Sammy Hagar – Cosmic Universal Fashion (2008, Roadrunner/Loud & Proud)
- Cosmic Universal Fashion
- Psycho Vertigo
- Fight For Your Right To Party
- Switch On The Light
- When The Sun Don’t Shine
- I’m On A Roll
(For Musician credits, please refer to the digital booklet at Red Rocker.com)
Produced by: Sammy Hagar & Bob Daspit
Additional Production on ‘Cosmic Universal Fashion’: David Kahne
Total Time = 43:46
I want to start this review off by stating that I am a Sammy Hagar fan. I have enjoyed his music whether it was made in Montrose, Van Halen or as a solo artist. The reason I want to make this clear is because it has become fashionable to brush Sammy off, especially during his old band’s “reunion” with David Lee Roth. Like it or not, the Red Rocker has released some excellent music throughout his entire career but he often gets referred to as “Van Halen’s other singer” in many fan circles. The guy has had a very successful career in Rock, as well as, a solid business career with his Cabo Wabo Tequila.
When I read that Sammy was releasing a new record I was a little wary but at least he brought Michael Anthony along with the Waboritas to liven the party! I didn’t really get into his last album LIVIN’ IT UP (2006) so hearing that Sam had collabrated with many different wirters and musicians on a myriad of styles got me nervous. One listen online to the first single, ‘Cosmic Universal Fashion’, started to reinforce my fears. The title track is an online collaboration with Iraqi musician/songwriter Steven Lost and it’s an Industrial Pop pseudo-remake of the Van Halen single ‘Right Now’. It’s definitely a different sounding song for a guy known for hard-driving Arena Rock and it’s sounds kind of Dance/Pop and programmed to me. I’ve watched the video a lot and I like the similar theme to the ‘Right Now’ video, I’d say the video makes the song better.
‘Cosmic Universal Fashion’
‘Psycho Vertigo’ and ‘Peephole’ are songs that came from the shelved Planet Us sessions (a collaboration between Sam, Mike Anthony, Joe Satriani, Neal Schon, & Deen Castronovo) from around the Van Halen/Sam reunion in 2005. The songs are guitar oriented tracks with a dark atmosphere to them, everything sounds great on these tracks and it’s a shame that Planet Us got shelved for Sam’s return to Van Halen. When you read the liner notes for these two songs, Sammy refers to the reunion with the VH brothers as “Van Hagar”…..and I thought only the fans did that! Straight from the ’80s, Sammy gets loose with the hard rocker ‘Loud’. This song would easily fit in great on any of the Van Halen albums or any of the solo records Sam has released since 1997. This is my favorite song from the album so far!
Unfortunately, I have to take points away from the album with the inclusion of ‘Fight For Your Right To Party’ by the Beastie Boys. I’ll say it until my face turns blue: Why do artists/bands include unnecessary cover songs on albums of original material? Are the out of material? I know that Sam and his band play a version of this song live, I’ve seen them do it a few times, but it’s out of place among the originals. It fits Sam’s life of kicking back and partying but I have to question doing the song. ‘Switch On The Light’ sounds like ZZ Top and, after reading the booklet, the song is a collaboration with ZZ mainman Billy Gibbons, who also adds some vocals. ‘When The Sun Don’t Shine’ sounds like a cross between Jimmy Buffet and Country music and would fit in nicely on LIVIN’ IT UP. It’s another one of those stripped down and relaxed acoustic songs with great harmonies. Another different style is explored on ‘24365’ when Sammy crosses his brand of Hard Rock with some James Brown, Motown and Funk. It’s an interesting song but it hasn’t really grabbed me yet. The Rock moments are solid, the harmonies are great but the James Brown/R&B wibe throws me off. ‘24365’ features Bootsy Collins (Parliament/Funkadelic). ‘I’m On A Roll’ is another Red Rocker that could pair up with ‘Loud’ on any Hagar release. Waboritas guitarist Victor Johnson is extremely talented (as are all the Waboritas) and he does a solid Eddie Van Halen on this track. Both the rhythm and lead sound just like EVH and the band really jams like 5150-era Van Halen.
The album closes with a 9 minute live version of the Van Halen classics ‘Dreams’ and ‘Cabo Wabo’ mixed together. It’s more of a low key ballady approach with acoustic guitars and an extended intro speech from Sammy. These songs were recorded straight from the Birthday Bash 2007 from the Cabo Wabo Cantina so it’s a cool addition but I look at it as more covers. These two songs are Sammy’s signatures with Van Halen, he loves them and so do the fans, but I want more original material. I don’t want to write this track off like I did ‘Fight For Your Right To Party’, at least Sam is covering himself!
COSMIC UNIVERSAL FASHION was released Tuesday (11/18) but I was lucky enough to have the album a week early. After repeated listens, my fears are gone because the album has grown on me. I think that the release of the Industrial styled title track threw me off a little but once you get into the album you mostly hear soild Rock. I’m not going to count the two cover songs (even though the VH cover is kind of cool) so, out of 10 songs, the 8 originals have a cool Hard Rock party vibe that Sammy Hagar is a master at delivering. Sam throws a couple of curveballs with the Industrial/Dance rhythm on the title cut, and the R&B style of ‘24365’, but there is enough of a Rock edge to every track to put this up alongside some of his other works. I have to admit, I was surprised the album was pretty good because I was expecting the worst. The record is a fun listen and it also rocks out but it took me a couple of spins to get into it. I like this new record enough that I’m going to go back and give LIVIN’ IT UP a few spins to give it a fresh listen and see if I can get into that one a little more.
Favorite Songs: ‘Psycho Vertigo’, ‘Peephole’, ‘Loud’, ‘I’m On A Roll’, ‘where The Sun Don’t Shine’