|Sammy Hagar Livin' It Up||Rhino / Cabo Wabo Music|
Sammy Hagar has always followed his heart and once again on Livin' It Up he proves to be his own man and changes things in a way that not everyone is going to get or accept.|
I expect very mixed reviews for this record from the press and fans alike, as you are either going to get it, or you ain't. I get it. Totally.
Even before talking to Sammy about this album, I could hear the conviction and passion behind it. After speaking with the Red Rocker, I can attest to his passion, comfort and total self belief in what he is doing.
In recent years Sammy's live shows and his life in general have drifted towards embracing the Mexican way – sun, surf, beach and tequila. Sammy has two of his own theme bars, his own exclusive tequila beverage and a growing legion of fans that are with him all the way.
The only thing missing was to take this lifestyle theme into an actual record. Livin' It Up is now documented proof of the change within Sammy Hagar. He's as happy as a pig in shit and he wants to tell the whole world.
He does so with a thoroughly infectious record that you really just can't help but like.
Unfortunately some fans are just not going to be able to get past the change in musical direction and in some ways this record hands Sammy's critics the ammunition they have been looking for.
I don't think Sammy's lyrical style has changed too much here, but there are more obvious lifestyle references dotted throughout the record, to the point where this could be considered a concept record about embracing everything that is good within Sammy's life.
There is a noticeable country twang through the record that has and will leave some scratching their heads, including a couple of full on country tunes and the majority of the album is driven by an authentic earthy and acoustic vibe.
Take the style aside and you are able to analyze the performance. And that's where Sammy gets major credit. You can really hear the energy and the electricity within this record. Producer Bob Daspit has captured the band in a raw, live atmosphere, but at the same time has ensured that the record has a crisp, sharp feel that Sammy's recent solo recordings have missed.
The record sounds perfect and Sammy's individual performance is one I would rate among his best.
His voice has seldom sounded so in shape - smooth and comfortable, yet also delivering that trademark rasp and the odd scream like it was recorded 20 years ago.
Track By Track:
Opening the album is the infectious groove of Sam I Am, which frames the album perfectly from the outset. A little slide guitar, a little twang and a classic Hagar vocal drive a catchy as hell hook.
Living On A Coastline slows things down with a beach boogie vibe. A relaxed happy lyric is delivered with conviction by Hagar. The feel good harmonies and a catchy chorus suck you in. The opening two tracks are vital to the message being delivered here and they leave you with no doubt where this album is going.
I imagine some folks might stop right here, but you will be missing some fine music if you do so.
Mexico is a more rocking track, driven by a grittier lead guitar and some Santana like drum rhythms, especially later in the song.
The breezy mid tempo rockers The Way We Live and I Love This Bar compliment each other perfectly before the Kenny Chesney/Sammy Hagar written One Sip pays further tribute to the fine Mexican way.
Making a resprise appearance is Halfway To Memphis (from Not 4 Sale), this time easily the most country themed track of the album, complete with slide guitar, that distinctive twang and a laid back acoustic delivery.
There are a few covers once again on Livin' It Up. I Love This Bar covers the Toby Keith hit but may as well have been written by Hagar himself and Rainy Day Women covers the Bob Dylan classic – once again more or less true to Hagar's lifestyle philosophy and is here perfectly adapted to the feel of this record.
Then there is Hagar's adoption of the Staple Sister's classic Let Me Take You There – a the track you have already heard and in its position gives the album a nice uptempo lift.
Sailin is a relaxed and happy acoustic pop song, not quite a ballad and not quite a country tune. It features a sweet vocal and more feel good vibes. Someday is a short acoustic country ballad that closes out the album and the story contained in relaxed fashion.
Those looking for a glimpse of the lyrically more intense Sammy, evident on Marching To Mars or with Van Halen might have to rely on those records for your fix.
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