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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Record Reviews > Sammy Hagar

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Sammy Hagar–The Essential Red Collection (Hip-O)

There are two kinds of Van Halen fans, the ones who like Diamond Dave and the ones who dug Sammy.  (Okay, somewhere out there may be a Gary Cherone fan, too, but I doubt it.)  I was always a David Lee Roth guy as far as the band goes.  However, ironically, I always felt Sammy Hagar was a much better solo artist.

This collection collects most of the best tracks from Hagar’s solo years, as well as the terrific “Bad Motor Scooter” from his 70s band Montrose.  Hagar may be best remembered as a solo artist for the hell-bent-for-metal car cruncher “I Can’t Drive 55.”  That song is on here, and it’s fine, but the nice thing is you are reminded how many of his other singles were much better than that signature tune. 

To my way of thinking, Hagar’s two greatest singles are “I’ll Fall In Love Again,” a primo slab of early 80s arena rock and the surprisingly melodic hard driver “Your Love Is Driving Me Crazy.”   These are simply two of the best now-forgotten singles of the early 80s.   Other surprisingly strong tunes include the wonderful “Two Sides of Love,” “There’s Only One Way To Rock” and the movie title tune “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” 

His song “I’ve Done Everything For You” is best known for a hit cover version done by Rick Springfield.  I remember in the 80s Hagar used to mock that version in concert, saying that some soapbox doctor had stolen his song.  It’s nice to see that in the liner notes, Hagar has gotten off his high horse about that, saying, “My version stiffed.  I didn’t write it for him, but was very happy things turned out the way they did.”  Honestly, Hagar’s version (which is here) is very good, but Springfield’s was even better and probably deserves to have become the hit.

Also worth checking out are two other soundtrack cuts, the title track from “Heavy Metal” and “The Girl Gets Around” from the then-ubiquitous Footloose soundtrack. 

Once he had joined Van Halen in 1986, even his solo singles became more formulaic, like the sappy power ballad “Give To Live” and yet another soundtrack-lite single, “Winner Takes It All” (from Sylvester Stallone’s arm-wrestling opus Over the Top.)  They were hits though, so I’m not surprised or disturbed that they are there.  There are also a couple of late 90s songs that are okay.  A live party jam called “Mas Tequila” is particularly fun. 

I’d have probably been more into these songs and two other never-released 1974 bonus tracks if they hadn’t missed a few Hagar essentials I’d have personally replaced them with.  There are a couple of cover songs Hagar recorded that would have been cool to have here, his version of “A Whiter Shade of Pale” from his one-off super group HSAS and his remake of “(Sitting On) The Dock of the Bay” with backing from members of then red-hot rock group Boston.  I’d also probably have thrown in the title track from his Three Lock Box album, too, but that’s me.

Overall, though, The Essential Red Collection is a pretty good intro to a now overlooked solo career that rocked even harder than Hagar’s more well-known day gig.  (8/04)

Jay S. Jacobs

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Copyright © 2004 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.  Posted: August 13, 2004.

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