Chickenfoot – “Chickenfoot” (2009)

June 8, 2009 at 1:00 pm (Music, Reviews & Articles, Van Halen)

New rockin’ “supergroup” from Sammy Hagar, Michael Anthony, Chad Smith and Joe Satriani. This review by Jon Zahlaway comes from LiveDaily, June 5, 2009…


We’re all in agreement that the comparison is inevitable, yes? Former Van Halen members Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony alongside an established guitar god and a bona-fide powerhouse drummer? Seriously, what did you think it was going to remind everyone of?

And, yeah, sure, it sounds good on paper: Van Halen’s ex-singer and ex-bassist alongside six-string wizard Joe Satriani and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith. But let’s face it: these types of things usually sound good in theory, but don’t quite gel when it comes time to put up or shut up.

Which makes it all the more surprising that the result here is a fairly stellar rock album by an exceptionally cohesive and surprisingly relevant band.

Of the 11 tracks on Chickenfoot, 10 are credited to the writing duo of Hagar and Satriani, and there apparently is something to be said for pairing Hagar with a songwriting guitar virtuoso, because these songs, and Hagar’s vocals on them, are easily the best work he’s done since splitting with the Van Halen brothers. (The 11th cut? “Down the Drain,” a filthy-good blues-rock number that’s credited to all four band members, who played it precisely one time while warming up in the studio; the tape just happened to be rolling.)

And then there’s Satriani. Everyone knows he can work a guitar like nobody’s business, but soloing your way though instrumentals is a very different thing than co-writing and performing an album’s worth of music meant to be sung over. Turns out he’s great at that, too. In fact, he sounds more than comfortable hanging back and pumping out hook-laden rhythm riffs that keep the songs chugging along. An added bonus? When the time comes for him to take a guitar solo, he does so with a combination of skill, flair and tone not heard on a band-oriented rock album in years.

Also key to the success of this studio experiment is producer Andy Johns (Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones), with whom Hagar and Anthony first worked on Van Halen’s 1991 set, For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. As he did on that album, Johns has created with Chickenfoot a positively huge-sounding arena-rock monster, complete with a fat low end that places Anthony and Smith as far out in front as Hagar and Satriani.

The icing on all of this, of course, is hearing a batch of new music that features Anthony’s signature background harmonies, a key part of what made Van Halen sound like Van Halen. His and Hagar’s voices always sounded incredible together, and the passage of time has done nothing to diminish that. (Memo to Eddie and Al: What the hell were you thinking?)

Look, either you liked Van Halen with Sammy Hagar, or you didn’t. (And, please, let’s not argue about it; over the past 20-plus years, none of you have convinced the other side to change their mind, so let’s just give it a rest already, shall we?) If you are a fan of the so-called “Van Hagar” era, then listen up: run–don’t walk–to wherever it is you get your music from and grab a copy of Chickenfoot

Key tracks: “Get It Up,” “Turnin’ Left,” “Soap on a Roap,” “Down the Drain” and “Future In the Past.” (Yes, there really are that many key tracks on this album. Seriously.) 

Jon Zahlaway

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