REVIEW: Sammy Hagar – Cosmic Universal Fashion

My first ever Van Halen album was For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (I think I bought it on cassette with my birthday money when I turned 13) and I thought Sammy Hagar was the coolest dude alive – well, after Steve Vai and Eddie Van Halen, anyway.

My opinion of Sammy was elevated further by a kickass rendition of the song ‘High Hopes’ on the Late Show with David Letterman in about 2004, where Sammy chugged out a chunky riff and let fly on a blazing guitar solo on an Ernie Ball/Music Man Edward Van Halen signature guitar.

Sammy’s new album, ‘Cosmic Universal Fashion,’ is unique in his discography because it wasn’t written and recorded from start to end as an album: instead it comprises a bunch of disparate tracks written and recorded in a variety of different settings over a number of years for various projects. Yet there’s a unity to the tracks which helps them sit together in the same collection even though the moods vary wildly.

‘Cosmic Universal Fashion’ is not immune from moments of guitar brilliance. In fact the CD opens with a wild, high-speed guitar lick, and with axemen including Journey’s Neal Schon, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, and the Wabos’ Vic Johnson, there’s no shortage of guitar fire on this one. Tracks two and three, in particular will be especially appealing to guitar geeks like me. These two songs, “Psycho Vertigo” and “Peephole,” are the only recordings of Sammy’s short-lived supergroup, Planet Us, which included Schon, Van Halen bass player Michael Anthony and drummer Deen Castronovo (Joe Satriani was later added to the line-up, but aside from a Rockline performance nothing was ever recorded with him). These songs are dark, powerful, moody and atmospheric, and are not a million miles removed from Sammy and Mike’s work on Van Halen’s ‘Balance’ album.

The album’s first single and title track is a collaboration with a young Iraqi musician, Steven Lost, and the song’s theme and music video (see below) both echo Van Halen’s 1991 single, ‘Right Now,’ while updating the theme to the present day. The music couldn’t be any more different than the Van Halen track though, with heavy, semi-industrial drums, creppy synths and huge guitar chords.

‘Loud’ is a straightforward, top-down, foot-to-the-floor rocker with funny lyrics and a guitar solo straight out of big 70s rock, and ‘When The Sun Don’t Shine’ has country elements and a sunny, summer feel which remind me of Sammy’s ‘Livin’ It Up’ album. ‘24365’ has a tight funk-metal guitar riff which reminds me of Extreme in their ‘III Sides To Every Story’ era, and ‘I’m On A Roll’ could fit quite neatly if added between ‘Good Enough’ and ‘Why Can’t This Be Love?’ on Van Halen’s ‘5150’ album.

There are a few misfires on the CD – Sammy’s cover of the Beastie Boys’ ‘(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)’ might be a fun track in a live setting, but it doesn’t really work here and Sammy seems to strain a little bit with the vocals. And ‘Switch On The Light’ has some cool grooves, some tasty Billy Gibbons guitar and a bold, progressive chorus, but it kinda loses its way a bit. But for the most part, there’s a good balance of ‘Party Sammy’ and ‘Serious Sammy’ here, and the opportunity to hear the two Planet Us songs is a very welcome surprise which, combined with the strength of ‘Loud,’ ‘24365’ and ‘I’m On A Roll,’ makes the album well worth checking out.

Roadrunner/Loud & Proud

CLICK HERE to buy Sammy Hagar – Cosmic Universal Fashion from Amazon.com

NEWS: Michael Anthony on Van Halen, Chickenfoot

Check out this cool audio interview at Music Radar with bass player Michael Anthony about Van Halen and Chickenfoot his new band with Sammy Hagar, Joe Satriani and Chad Smith. Normally kinda reserved in interviews, Mike’s not shy about his opinions on this one.

The interview is conducted by former Guitar World editor Joe Bosso, one of my little journalistic heroes. 
Here’s the intro from Music Radar. CLICK HERE to download the interview.

Michael Anthony opens up about Van Halen, Chickenfoot

“I’m the ultimate rock ‘n’ roll sideman,” says former Van Halen bassist and current Chickenfoot member Michael Anthony.

“But that doesn’t mean a ‘sideman’ isn’t vital,” he stresses. “I’m the kind of guy who has your back. When you want to go off and solo for ten minutes, I keep that groove going. It’s an important job.”

Since he first came to the public’s attention in 1978 on Van Halen’s revolutionary debut album, Michael Anthony has done his job better than anyone. Throughout the ’70s, ’80s and into the ’90s, he helped lay the foundation for the Van Halen sound, providing massive yet nimble bass parts over which Eddie Van Halen could fly. “Incredible times,” Anthony remembers. “Despite all the bullshit that went down in that band, I’m proud of the music we made, and always will be.”

Changing lead singers – David Lee Roth, Sammy Hagar and, for a minute or two, Gary Cherone – made the Van Halen experience “something of a mind game from time to time,” says Anthony. “As soon as we had a strong identity, we had to change.” And Eddie Van Halen’s substance abuse problems didn’t help matters. “I don’t want to talk smack on anyone,” says Anthony, “but there were times that were, uh, difficult.”

After a bittersweet ‘Van Hagar’ reunion in 2004, Anthony assumed the band was finished for good. So he was more than a little surprised when Van Halen announced they were hitting the road early last year with original lead singer David Lee Roth – and Eddie’s son Wolfgang on bass.

“It was a blow,” says Anthony. “I would have loved to have been a part of it. But at my age, you learn to roll with the punches. And you find that better things lay ahead.”

Such as Chickenfoot, the supergroup he’s formed with fellow Van Halen survivor Hagar, guitarist Joe Satriani and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith. (If you don’t know about this band yet, check out Related Links and catch up.)

“Chickenfoot is phenomenal,” the bassist enthuses. “I can’t believe the music we’re making. And wait till you hear the blazing lead guitar Joe Satriani is playing. The guy’s a monster.”

In the podcast, Anthony talks candidly about his Van Halen years, times both good and crushingly bad. “A lot of these things I’ve never said before,” he reveals. “I’m kind of a ‘let it go’ kind of guy.” Plus, he raves about his new band, who aim to have an album out next spring. “We’re gonna rock people’s worlds,” he says. “Just when everybody says nobody makes music like this anymore, here we come.”


Photo © Todd Martyn-Jones

NEWS: Dunlop revives Way Huge Electronics

Not content with reviving MXR and the Crybaby wah wah pedal, Jim Dunlop is now bringing back pedal company Way Huge Electronics. Sa-weet! Now guitarists won’t have to scour the internet to find a used Way Huge Swollen Pickle and risk a very confronting list of search results.

Here’s the press release:

Guitar players—your wish is finally answered: Way Huge is back! Effects guru Jeorge Tripps—creator of the coveted Aqua-Puss Analog Delay, Green Rhino Overdrive II, and Swollen Pickle Jumbo Fuzz-is working with premier accessory manufacturer Dunlop, maker of the legendary Crybaby and MXR pedals, to bring you a new series of Way Huge pedals.

Dunlop’s 30 years of meticulous attention to detail and Jeorge Tripps’ spectacular creations is a winning team. The Pork Loin Soft Clip Injection Overdrive, Swollen Pickle MKII Jumbo Fuzz, and the Fat Sandwich Harmonic Saturator Distortion are the first pedals out of Mr. Huge’s workshop.

For more information visit: http://www.wayhuge.com/

Way Huge Electronics will be available only through a select dealer network worldwide.

For more information, visit their web site at www.jimdunlop.com.