love This Bar" and Bob Dylan's "Rainy Day Woman #12/#35," aka "Everybody Must Get Stoned"). Almost every song has a reference to Cabo Wabo (either the tequila or the bar) and, after awhile, it starts to sound a little too ... I dunno ... intentional. It's almost like Sammy's trying too hard to become the Jimmy Buffet of the hard rock set. 

But maybe he's not. Maybe Sammy's just come to the point in his life where he's going to write and sing about the things he loves most. Most of the things he sings about here are the things I love most, too, and probably you as well: Vacations, fun, and relaxing with your friends. Hard to beat that. And the CD is entitled "Livin' It Up," after all.

His band still kicks total ass. The "Wabos" are an awesome group of hugely talented musicians and Sammy's smart for keeping them around, although smart may have nothing to do with it. They all seem to have so much fun together that it's more like a group of friends than a band ... they just happen to be a killer band, too.

Speaking of killer, Sammy's voice is still one of the best in rock'n'roll. He hits the high notes, he hits the low notes, he sings ballads beautifully, he can still rock out when he has to, which is actually only once on "Livin' It Up," with "Mexico." The rest of the CD plays more in the vein of Hagar's earlier "Red Voodoo." And, although the Toby Keith and Bob Dylan covers are fun, it would have been nice to have at least one song with more hard rock edge here.

All that grousing aside, I still enjoyed "Livin' It Up" and will listen to it often. Because, despite the fact that this isn't my favorite Sammy Hagar CD, I still want to be Sammy when I grow up.

Sammy Hagar and the Wabos: Sammy Hagar - lead vocals, background vocals, electric and acoustic guitar; David (Bro) Lauser - drums, percussion, backing vocals; Vic (Tore Up) Johnson - electric and acoustic guitar, backing vocals; Mona - bass, backing vocals. 

For more information, check out http://www.redrocker.com

"The Essential Red Collection" (Hip-O; 2004)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

The same can be asked of Sammy Hagar as can be asked of many other veteran musicians and/or bands out there: Do we really need yet another collection of "greatest hits"? I think I've got at least three Sammy Hagar compilations in my collection already. Why in the world would I need another?

Well, there are the completists out there who have to have one copy of everything Sammy Hagar has ever recorded on their shelves and "The Essential Red Collection" does have two unreleased tracks on it: "Thinking of You" and "Call My Name," both of which were written as demos in 1974. ("Thinking of You" later became "Rock'n'Roll Romeo" on Hagar's "Nine on a Ten Scale.")

Also out there are those who are unfamiliar with Hagar's work (apparently, they've lived under a rock for the past thirty years or so). For those folks, "The Essential Red Collection" is a great place to find out what all the fuss is about, to find out why I've often called Sammy Hagar the ultimate definition of the phrase "rock star."

And then there are people like me, huge Sammy Hagar fans who are too lazy to rip and burn their own greatest hits collections and instead wind up buying each new compilation as it is released so that they have the classic Hagar tunes ("Bad Motor Scooter," "Red") on the same disc with the newer, soon-to-be-classic Hagar tunes ("Little White Lie," "Mas Tequila.").

"The Essential Red Collection" really isn't what its title promises. There are huge gaps in the admittedly gigantic collection of Sammy's best songs here and, although it's nice to have three songs originally available only on film soundtracks ("Fast Times at Ridgemont High," "The Girl Gets Around" and "Winner Takes It All"), the absence of tracks like "Three Lock Box," "Rock'n'Roll Weekend," and, of course, anything from Hagar's days with Van Halen, is obvious. But that's the case with any greatest hits compilation; you can't please everyone.

So, the answer to the question to the question posed above is this. No, we don't really need yet another collection of Sammy Hagar's greatest hits.

But that doesn't make this any less of a great CD.

For more information, check out http://www.redrocker.com or http://www.cabowabo.com

"Live Hallelujah" (Sanctuary / Cabo Wabo; 2003)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

A live Sammy Hagar show is one of the best shows you can ever expect to see in rock'n'roll. The Red Rocker's love of the music and his absolute giddy delight in sharing that music with an audience is so contagious that maybe he and the Waboritas should be listed with the World Health Organization everywhere they play. Add to that already irresistible formula the fact that Hagar writes some of the best songs in rock'n'roll, has one of best voices and plays one of the meanest guitars, and you've got a combination that simply cannot be beat.

"Live Hallelujah" captures a live Sammy Hagar show and it's like lightning's been caught in a bottle. That giddy excitement is apparent throughout this live recording and the performances recorded herein (from several shows, as Hagar plainly states in the liner notes) are full of charisma, and are fine displays of Hagar's - and his impressive band's - various talents. It sounds great, too, being one of the crispest live recordings I've heard in a long time.

With a running time of over 78 minutes, "Live Hallelujah" is about 90 minutes short of an actual Sammy Hagar show. Still, most of the big hits are here, including classic Montrose ("Rock Candy"), some vintage Hagar ("There's Only One Way to Rock"), some Van Halen stuff ("Right Now," "When It's Love") and some newer Hagar tunes ("Shaka Doobie," "Mas Tequila"). And, speaking of Van Halen, Michael Anthony appears on a track or two as does Gary Cherone.

Also featured on the CD is a studio version of "Hallelujah," which first appeared on Hagar's last CD, "Not 4 Sale." Hagar included it here as well because he thought it deserved a shot as a single. He may have been right - the song seems to be getting considerable airplay with the release of the new live CD.

The only complaint I have about "Live Hallelujah" is that it's not a double disc set. Again, according to Hagar's liner notes, that may be in the works with possibly even a three disc set. It all depends on how well this disc does. And it deserves to do very, very well.

Performing on "Live Hallelujah" are: Sammy Hagar - guitar and lead vocals; Jesse Harms - keyboards, percussion and background vocals; Vic Johnson - guitar and background vocals; Mona - bass and background vocals; David Lauser - drums, percussions and background vocals.

For more information, check out http://www.redrocker.com or http://www.cabowabo.com

"Not 4 Sale" (Cabo Wabo/33rd Street; 2002)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

In the liner notes of "Not 4 Sale," Sammy Hagar expresses surprise that the album came about so quickly. "I really didn't plan nor set out to make this CD," he writes, "but with the Wabo's getting together and doing what we really love to do ... play music ... next thing I know we had 10 awesome new songs. We were all shocked. It was without a doubt the easiest recording process ever." 

You might think, based on Sammy's words, that maybe a little more "seasoning" time should have been necessary for the songs of "Not 4 Sale" to work. You'd be wrong. Despite Sammy's comments that the recording process was the easiest ever, "Not 4 Sale" sounds like a lot of work. It's the product of a band that has a great time together making great music and that attitude and enjoyment easily transfers to the listening audience. 

As always, the songwriting throughout is impressive. Hagar's career proves that the man can do at least three things extremely well: Write songs, sing, and play guitar. All are in strong evidence here, with the songs ranging from the hard rocking, anthemic "Stand Up and Shout," to the slammin' blues number "The Big Nail." Hagar's voice never waivers once; it's strong and confident and seems tailor-made for the songs being performed (which you might expect considering Hagar is the songwriter behind most of them). And, again, Hagar's guitar work is amazing. 

But this is Sammy Hagar and the Waboritas and this is a band that should be recognized also. They are a tight, comfortable unit that mesh together perfectly yet still allow themselves and each other to shine. This is particularly obvious during the track "Whole Lotta Zep," a tribute to the legendary Led Zeppelin, in which Hagar and crew perform a seamless Zeppelin medley that contains licks and verses from "Whole Lotta Love," "Black Dog" and "Kashmir."

As I've mentioned before, for my money, Sammy Hagar does his best work out and away from Van Halen. I'll take his solo stuff any day and "Not 4 Sale" is a solid, satisfying record.

Sammy Hagar and the Waboritas: Sammy Hagar - vocals, guitar; Jesse Harms - keyboards, vocals; Vic Johnson - guitar, vocals; David Lauser - drums, vocals; Mona - bass, vocals.

For more information, check out http://www.redrocker.com or http://www.cabowabo.com

"Cabo Wabo Birthday Bash Tour" DVD (Image Entertainment; 2001)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Way before he was one of the Van Halen gang, Sammy Hagar was known for putting on one of the best rock'n'roll shows ever. His onstage persona, his unmatched charisma, and his incredible talent - as singer, songwriter and musician - always came together to deliver a powerful, exciting and, yes, fun, show.

This double-DVD collection contains Sammy Hagar, with his incredible band, the Waboritas, live in Chicago, Illinois. Before the rock'n'roll begins, Sammy shows you in detail how to make a proper margarita, and then takes the stage and delivers the goods - with songs from his excellent, latest CD, "Ten 13" (such as "Shaka Doobie (The Limit)," Serious JuJu," and "Let Sally Drive" to such classics as "I Can't Drive 55," "There's Only One Way to Rock," "Rock Candy," and "Red." There are even a couple Van Halen tunes thrown in for good measure - "Eagles Fly," "Why Can't This Be Love," and "Finish What Ya Started." There are a total of 22 tracks on the live portion of this DVD and not one of them lacks in any way.

Disc 2 contains an almost hour-long interview with the Red Rocker that has him discussing everything from his child life to his time in Van Halen. It's a fascinating and enjoyable interview, again because of Sammy's incredible "your best buddy" persona. Disc 2 finishes up with scenes from Sammy's legendary place in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Cabo Wabo. If you're rocker and you haven't been there, you've really got to find time to make the trip. During my visit to Cabo San Lucas, I found a Helarage business card stapled to the wall of a seedy restaurant. How cool is that!

The "Cabo Wabo Birthday Bash Tour" DVD is a set that every Sammy Hagar fan must have (even if you don't have a DVD player yet; you will soon enough). It's a fine showcase for a very talented rocker, who shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

The Waboritas are: Sammy Hagar - vocals, guitar; Mona - bass guitar, background vocals; Jesse Harms - keyboards, background vocals; Vic Johnson - guitar, background vocals; David Lauser - drums.

For more information, please visit http://www.cabowabo.com

"Ten 13" (Cabo Wabo/Beyond; 2000)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Sammy Hagar was born on October 13th, hence the title of this CD, "Ten 13." According to the brief liner notes, Sammy's in a pretty good place in life right now. He's happy, he's surrounded himself with good friends (and great musicians - the Waboritas) and he loves life.

All of this is evident throughout "Ten 13," which just might be Hagar's best solo CD since he left Van Halen. Harder than either "Marching to Mars" or "Red Voodoo," "Ten 13" is a perfect cross between Sammy's earlier solo years ("V.O.A.", "3 Lock Box") and his Van Halen tenure.

Amusingly, "Ten 13" opens with a song called "Shaka Doobie (The Limit)" which, if I'm reading it right, is a sequel to "Red Voodoo's" "Mas Tequila." "Shaka Doobie" is the story of the day after "Mas Tequila." It's a kicker, with Hagar in fine form both on guitar and vocals.

"Let Sally Drive" is up next and it's another solid rocker. "Serious Juju," which is the CD's first single, is up next, and is one of the songs that brings to mind Sammy's Van Halen days. Another driving tune.

"The Message" also brings Van Halen to mind, boasting the same kind of tempo and style of "Right Here, Right Now." "Deeper Kind of Love" is a softer kind of love song with hook-ridden guitar riffs throughout. "Little Bit More" is another relationship song, closer to a ballad-type tune, with poignant lyrics.

The title song pops up as the seventh track and is Sammy Hagar's celebration of life. Its chorus contains many verses of "Happy Birthday" (both to Sammy and to everyone - Hagar uses the birthday as a celebration of life here). "Protection," next up, is a sober, almost somber rocker. 

I didn't care much for "3 in the Middle" the first time I listened to it. I thought its repetitious chorus was grating and even a little obnoxious. Subsequent listenings however, have burned that same chorus into my brain and now I look forward to hearing this song.

"The Real Deal" is a slide-guitar blues number featuring some very unique Hagar vocals. Ironically, it brings to mind some of David Lee Roth's work on early Van Halen albums (although without much of the humor.) This is a very cool, different song. Roy Rogers provides slide guitar here.

"Tropic of Capricorn" closes the CD out with an ode to the good life with Sammy singing about love, paradise and Waboritas. Another lively, Jimmy Buffet-type number in the vein of "Red Voodoo." Those patient enough will be treated to a brief instrumental shortly after "Tropic" ends.

All in all, "Ten 13" is a much more vibrant record than Sammy's previous two solo CDs. The Waboritas continue to amaze with their musical prowess and Sammy's songwriting, guitar work and vocals continue to entertain. Who needs Van Halen? We've always thought that Sammy Hagar was much more enjoyable without them.

For more information, please visit http://www.redrocker.com

"Red Voodoo" (MCA; 1999)sammyred.jpg (16029 bytes)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Party rock makes a huge return with the Red Rocker's latest solo CD, "Red Voodoo." Former Van Halen crooner Sammy Hagar celebrates life and good times here with a dose of thought-provoking ballads to balance things out. It's a record that makes you remember that Sammy was a very successful solo artist before he joined Van Halen.

First up is the true party tune, "Mas Tequila" - an ode to Hagar's favorite beverage (he currently manufactures a brand of tequila himself called Cabo Wabo tequila, named after his rock club in Mexico. Hagar follows the first party tune with another: "Shag" which any fan of the Austin Powers movies can tell you all about. The album's first serious tune is up next, "Sympathy for the Human" in which Hagar rails against hypocritical religions.

The title song is a unique turn for Hagar: It's a hip, happy, Jimmy Buffet-type song that just reeks of good times. Of all the songs on the new CD, I'd mark this one as a hit single.

Unfortunately, there are many songs on this CD that simply induce a yawn. This is difficult for me to admit as a huge Sammy Hagar fan. But there's no denying that "Lay Your Hand on Me" with its infinitely repeating chorus, "The Love" a throw-back to Sammy's Van Halen days and the slooooow "Returning of the Wish" are just plain dull.

But those yawners don't ruin a still enjoyable record. "High and Dry Again," the slide-guitar boogie number "Don't Fight It, Feel It' and the terrific "Right on Right" are intermixed with the lesser songs and make them tolerable.

Sammy's band - the Waboritas - are the same band he toured with last year and they are nothing short of amazing. They're tighter than hell and are having a great time. This carries over into the audience during a live performance and is gloriously infectious. The tour deserves to be a smash hit (click here for our review of Sammy Hagar at the Hard Rock Cafe in Los Angeles).

Sammy Hagar and the Waboritas: Sammy Hagar, lead vocals and guitar; Victor Johnson, background vocals and guitar; Mona, background vocals and bass; Jesse Harms, background vocals and keyboards; David Lauser, background vocals and drums. Guest musicians include Roy Rogers on slide guitar and the Tower of Power Horns.

For more information, please visit http://www.redrocker.com

"Sammy Hagar" (Capitol; 1977)

Reviewed by Jeff Rogers

This is the second solo album from Sammy Hagar, AKA the "Red Rocker," which would become a more adhesive label in the future. The first song is entitled "Red" and a lot of people call this "The Red Album" because of the cover, first song and Sammy's locks.

If you want a vintage sound from Sammy, then this is it. Sammy covers a few songs like the Donovan tune titled "Catch The Wind" and "Free Money" by Patti Smith. "Fillmore Shuffle" is by Pilot and "Hungry" is a Paul Revere & The Raiders song. This pure vinyl recording was done at Abbey Road, London.

There were some future stars who played on this record: Bill Church played with Van Morrison and Sammy while he was in Montrose and after Sammy Hagar went solo. Alan Fitzgerald later played with Night Ranger and Scott Mathews has played with everybody from The Beach Boys to Neil Young.

The music isn't bad but this being Sammy's second solo disc he only strikes a few times with some real rockers. His voice sounds good and at times he's got a Robert Plant approach to the song. I don't remember any of these AM classics and I only saw this CD hidden behind one that was covered in two inches of dust. I guess we all have to start somewhere (I wouldn't want my early yearbooks to ever surface either).

Performing on "Sammy Hagar" are: Sammy Hagar lead vocals; Bill Church bass; Alan Fitzgerald keyboards; Scott Mathews drums; David Lewark guitar.

For more information, please visit http://www.redrocker.com

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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