To me, Sammy Hagar has always typified a straight-up rock and roll kind of guy. He’s never found a place on my list off all-time favorites, but as I have said here before, I think Van Halen’s best years were during the time Hagar was with them. Besides preferring Hagar’s voice over Diamond Dave’s, I’ve never cared much for big egos. Maybe those old VH videos with Roth throwing his blond locks around and casting those“come hither” looks towards the camera just creeped me out a bit too much to ever take the guy seriously. Some footage from the most recent Van Halen tour with Roth riding a giant inflatable microphone around the stage surely didn’t help.
As far as being a straight-up rock and roll kind of guy goes, this latest effort is a bit of a departure, and some if it can definitely be classified as music with a message. Awareness about the environment seems to be a key part of the message Hagar is trying to convey with Cosmic Universal Fashion.
The CD is packaged in a cardboard case that is described right on it as being “Printed on 40% recycled paperboard,” as well as “Environmentally friendly package: No booklet, no waste.” Indeed, there is no booklet accompanying the CD as you would normally expect, which is really not a big deal for me and the cardboard packaging certainly was easier to open than that shrink-wrapped plastic fortress that CDs are usually encased in. You can however, visit Hagar’s website and view or download the booklet if you choose.
If you’re a Sammy Hagar fan, there’s a fair chance that you will enjoy this new album. For someone like myself who is a bit more neutral where the Red Rocker is concerned, I found myself left with only one track that I really liked. I certainly don’t consider the other tracks “unlistenable,” but the one I found myself playing over and over a number of times was “Loud.” Now that’s straight-up rock and roll, and the kind of thing I would have liked to hear more of on a Sammy Hagar album.
Getting to the title track, “Cosmic Universal Fashion,” it is not your typical rock song, and it’s a difficult one for me to classify, although it has more of a machine-generated sound to it which is a bit too repetitive and certainly does not sound like any of the old classic Hagar I remember. Of all the tracks on the album, this was the one I liked the least. It’s creation is an interesting story however, since it was born out of a collaboration between Hagar and an Iraqi fan took place over the internet. Unfortunately, I found the story of the song’s creation more interesting than the song itself.
The whole album is somewhat of an odd collection, since some of the tracks don’t seem like they belong on the same CD and were made up of a collection of songs that Hagar did not know what else to do with. That’s confirmed to some degree by the credits where Hagar talks about a couple of songs he wrote with Neal Schon just before he signed on for the Van Hagar reunion and had to put his plans with Schon on hold. Those two tracks, “Psycho Vertigo” and “Peephole” are on this album, with “Psycho Vertigo” being the better track in my opinion. Deen Castronovo’s hard-driving drum work really provides a strong backbone to this guitar-driven track.
Although I have seen some criticism of Hagar’s singing on this album, I think he’s holding up pretty well at the age of 61, and to me he sounds pretty much like the Sammy Hagar I remember from the 80’s.
As someone whose favorite groups include Rush, Yes, Heart and Kansas, Hagar’s creative work, much of which has that party-inspired feel to it, has never been much of a draw for me. For Hagar fans however, this album may be worth checking out.