Released: 2002, Sanctuary
I’ve slammed Sanctuary in the past for unnecessary cash-grab style premature live CD’s (Halford anyone?) However, this time they get it (mostly) right. This is a cool and fun live CD.
If folks are not too familiar with the red rocker he has had a pretty massive solo career both before and after replacing David Lee Roth in that other big band. time for a history lesson. Sammy has suffered from something I call the “Capitol Curse”. Specifically every time Sammy Hagar releases a record on any label, his old label from the 70’s and early 80’s releases a crummy compilation CD. This serves to make them money, which is fine. However it confuses the buyers, although not all of us are stupid enough to fall for another comp, whatever the title or cover is. In fact this curse has followed Sammy his entire career. He has over the years released twelve studio albums as a solo artist since 1976. There are currently by my best count, nineteen (yes, one-nine) compilations or live albums that bear his name! At LEAST 12 are on the Capitol label or one of their subsidiaries. What a rip off!
Why is any of that important besides trivia and impressing your friends? Because this is actually a legitimate live CD. Why? It is looong over due. The last ‘real’ (as in planned and organized) live album by Sammy, not an old concert thrown onto disc together by the label to make money, was over 15 years ago. This CD represents at least five studio albums worth of material, so it is certainly overdue and a nice treat. I own two of the previous four Live Hagar CD’s and this is by far the best that I have heard.
The packaging is a bit weak, just a few casual and semi-candid photos but there are some nice revealing liner notes from Sammy. Why the HELL is the track listing on the front? Talk about marketing! It looks awful but now consumers don’t even have to flip the damn CD over to see what the songs are! It looks like a bootleg! Maybe that was the point, I’m not sure. It also has some merch, some credits and so on but no lyrics.
My immediate impression was that the track listing is painfully predictable as Samuel trots out the hits but since it is his first post-Halen live effort we can forgive the set-list. In the liner notes, he says that on his most recent tour he was doing at times, 2 hours and 40 min a night! This CD is about 70 minutes long and Sammy says, if this is well received there might be a 2CD version and a limited 3CD live version! I’m glad he shared this little nugget of info with us because it puts it all in perspective. This is the streamlined single ‘hits’ version with songs from various shows including the Roth/Hagar tour. The full deal will have all the songs, stage banter, full intros and endings probably solos and so on. I’m definitely going to buy the full version where I’m sure they will dig deeper into his underrated back catalogue. However this makes you realize just how many big hits he has written.
If this was a straight greatest hits live CD I would probably knock a whole mark off and give an average live disc and average rating. The reason I consider this to be above average is there are a few neat things on here.
Guests stars and hit songs! One various cuts we get ex-members of Boston, Van Halen and Extreme drop by on stage to sing or play. The duet with Gary Cherone on the Van Halen tune ‘when It’s Love’ is a real treat. Despite the heavy hits quotient it is nice to hear Van Halen stuff, solo stuff and even Montrose stuff. One the 17 track CD there is one unreleased studio cut called ‘Hallelujah’ which will be the first single. It is a good choice for a single as it has the trademark Sammy sound albeit one of his darker tunes with crunchy guitars. I was pleased to hear ‘Eagles Fly’ from his 1987 solo album.
Another appealing feature is that this is the real deal. It is not overproduced, no overdubs at all. Sammy in the liner notes said originally they had wanted to match up the crowd noise but found it was impossible so they just dropped the concept and faded out between the various shows in Boston, Tampa Bay and St. Louis. It sounds raw and warm.
Most of all there is an enormous sense of fun that I found lacked all his other solo live albums and the Van Halen live album. Sammy has talked at length in interviews about the fun and camaraderie of his band the Waboritas. That enthusiasm is directly translated onto this disc. His band is tight and loose at the same, just rocking out having a great time and how could they not playing so many good-time rock hits?
I understand this is not a purely heavy metal live CD. Hell, despite the song ‘Heavy Metal’ (which is on the disc) if push came to shove, I’d even argue that Sammy is not metal…but who cares? This is a great rocking live CD full of boisterous, youthful energy and fun which is what rock and roll is all about. Learn more about Sammy’s long and illustrious history at http://www.redrocker.com
or visit his nightclub’s web-site http://www.cabowabo.com.