Monday, November 3, 2014

Review: Lite Roast - Sammy Hagar & Vic Johnson (2014)


Coffee. Most of us, if not all of us, drink it. There's no better way than spending a nice relaxing Sunday morning than with a cool breeze, some music playing and enjoying a fresh cup-o-joe. If this is the perfect scenario for you, grab yourself a copy of Sammy Hagar and Vic Johnson's new album Lite Roast.

An acoustic retrospective spanning the years he was in Van Halen then to his post-VH Solo Career and his work with The Waboritos the songs here are stripped back to their core. For most of the album this is a fantastic way to hear these classic hits and deep cuts and  unless you are a true believer, a few of these songs will be brand new. According to Sammy“It was just me and Vic live in the studio with no overdubs. Just two guitars, sometimes one guitar, sometimes just one voice, sometimes two voices.”

Love him or just like him, Sammy Hagar knows what he is doing. Whether the world is ready for it or not, it doesn't matter. He knows how to make relaxation into an art-form.

Starting from the top - here is the tracklist:

1. Red Voodoo - (with Andre Thierry on Accordion)

Kicking it off with the title track from the album of the same name, Red Voodoo sounds pretty much the same as it did the first time around, but this time without the help of the rest of the Warboritos. An uptempo song, this rocker is a great way to get off on the right foot.

2. One Sip

Spending a lot of time in Mexico has influenced not only Sammy's suntan but also his musical palate. Sounding like a later-day Jimmy Buffett with a dash of Dean Martin, the song eases into a groove and sticks in your head - but in a good way.

3. Finish What Ya Started

In 1988 I was given two CD's for Christmas. I still have one of them - Van Halen's OU812. To say I was listening with a biased ear would be fair. Without Eddie Van Halen this song never really gets off the ground - in any version. Here they abandon the lead riff in favour of bashing out a few chords and a couple of harmonies. Not great.

4. Eagles Fly

Or Toilet Break time as it is sometimes referred to, is a step in a better direction. Featuring all of the things that make this song a stand out acoustically, it always seemed to come off a little flat on the Van Halen - "Live: Right Here, Right Now" concert DVD. Here the song soars and lifts the mood of the album.

5. The Love

Perfect for the acoustic treatment, The Love has a killer riff and Vic Johnson plays it perfectly. Not a note out of step, the song shines and so does he.

6. Father Sun

Arguably the stand out track on 2013's Sammy Hagar & Friends, Father Sun is an ode to the big old ball in the sky. Coming off a little hippie, the song packs a mean punch and while I'm still not sold on the line about solar power, I love this song and what they've done here.

7. Dreams

Now the biggie. Is it as good as the original? No. Is it as good as the Live: Hallelujah CD? Well there's less waffle but no. Is it perfectly suited to this album? YES. I got the goosebumps when I heard this version for the first time. Sure the vocal melody is down an octave but do I care? Nope. For the first time in a long time I actually listened and HEARD what it was Sammy was saying in this song. Beautiful.

8. Deeper Kinda Love

The first time I ever heard this song I pressed skip about 10 seconds in. Then one night I heard it on shuffle on my iPod and I started to get into it. Now it's a must listen. It grows on you and it's a song that feels like it's always moving. Great version.

9. Who Has The Right?

A political song, Who Has The Right? still resonates it's themes today just as it did in 1997. Dealing with a lot of unpopular social issues and self reflection, this song finally has the ability to shine. The last few deliveries of the chorus sent shivers up my spine.

10. Sailin'

Laid back and easy is the best way to put it when talking about this song. It's a mellow tune that sounds about the same as the original does.

11. Halfway to Memphis (with Andre Thierry on Accordion)

This is probably the 5th time Sammy has recorded this song. Stripping it back has done wonders for this tune. It's a song he should be proud of but I think he can stop here. It's a definitive version. If he records it again it'll go down as the Rock and Roll All Nite of his career (an albatross).

If you like your music just a little mellow with a little funk, a lot of soul and a hint of blues, then seriously consider giving this a spin. It's not all wine and roses, the vocal ad-libs are getting a little long in the tooth and the whole album would have benefited from a shaker or two.

On the whole it's a great way to kick back and relax. Just don't forget the coffee, lite roast of course.

Get it here:



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