Audio Mixer: John Cuniberti.
Photographers: Arthur Rosato; Stephen Holding.
Sammy Hagar has worked hard to make his name synonymous with parties, so cutting a party record like Sammy Hagar & Friends makes perfect sense. This is all about good times with good friends, and many of the guys -- and, with the exception of Heart's Nancy Wilson, they're all guys -- helping out the Red Rocker have been in Sammy's circle for years. There's Michael Anthony, Hagar's brother from another mother, but also San Francisco rockers Neal Schon and Mickey Hart, Chickenfoot drummer Chad Smith, and guitarist Joe Satriani, plus Toby Keith, Ronnie Dunn, and Kid Rock, who never turns down a chance to party. Kid does not tear it up on a cover of Bob Seger's "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" -- he's brought in to kick up some dust on "Knockdown Dragout," a macho stomp that struts to a Gary Glitter beat -- but that's the only surprise here. Sammy simply serves up the goods, turning Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus" into a grinding blues-rock showcase for Schon, hammering through Ray Wylie Hubbard's "Bad on Fords and Chevrolets" with the assistance of Dunn, spending time to wind down before he protests that he's "Not Going Down." This is all high-octane rock & roll, the good old-fashioned kind they made in the days before MTV, the kind that isn't diluted by the sweet Caribbean breeze that blows in toward the end of the record, when a too-slow take on "Margaritaville" and the Wilson duet "All We Need Is an Island" surface. It's not going to change anybody's mind about Hagar, but if Sammy has ever soundtracked your parties -- or if you've ever thought of Cabo Wabo as a vacation destination -- Sammy Hagar & Friends will feel as comfortable as an old pair of flip-flops. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine