Sammy Hagar ‘Sammy Hagar & Friends' (Frontiers Records)
A colorful array of guest talents, including Oklahoma country hit maker Toby Keith, Sooner State-born Journey guitarist Neal Schon and Heart belter Nancy Wilson, brighten up “Sammy Hagar & Friends,” the Red Rocker's first collaborations album.
But former Oklahomans Ronnie Dunn and Ray Wylie Hubbard prove the most adept at souping up the “I Can't Drive 55” singer's first solo effort since 2008's “Cosmic Universal Fashion.” The ex-Tulsan and the Soper native teamed to write the high-octane country-rocker “Bad on Fords and Chevrolets,” which pits Hagar's raspy vocals against Dunn's honky-tonk tenor.
Due out Tuesday, “Sammy Hagar & Friends” mixes new originals with well-known cover tunes, and after more than 40 years in the music business, the former Van Halen frontman has plenty of high-profile pals willing to rock with him.
Schon, the newest member of the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, burns it up on a live in-studio take of Don Nix's “Going Down,” but even his sizzling ax work can't salvage a wrongheaded gospel choir-augmented rendition of Depeche Mode's “Personal Jesus,” mostly because Hagar doesn't have a sufficiently ominous voice or persona to convey the song's darker undertones.
Hagar is all about the rock, and for much of his new album, he and his friends do it well.
— Brandy McDonnell