SAMMY HAGAR & THE CIRCLE
Released on May 10, 2019 (BMG)
I readily admit that I was on the fence about purchasing Sammy Hagar & The Circle‘s debut studio album. Why you may ask? Well, even though the Red Rocker always delivers live and seemingly puts on a hell of a party, some of his recent album releases have been on the weaker side. Sammy Hagar & Friends, which was released in 2013, just had way too many country and slower bluesy songs that were not to my liking. The Lite Roast record from Hagar with Vic Johnson, where they re-interpreted various classic tracks including Van Halen‘s “Finish What Ya Started” and “Dreams”, also was not to my liking. Then again, I loved Chickenfoot‘s self-titled debut album in 2009 and the sophomore record Chickenfoot III in 2011 had some great moments such as the song “Big Foot.” Of course, Sammy Hagar & The Circle‘s debut live album Live: At Your Service was stellar but it’s hard to mess up playing great songs from Van Halen, Montrose, Hagar‘s solo stuff and Led Zeppelin.
I had heard some of the new tracks leading up to the release of Sammy Hagar & The Circle‘s Space Between such as the title track and the song “Can’t Hang”, and although I liked both songs, it wasn’t until long-time Sleaze Roxx contributor Ruben Mosqueda messaged me advising how he loved the new Sammy Hagar & The Circle album that I decided to purchase it. Since acquiring Space Between, it has been on constant rotation wherever I go as I tote that CD around wherever I’m going to listen to music from my workplace to my car, and back again. It’s hard to believe that Sammy Hagar may have released the best album of his career at 71 years old but that just might be the case with Space Between. Now I know that Hagar has a stellar cast of musicians with him on Space Between with bassist Michael Anthony (Van Halen, Chickenfoot), drummer Jason Bonham (Bonham, Foreigner, Led Zeppelin, Black Country Communion) and guitarist Vic Johnson. All three add a lot to the record from the backing vocals to their fantastic almost jam on the track “Full Circle Jam (Chump Change).” But Sammy Hagar & The Circle‘s Space Between is really Sammy‘s baby. After all, the man wrote almost all of the songs on the album by himself!
In a very similar vain to Sweet Creatures‘ debut album The Devil Knows My Name, the sum of Sammy Hagar & The Circle‘s Space Between parts are better than its parts. In other words, take the entire album as a whole and it really takes you on an incredible journey. Take just one song by itself and you might not get the brilliance that is on the record. I find that the flow from one song to another on Space Between to be quite incredible. Although every song is different from some great rockers such as “Full Circle Jam (Chump Change)” and “Trust Fund Baby” to some poppy stuff like “Bottom Line” and one of Sammy‘s best slower tracks (“No Worries”), the tracks just flow so nicely from one to the other. It’s worth mentioning that Space Between is a concept album about “money, greed, enlightenment and truth” and perhaps that factor plays in on why each song flows so well from one to the other. To be honest, I haven’t really gotten into the whole message behind the lyrics and the whole album concept. Space Between is simply a great rock n’ roll record.
I love the start of the record with “Devil Came To Philly” and how the album ends on the same but seemingly happier note with “Hey Hey (Without Greed).” The record really takes off with “Full Circle Jam (Chump Change)” which is a great rocker that has a real jam feel to it. Every band member gets to shine on that one and I can just imagine how great that song would sound live. There’s lots of acoustic based tracks on Space Between including the western tinged “Can’t Hang”, the very good acoustic ballad “Wide Open” to the mellow, easy to sing along to, “No Worries.” There are some faster tracks such as “Free Man” and “Trust Fund Baby” that are probably more what you might expect from Hagar. Another gem is the keyboard based “Affirmation” which would have likely fit nicely on 5150.
I could easily see Space Between being a Van Halen album if Hagar and Anthony were still in the band and if it was, I would consider it right up there as one of the best Sammy Hagar era Van Halen albums ever made. I think that’s about as big of a compliment that I can give to Sammy Hagar & The Circle with respect to Space Between.
01. Devil Came To Philly
02. Full Circle Jam (Chump Change)
03. Can’t Hang
04. Wide Open Space
05. Free Man
06. Bottom Line
07. No Worries
08. Trust Fund Baby
10. Hey Hey (Without Greed)
Sammy Hagar – lead and backing vocals, lead and rhythm guitar
Michael Anthony – bass, backing vocals
Vic Johnson – lead and rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Jason Bonham – drums, percussion, backing vocals
Audie Delone – keys
Brett Tuggle – keys
Ian Hatton – guitar
Produced by Jaimeson Durr, Sammy Hagar and Vic Johnson
Recorded and mixed by Jamieson Durr
Assistant engineer: Steven Campodinoco
Mastered by Ted Jensen
Mixing engineer: F. Reid Shippen (7)
Additional engineers: Alan Howarth, Ian Hatton and Alex Saenz
Reviewed by Olivier for Sleaze Roxx, June 2019
Sammy Hagar & The Circle‘s “Trust Fund Baby” video:
This video for “Trust Fund Baby,” directed by ZZ Satriani (son of Hagar’s longtime collaborator and friend Joe Satriani) is an extreme glimpse into the eighth track “nailing what happens when kids are given too much money – too early in life – and it becomes an affliction.
Sammy Hagar & The Circle‘s “Can’t Hang” video:
“Can’t Hang” is Chapter 3 of the story unveiled in Sammy Hagar & the Circle’s new concept album “Space Between”. Steam and Download the song at https://SammyHagar.lnk.to/CantHangID Following their appearance on the Howard Stern show Tuesday April 9th (SirusXM Channels 100 and 101), Sammy, Michael, Jason and Vic took some time before the video premiered to chat with fans.
Sammy Hagar & The Circle‘s “Affirmation” video:
Affirmation is Chapter 09 from The Circle’s debut studio album “Space Between” Stream or Download the song https://SammyHagar.lnk.to/AffirmationID/youtube “Space Between”, the debut studio album from Sammy Hagar and The Circle is out now.