Cosmic Universal Fashion

Sammy Hagar

One has to wonder if Sammy Hagar is ever going to escape the shadow of Van Halen. After all, the guy had his own history and a moderately successful solo career before he joined that band in 1985. And since parting ways, he’s blossomed into a massively successful entrepreneur, shilling high-end tequila that’s generated more income than he ever made singing and recording. And yet, on Cosmic Universal Fashion, his latest album, Hagar slyly falls back on some, well-worn Van Halen devices while spewing out a variety of party favors with a few of his high and mighty buddies in tow.

The title track starts the record off with an exotic twist. No wonder as the backing track was recorded by an Iraqi musician. Hagar is in fine voice, but the sampling and familiar ring of the “Right Now” chorus brings the song’s potential grit down a notch (the music video takes the “Right Now” chorus through an equally similar process). Journey’s Neal Schon and Deen Castronovo (on guitar and drums, respectively), along with former Van Halen bassist and Hagar’s partner-in-crime Michael Anthony, provide a much more satisfying backdrop for Hagar to exercise his lungs on both “Psycho Vertigo” and “Peephole,” arguably the best tracks on the entire disc.

“Loud,” written by John Eddie and featuring Cult guitarist Billy Duffy and Velvet Revolver drummer Matt Sorum, is less dense, brighter and boomier (if that’s a word) for the beachcombers that follow Hagar around. Maybe it’s a set-up for what follows: a cover of the Beastie Boys’ “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party).” If this is Hagar’s attempt to belly up to the homies, he should have left his “bling” at home. And all at once, the CD suddenly loses some of its momentum. ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons most certainly saves the day on “Switch On The Light,” but the lazy schmaltz of ‘When The Sun Don’t Shine” deflates the excitement. And I don’t know what the hell Hagar had in mind when he recorded “24365.” Unfortunately, the live versions of Van Halen’s “Dreams” and “Cabo” that finish off the record do nothing more than dilute the entire effort.

Still, Cosmic Universal Fashion is a vast improvement over 2006’s Livin’ It Up, which found the singer hanging at the beach and stirring up a little country in his heart. When Hagar teams up with the right combination of players, the results can be staggering, and that's rampant throughout this CD. When it comes to material, however, the Red Rocker needs to apply the same care and feeding he does to his Cabo Wabo Tequila Reposado — aged and enhanced with a proper balance of spices and flavorings. A deft attempt at being “contemporary” isn’t really the right way of ramping it up. And if you’re going to cover the tracks of one of your old bands, why not give a little love to Montrose. Hagar’s time with that group is as much a reason he belongs in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame as his tenure with Van Halen.

~ Shawn Perry

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