Standing Hampton

Sammy Hagar

Geffen Records, 1981

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Sammy Hagar has always seemed like he was a man torn by his two passions. On one hand, he can be a very powerful singer addressing more sensitive issues - well, issues you probably wouldn't expect to find in the world of hard rock. On the other hand, he seems to want to be a typical screamer who bangs his head faster than the Tasmanian Devil on crystal meth.

The two worlds collided on his 1981 effort Standing Hampton, which turned out to be a great half-album - and it isn't the duality which sinks it, it's the songwriting.

Hagar displays the more thoughtful side on the album's opening track, "I'll Fall In Love Again," a song which has enough muscle to appeal to the rock fan, but the lyrics are incredibly powerful. I'm willing to bet that most people who listen to this song will be able to relate to Hagar's cleaning up a broken heart.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

When Hagar gets thoughtful, he creates some of his best music. "Can't Get Loose" is an example of trying to conquer that which holds you down, backed with a building melody. It might take a listen or two to get into it, but it's worth the effort.

But Hagar can't deny his own roots, and often wants to go balls-out in his delivery. Songs like "There's Only One Way To Rock" and "Heavy Metal" are examples of this, and despite titles which smack of cliches, they are decent efforts. (However, there is one portion of "There's Only One Way To Rock" where the chord used in the vocals doesn't sound like it meshes with the guitar chord. Oh, well.)

The first half of Standing Hampton is an incredible 21 minutes of rock and roll to feed both your brain and your adrenaline. Unfortunately, it seems like Hagar blew his load at the conclusion of the side; the remaining four original songs just don't hold up as well. "Sweet Hitchhiker" and "Baby, It's You" just don't hold their water that well when compared to the first half of the album.

The big mistake here is "Piece Of My Heart," a cover of the old Big Brother And The Holding Company bong-fest theme. Hagar tries to make the song his own, and tries to inject a bit of heavy metal seasoning into the track. Sorry, Sammy, but you're tampering with a legend, and it just doesn't fly. I constantly found myself waiting for Janis Joplin to start singing, especially in the chorus, and the guitar work just isn't the same. It's really hard to re-create a mood 15 years after it ended.

So is Standing Hampton a success or a failure? In one sense, it really doesn't fail; it still is an entertaining way to spend the better part of an hour, and I can think of worse albums you could select. If you're a Hagar fan or enjoyed his stay with Van Halen, then you'll get a kick out of this one for sure. But more often than not you start wondering about what this album could have been, had the songwriting remained solid throughout. Still, it's not a bad album - just approach it with a bit of caution.

Rating: B-

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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Geffen Records, and is used for informational purposes only.