Sammy Hagar - VOA (Geffen) 1984
1. I Can't Drive 55 (4:14)
2. Swept Away (5:38)
3. Rock Is In My Blood (4:31)
4. Two Sides Of Love (3:43)
5. Dick In The Dirt (4:22)
6. VOA (4:33)
7. Don't Make Me Wait (4:08)
8. Burnin' Down The City (5:32)
My first time hearing Sammy Hagar was on the monumental debut from Montrose. That album was heavy for it's time, historic and timeless. After Sammy parted ways with Montrose I didn't hear much from Sammy's solo career that piqued my interest, despite how popular he seemed to be with some of my rocker friends. To me his solo material was vanilla, paint-by-numbers, and generic hard rock. It also didn't help that I was in college in '85 and Sammy seemed to be a favorite among the party-till-you-puke frat boys, whom I did not identify with. (I was the resident long-haired skateboarding metalhead, with a bad attitude.) When Sammy moved on to Van Halen, my interest again wasn't piqued because VH had moved into pop terrain away from the heavy rock 'n' roll they played in the 70's with David Lee Roth. (I can remember distinctly the Van Hagar rumors and jokes that ran amuck back then.) So for decades, I basically ignored Sammy's music. It wasn't until Chickenfoot that I developed a new interest in Hagar and began revisiting his back catalog. "VOA" is the first of many I have decided to give a fresh spin and a commentary to.
"VOA" (Voice of America) was Sammy's eighth studio solo album. It ended up being his highest charting and biggest selling solo record to date, thanks to the single "I Can't Drive 55", a hard-rock party anthem that was perfect for 1984. Despite my initial disinterest in Hagar, there is no denying that this block-headed rock 'n' roll anthem is super catchy and testosterone injected. Even Van Halen took to playing the song for a while. Sure it's a silly song, but it's rock and roll. Who made up this rule that rock and roll had to be dark, depressing and thought-provoking? It's a fun song for fun times.
"Two Sides of Love" is the other hit single from the album, though it's a pretty bland power ballad. The rest of the album wasn't hit single status, though I'm fairly sure I heard "Dick in the Dirt" on the radio from time to time. "Swept Away" is probably my favorite track off the album. The song has a bit of a 70's vibe and builds from a melodic number into a hard rocker. Two other tracks worth mentioning are "Rock Is In My Blood" and "Burning Down The City", both of which are hard-n-heavy anthem rockers. This seems to be Sammy's forté.
The production is pretty standard for the mid-80's. For the most part the guitars are allowed to shine but sometimes the 80's style keyboards are a bit overbearing. This is especially true of a song like "Don't Make Me Wait". This tinkling 80's style keys really date the song and rob the song of it's edge.
It's fairly well known that Sammy joined Van Halen after "VOA", but it's also interesting to note that Sammy's guitarist Gary Pihl joined Boston after it's release as well. (Thanks Vexer6)
Sammy Hagar (Geffen) 1987
1. When The Hammer Falls (4:11)
2. Hands And Knees (4:50)
3. Give To Live (4:25)
4. Boys' Night Out (3:20)
5. Returning Home (6:18)
6. Standin' At The Same Old Crossroads (1:46)
7. Privacy (5:26)
8. Back Into You (5:16)
9. Eagles Fly (5:02)
10. What They Gonna Say Now (5:10)
Sammy joined Van Halen in 1985 but he still owed Geffen a solo release so in 1987 he and Eddie Van Halen got toghether and recorded "I Never Said Goodbye". The songs here are a mix of Van Halen-esque hard rock such as album opener "When the Hammer Falls" and the sleek and sinuous "Hands and Knees" and radio ballads like "Give It To Live" and "Eagles Fly". Not surprisingly with the popularity of Van Hagar in '87 the album generated a few hits. "Give To Live" was released as a single and topped the rock charts in the U.S. This ballad could easily have been on any of Van Halen's Hagar-era records. The second single for the album "Eagles Fly" was a song written by Sammy before joining Van Halen and one that he apparently offered to his new band. Though Van Halen played the song live after the release of "I Never Said Goodbye", they never recorded the song. "Hands and Knees" should have been recorded as a single, or used in Van Halen. This song is actually as good as, or better than many of their mid-80's hits.
Though the album was originally self-titled, Sammy also have a self-titled album released in 1977, so it was a bit confusing. The album was generally referred to as "1987" by fans. Eventually the album was titled "I Never Said Goodbye", the name being chosen as part of a contest on MTV (back when MTV was actually a music television station). Original CD pressings have no name or title on the CD art, whereas re-pressings have the logo and new title printed in the upper left hand corner.
Sammy Hagar - Marching to Mars (MCA) 1997
1. Little White Lie (2:52)
2. Salvation on Sand Hill (5:01)
3. Who Has the Right? (5:20)
4. Would You Do It for Free? (4:31)
5. Leaving the Warmth of the Womb (5:06)
6. Kama (5:20)
7. On the Other Hand (2:42)
8. Both Sides Now (4:27)
9. The Yogi's So High (I'm Stoned) (6:02)
10. Amnesty Is Granted (4:23)
11. Marching to Mars (5:09)
After Van Halen's 1995 release "Balance", Sammy Hagar was handed his walking papers from the band. The saga was well publicized. "Marching to Mars" was Hagar's first solo album after his exit from the band.
I like a wide variety of rock and roll, hard rock and heavy metal. For whatever reason much of Sammy Hagar's solo stuff leaves me a bit cold. It's like walking into a New York deli with all these wonderful choices of cold-cuts, breads and cheeses and ordering a plain bologna sandwich on white bread, hold the cheese and condiments. There is some meat on that sandwich, but there's no zest. Where's the spice? Where's the mustard? Where's the flavor?
The meat of "Marching to Mars" is in a handful of tracks such a album opener "Little White Lie", one of the harder rocking songs on this otherwise mellow affair. The autobiographical song is a bluesy acoustic/electric song in which Sammy makes the claim that he was never completely happy during his Van Halen days. Apparently he felt more like an employee than a part of the creative machine. Follow-up track "Salvation On Sand Hill" is a good rocker as well; the song ebbing and flowing between more introspective, bluesy verses to the hard rocking chorus. "Leaving The Warmth Of The Womb" amounts to a Montrose reunion with Ronnie joining together with his former vocalist one final time. The song is fairly mellow but does feature some smokin' lead work from Ronnie. (The sessions also had a re-recording of the Montrose classic, "Rock Candy" which didn't make the album but was released as a b-side on a single.)
The album hosts a ton of other guest artists including Slash, Roy Rogers, Huey Lewis, Bootsy Collins (Parliament/Funkadelic) and Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead, among others. However, a host of well known musicians doesn't save this album as a whole from the doldrums. The rest of the album is packed with by-the-book sappy ballads (Who Has the Right?, Kama, Amnesty is Granted), funk (Would You Do it for Free) and blues-based rock (On the Other Hand). "On the Other Hand" starts off with some interesting rim-shot percussive work, but it drags on a bit too long. The song is just over two minutes long and the first two minutes of the song sounds like an intro. Just when the song begins to build at around the two minute mark, the song fades out. It's almost like the song was never finished. "Both Sides Now" is another ballad and was a fairly big radio hit that features some nice percussive work. This song could have been a hit for Van Halen.
The album ends with the title track, a slightly more upbeat hard rock song with a stomping beat.
Sammy's first solo album after exiting Van Halen has a handful of tasty songs, but for the lacks something overall. I found myself getting bored with it despite giving it numerous spins to see if it would grow on me. The album definitely would have benefitted from a few more rockers and a few less ballads. It's too bad "Rock Candy" wasn't included on the album.
Hagar briefly rejoined Van Halen in 2004 to tour and record three new songs for a greatest hits compilation. That reunion ended in an even more dramatic fashion with bassist Michael Anthony jumping ship to join Hagar in Chickenfoot.
Hagar, Schon, Aaronson, Shrieve, Montrose, Van Halen, Chickenfoot