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Sammy Hagar - Hallelujah | UnRated Magazine Review:
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Sammy Hagar

By Anthony Kuzminski

Hallelujah Giving To Live: Sammy Hagar's Faith and Destination

An empty hand reaching out for someone
An empty heart takes so little to fill
It's so much easier to push instead of pull
Oh baby, baby, baby
Don't give up

In 1987 I became enamored with music. When I hear a song or album from that year, it's sentimental to me. Even if it's a brainless pop song from that summer, it still sounds great to me. 1987 was a revolutionary year for all forms of music. However, the song which stands out for me is what may possibly one of my top five songs ever, "Give To Live", by Sammy Hagar. I remember being on vacation with my family in Wisconsin and seeing the video on MTV. I remember it clearly...we were in a log cabin and I was blown away by the hugeness of the ideas and the sound of this song. Up till this point, I was more of a David Lee Roth fan than a Van Hagar fan. Shortly thereafter, while I'll always love the Dave records, I started down the path with the spiritual beach bum who would rock me till I was down and out, black and blue, and sometimes when I was on top of the world.

Hagar's 1987 solo album, I Never Said Goodbye, was an album, for years, I only listened to one song and never even realized there were other gems on it. To this very day, "Give To Live" is a song I include on music mixes I make for my friends. The song sums up everything I wanted to be in life. If Lloyd Dobbler from Say Anything is my alter ego, then Sammy's "Give To Live" was my soundtrack blasting from my boom box as I held it over my head blasting it out hoping someone would hear the message of the song and my intentions.

If you want love
You've got to give a little
If you want faith
You just believe a little
If you want peace
Turn your cheek a little
Oh you've got to give
You've got to give
You've got to give to live

Sammy Hagar's new live album on Sanctuary Records, Hallelujah is a little more than just a standard live album, it's a career spanning disc sure to please all of his fans, whether they have followed him from his beginnings in Montrose, his solo career or whether you are simply a fan of the Van Halen material. It's an album sure to be satisfying on your hearing senses while pounding your ear drums at the same time. As I cranked this baby up with the windows rolled down and the wind blowing at my face, one thing is very clear; it will be impossible to stay at the speed limit while listening to this album. Sammy Hagar has in no way forgotten how to rock.

Upon his dismissal from Van Halen, Hagar has worked non-stop. It's ironic because in interviews with the Van Halen brothers following his discharge they referred to him as having a "serious work ethic issues". Since that inauspicious summer day seven years ago, Sammy has released 4 studio albums, a live DVD and now a live album. In the same time, Van Halen has released one studio album...that's it. On top of that, Sammy has demonstrated he can't even cruise at 55 on the concert stage; he's always breaking the limit in concert halls all across America every year by giving it his all. He has performed each and every year since 1997 giving his fans the best bang for their buck. His backing band, the Waboritas, are top notch and as solid as they come, they even play some of these Van Halen numbers as well as Van Halen did back in the day. If you need further proof of their talents and abilities, go out and buy his live DVD, Sammy Hagar And The Waboritas: Cabo Wabo Birthday Bash Tour live from Chicago. The band is ready to take on anything thrown at them.

Hallelujah is an assortment of live tunes recorded at various gigs in 2002. For a guy who is closer to 60 than he is to 50, Hagar sounds like a fine wine, only getting better with age. Most surprising is the quality of his post Van Halen material. "Little White Lies" could have been one of the preeminent riffs Edward Van Halen ever played; instead it's an immaculate moment for Sammy where he and the band crank those acoustics until they throttle full blast through your headphones rocking as hard as any Van Halen number. "Deeper Kind Of Love" should have been on a Van Halen album and I bet if they ever reunite, this will be one they play in concert. Of course, "Give To Live" is here...in full band performance (it also appears in acoustic format on Van Halen's Right Here, Right Now Live album from a decade ago). Many people despise Sammy and what he brought to Van Halen, however, I doubt if Van Halen could have continued to be as successful without making a change. Sammy brought more paint brushes to the table and the bands output grew more introspective. I truly believe this helped Van Halen forge ahead in a more thriving manner in the decade which Sammy led them. His only solo album during the Van Halen period included "Give To Live" and while it's a solo album, Eddie Van Halen played bass on the entire album and co-produced it with Sammy. For my money, "Give To Live" is one of the most positive and divine songs I have ever heard. It has never failed to inspire me when I hear it.

I believe in faith and destination
But so much of that ties in our own hands
But if you know what you want
Just go on out and get it

Sammy helped bridge the gap between the ultra party animal Roth and the expanding Van Halen fan base. While Dave was one-of-a-kind, I'm not sure how much longer Van Halen could have been able to write songs about being hot for their teachers. Sammy brought an adult element to the band and that compassion has continued to grow and flourish over the last fifteen years. He sings with his heart and soul so when you see him, you feel the power of his music, you see his enjoyment of performing and you are moved. I can't tell you how often I have cranked "Right Now", "Give To Live", "Eagles Fly", "Dreams" and other classic Sammy tunes when I've been down and out and needed some assurance. Not to be forgotten is his ability to rock with the best of them. Most surprising is how heavy his post Van Halen songs have been. Every album has a few rockers that Sammy and the Waboritas nail when performed live. He has an uplifting and surreal vibe to his shows. Besides the introspective songs, he entertains the crowd as well as any performer out there. He's the Jimmy Buffet of the hard rock world. While he's touching your mind and heart on some songs, the man never forgets that he is hosting a party and wants everyone to feel at home, which he does on Hallelujah. You have seventeen songs that will move you, relax you and flat out rock you.

Besides his solo hits, there are plenty of Van Halen numbers..."Why Can't This Be Love", "Top of the World", "When It's Love", "Right Now" and "Dreams". "When It's Love" features Gary Cherone on vocals and Van Halen bassist, Michael Anthony, shows up on a handful of tracks. Heck, the majority of these recordings were taken from the co-headlining tour that Sammy did with David Lee Roth last year. Which brings us to a huge question...where are the Van Halen brothers? What are they doing? They were dropped (or left) Warner Brothers Records last year and were unable to bring their catalog along with them (which means the record company controls it, not Van Halen). Apparently the Van Halen brothers have tried to work with David Lee Roth a handful of times and this has ended poorly each and every time. My advice, get Sammy back while you can. Sammy's has not made a career-defining album since he left Van Halen, but he has released 4 unswerving studio albums which stand up to his past catalog and are as good as anything else out there in the marketplace. While they have been left for dead, Sammy is out there, at all times, continuing to stand on top of his world. This live album is proof of his triumphs from the last seven years. He gives the fans some album cuts, some big hits and different versions of recorded songs, like the magnificent acoustic version of "Eagles Fly".

What I most appreciate about Hagar is his constant willingness to perform. Whether it is for 20,000 people on a hot summer evening or for 1,000 people on a quiet night in some small Midwest town, the Red Rocker gives it all each and every time. Unlike the man he succeeded in Van Halen, Hagar is ageing gracefully and in some ways, getting better with each performance. My main concern about a possible Van Halen reunion would be if Alex and Eddie can keep up with him. Sammy Hagar is one of the truly eminent rockers left out there. He only needs one reason to tour; his desire to feed off the crowd. He does not need a new album, box set or even a reason to tour...he simply tours because he wants to. While his former cohorts, arguably one of the greatest American bands ever assembled, sit around wasting their days, the Red Rocker is out there breaking the speed limit and proving that there is more than one way to rock, today, tomorrow and right now.

Sammy Hagar & the Waboritas - Live

  1. Shaka Doobie
  2. 3 Lock Box
  3. One Way to Rock
  4. Give 2 Live
  5. Top of the World
  6. Deeper
  7. Why Can't This Be Love
  8. Eagles Fly
  9. Little White Lie
  10. Rock Candy
  11. I Can't Drive 55
  12. Mas Tequila
  13. Heavy Metal
  14. When It's Love
  15. Right Now
  16. Dreams
  17. Hallelujah