It's been years since the events that separated Van Halen from its secondary frontman, Sammy Hagar, played themselves out and it's rather amazing who has managed to land on his feet. If you took bets back then, you'd have to say that Van Halen had the talent, the history and the fan following to continue rocking through the new millennium, while Hagar would be relegated to opening for Foreigner and Loverboy at state fairs.
Yet, while the VH has yet to fly since the debacle of Van Halen III, Hagar has gone onto a new label, released albums, toured, let loose his brand of tequila and his rumored to be opening a Cabo Wabo cantina in Las Vegas. The Red Rocker has been busy.
Among the things that separate Hagar from most rockers is his usual birthday bash at Cabo San Lucas. Many of his friends -- like Kirk Hammett and Mike Anthony -- have shown up and played at this event. He must have felt in a very birthday mood, because he decided to name his new album
Ten 13 after his birthday and even tried to release it on that day. (He didn't get to do it in time, so it came out two weeks later).
If anyone can remember the somber and dark mood that was felt in Marching To Mars, you'll be amazed at how removed Hagar now is from those days. For the most part, the old-school Sammy-party-hard, have fun and dig chicks-is in full control in this album. That said, a few dark turns do appear, but they are not as overt or as centered as they were in Marching To Mars.
The album kicks off with the rough and rockin' "Shaka Doobie (The Limit)," which fulfills the required weed reference for this Hagar album. There it goes to the fun "Let Sally Drive," which, while not the smartest song, is trademarked Sammy. You also get "Serious JUJU," his reference to Earth-consciousness - another requirement in a Hagar album.
What did amaze me in this album is that the better songs are not found in the rockers. "Ten 13," "3 In The Middle," and "The Real Deal" are not bad songs, but they are middle-of-the-road rock songs. "Protection" is such a copy of another Hagar song ("Privacy" off I Never Said Goodbye) to merit a look into copyright infringement. Still, these are not bad songs, but not memorable in any form.
The truly memorable songs come from Hagar's soft side-his pop side. "Deeper Kinda Love" is a good pop song. "A Little Bit More" is a sad song that is very memorable. "Tropic Of Capricorn" is this down-south tinged pop track that sticks in your head and makes you think of southern beaches and drinks with tiny umbrellas in them. A shock, I'm sure, since Hagar often tends to create good pop songs ("Why Can't This Be Love?" or "Right Now," anyone?)
Ten 13 is not the best album Hagar can release. The lack of memorable rock songs -- the first two aside -- tends to bring this album down. But the quality of his pop work brings it up. While the work he and his band, The Waboritas, lay down is good, Hagar has been going at full steam for quite a while now. He should be able to do even better.
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