Sammy Hagar, famed Red Rocker and ex-lead singer of Van Halen, has a new solo album out. Released on November 19, “Cosmic Universal Fashion” debuted on the Billboard 200 albums chart at No. 95 this week. “Cosmic Universal Fashion” is Sammy Hagar’s first solo studio release in over a decade, even though 2006’s “Livin’ It Up,” his fourth recording with his band, the Wabos, might be considered a solo album. But whereas “Livin’ It Up” had a laid-back, Kenny Chesney – Jimmy Buffett feel, “Cosmic Universal Fashion” is a return to screaming guitars and riotous rock.
Hagar, who has been recording since the early 1970’s, is 61, but you would never suspect it when listening to him sing. Not just because of the subject matter of his tunes – which is non-stop sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll – but by the quality of his voice, which sounds just as strong today as it did on the first songs he recorded for Montrose, the band formed by acclaimed guitarist Ronnie Montrose.
Sammy Hagar’s biography reads like a guy who has never slowed down, either running full throttle as a lead singer for Montrose, Van Halen, HSAS and Planet Us (both with Journey’s Neil Schon), or fronting his own solo projects. Besides his run of hit albums with Van Halen, Hagar is probably best known, appropriately enough, for his song “I Can’t Drive 55,” a hard-rocking tune off his solo album, “VOA,” condemning the 55 miles-per-hour national legal maximum speed limit (prevalent when the song was written, obviously).
It was Hagar’s time as Van Halen’s lead singer where many who had not been familiar with Hagar’s previous work got to hear and see the dynamic performer for the first time. After a series of hits and multi-platinum albums, Sammy Hagar left the band, although the circumstances surrounding his departure depends upon who one asks. He rejoined Van Halen for a reunion tour in the early years of the new millennium, but it did not last.
With those days behind him, Hagar concentrated on his bar, the Cabo Wabo Cantina in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, where he played and sang with his house band, the Wabos. Hagar also perfected and sold his own personally distilled tequila, Cabo Wabo, which he later expanded into a line of premium tequilas from recipes he devised. It became the second best selling premium tequila in the United States in 2006, with $60 million in sales. In 2007, Hagar sold 80% of the Cabo Wabo brand to Gruppo Campari for $80 million dollars.
He also expanded his bar business. He has opened restaurant/bars with the Cabo Wabo name in Fresno, California and Lake Tahoe, Nevada. There is another planned opening is St. Louis, Missouri at a future date.
But music is his calling. “Cosmic Universal Fashion” seems to be the last link in the bridge from Van Halen to his new group, dubiously dubbed “Chickenfoot.” Hagar told Reuters that the new album was a return to the “Right Here, Right Now” “statement” kind of message. He said, “I am older, more mature. How many times can I keep writing rock ‘n’ roll car songs?”
As for Chickenfoot, rumors have swirled around the supergroup since Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers mentioned that he and Hagar, who are neighbors in Mexico, were joining up with ex-Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony and guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani to form Chickenfoot, which is a working name proposed by Hagar. Hagar compares the music to that of Led Zeppelin.
Chickenfoot has been in the studio, recording. Various members of the band, including Hagar, say that they hope the album will be ready for release by February 2009.
Many believe the name Chickenfoot is not a worthy name for such a phenomenal lineup of musicians.
Perhaps they will change it by the time the album is released.
Until then, “Cosmic Universal Fashion” can rock us into the new year.