September 25, 2004

CD Review: Sammy Hagar: The Essential Red Collection

I should be upfront about the fact that I have never been a fan of Sammy Hagar. I think it goes back to when he joined Van Halen, and I just preferred David Lee Roth. My dislike for Hagar really had nothing to do with with his ability, just written off as a preference. I wasn't even a big Van Halen fan when this was going on, I didn't become much of a music fan until I was well into high school. But at the same time, whenever a Hagar song, usually "I Can't Drive 55," I couldn't help but turn it up. But I guess that's enough backstory from me, let's take a look at this album, which also serves as a true introduction to Hagar's non-Van Halen output.

Hip-O Records released this career spanning compilation on August 10,2004. It covers Sammy's entire solo career, thankfully avoiding his Van Halen career, which has had enough coverage on their Best of albums. It does include one song from his time with Montrose, "Bad Motor Scooter." Also included are two tracks which were previously unreleased that were recorded back in the 1970's, "Thinking of You" and "Call My Name." There are also songs that were soundtrack submissions for movies such as Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Footloose, and Over the Top. The album comes to a close with "Mas Tequila" from 1999 featuring his current backup band, the Waboritas. Altogether there are twenty songs to put in your car's CD player, turn up, and cruise to.

When I first popped this disk in the player I wasn't sure if I was going to like it or not. I was steadfastly hanging onto my old preconceptions regarding Hagar. To say I was surprised to find myself enjoying it is an understatement. This album is full of great rock songs. It is a road album if there ever was one. It plays great in that car setting, you know, getting on an open highway, rolling down the windows, turning the stereo up and just drive wherever the road will take you. I don't think I could really pick a favorite song from this set, although it would probably be "I Can't Drive 55" or "There's Only One Way to Rock," although Montrose's "Bad Motor Scooter" is another great song. The unreleased tracks offer some insight to Hagar's early sound when he was just being signed.

The CD also features some good liner notes from Scott Schinder. The notes trace Hagar's career from his start in Montrose, to his solo career prior to Van Halen, to his resuming the solo life after Van Halen and the formation of the Warboritas. It provides a good overview of his work and how he got to where he is today. Also included is a quote from Ted Nugent speaking on Hagar, showering him with praise and putting him in the same league as Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, James Brown, Elvis Presley among others. I found this to be a little over the top and don't really agree with it, but it does show that Sammy is well respected by his contemporaries (at least by Nugent), but does little to detract from my enjoyment of this well done set.

I can't go so far as to say that Hagar is a great artist, but he has crafted a lot of fun rock and roll songs. Sammy has given the music world a great selection of pop songs, songs that may not stand out for virtuoso musicianship, but stand the test of time as fun songs that music fans in general can sit back and enjoy.

You can call me a convert to liking Hagar. I enjoyed this album very much, surprising even to myself. I have found myself turning to this album for travel music for my daily commute to work, fun upbeat music that gets you going heading into a long work day. I would definitely recommend this collection to those who are on the fence regarding Hagar, or those who may not be familiar with his music yet are rock fans.


Visit Sammy online at

Check out a couple of the tracks:
I Can't Drive 55 WMA Real
Eagle's Fly WMA Real


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