Tag Archives: Sammy Hagar

Rocks In The Attic #409: Montrose – ‘Montrose’ (1973)

RITA#409Released the same year as another stunning rock debut, this self-titled album by Montrose is an oddity. It’s seldom spoke about in the same sentence as heavyweight rock records, yet any self-respecting rock fan seems to be a huge fan. It exists in my collection on its own – I’ve never come across their later albums – and my copy has seen better days, with a sleeve seemingly rebuilt with sellotape by a previous owner.

It’s all good though. The most prominent aspect of this album – aside from Ronnie Montrose’s incendiary guitar playing – is the familiar voice of Sammy Hagar; this being his debut recording. Looking back from the 21st century, after watching Van Halen evolve into a middle-of-the-road nothing of a band – with the vast majority of those questionable years voiced by Hagar – it’s actually nice to hear him front something with a bit of balls.

The highlight here is Rock Candy – a rock staple of the ‘70s and ‘80s (and covered by Bulletboys on the first Wayne’s World soundtrack). The rest of the record is just as strong, and if anything if it feels a little ahead of its time. This isn’t a rock record stuck in the mire of late ‘60s psychedelia, this is a party record, the kind of which were a dime a dozen in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s (or twelve for ten cents depending on where you shop).

Hit: Rock Candy

Hidden Gem: Rock The Nation

Rocks In The Attic #275: Van Halen – ‘5150’ (1986)

RITA#275Van Hagar’s first album is a ripper. I have a soft spot for it because my first guitar amp was a Peavey EVH 5150 model, and that beast got me through a lot of gigs; but I actually prefer this album to 1984 – usually seen as the peak of the band’s involvement with David Lee Roth. In fact, Diamond Dave’s solo album Eat ‘Em And Smile, released the same year as 5150 and with Steve Vai on guitar, is an overlooked classic – and those three albums together are a great trifecta of mid-‘80s rock.

Unfortunately – whether it be Sammy Hagar’s influence or not – this is also where Van Halen start to drift into the middle of the road (it’s probably also the influence of Foreigner’s Mick Jones in the co-producer’ seat). Until this point, I’d say they were probably one of the most cutting-edge bands of the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s. Now, with soppy ballads like Dreams and Love Walks In, they showed that they were making records for middle-aged people, not teens at keg parties.

I used to play this record over and over when I was at University, and this was probably the time I was most in awe of Eddie’s guitar playing. The guitar intro to Summer Nights is one of my favourite Van Halen moments – a wonderful showcase of his warped ability. Listening now, I can’t quite handle some of the most dated aspects of the album, like the God-awful synth on Dreams and Love Walks In. Eddie used synths masterly on 1984’s Jump, but here he uses them to soundtrack how they might be played in the kind of heaven where Kenny G plays God.

Thankfully there’s only one song on the album – opener Good Enough – where Hagar seems to be doing his best David Lee Roth impression. He wails over the rest of the album more in his own style, which I like much more than the whelps and screams of his predecessor.

My least favourite part of the album is the closing song Inside. This dirge-like song really leaves a sour taste in the mouth after such a sunny and upbeat album.

Hit: Why Can’t This Be Love

Hidden Gem: Summer Nights

Rocks In The Attic #68: Van Halen – ‘Van Halen’ (1978)

Rocks In The Attic #68: Van Halen - ‘Van Halen’ (1978)Aside from a slightly misplaced running order (I so would have opened this album with Eruption – something they would do in retrospect on their Best Of Volume 1 package), this is a killer rock album.

History – and Ozzy Osbourne – would try and have us believe that Randy Rhoads was the hottest new guitarist on the block at the time, but this debut by Van Halen came out a full two and a half years before Blizzard Of Ozz, and Eddie is on fire here. People say there’s no soul in the way that these guitarists play, but like any virtuoso, soul and feel will always take a backseat to speed and technique.

This album is also very California – although a lot of the music is in minor keys, it feels sunny and happy all the way through, with even some Beach Boys-esque harmonies employed on Feel Your Love Tonight.

When it comes to David Lee Roth versus Sammy Hagar on vocals, obviously the original frontman is the purist’s choice, but those crazy yelps and creams that Lee Roth peppers all over this album is a little off-putting. So the choice comes down to that, or the middle-of-the-road soulful vocals of Hagar. At the end of the day, I’m only listening to Eddie anyway.

Hit: Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love

Hidden Gem: Eruption