Marching To Mars

Sammy Hagar

Track Factory, 1997

REVIEW BY: Larry (Duke) Williams


I was never particularly fond of the Sammy Hagar era of Van Halen. To me, when they were together, they always sounded like two entirely different bands playing at the same time. At times, Sammy's voice or lyrics seemed way out of place on the music. Other times, it was the opposite. I don't think they were bad together, they recorded some amazing stuff with Sammy. But on every album except 5150, the combination of Sammy and Van Halen always seemed odd to me. There would be this great song, followed by another song that would leave me wondering how many compromises were made to reach the final version. Chris and I have argued like devils over merits/demerits of each of the Sammy Hagar- led Van Halen albums a hundred times. The result? We still don't agree. He likes the songs/albums I hate, and vice versa. They sold millions of records together, but I'll always feel that they're better separate. Many disagree.

Sammy appears to have recovered fully from his split from Van Halen, as his first solo release since the breakup is very entertaining. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Marching To Mars is definitely the best solo effort from Hagar that I've ever heard. There is something for everyone here. If you like rockin' tunes, Sammy delivers. Want a mushy ballad? Hell, Sammy can do that too. The bad side of this is that not everyone will like all the songs, which has always been Sammy's problem solo.

The album leads off with "Little White Lie," a composition recorded with the help of Slash that received considerable airplay. I like this song, but whomever it is playing the slide on this track should skip it. When I hear the slide guitar on this track, I get visuals of Uncle Jesse from The Dukes of Hazzard sitting on his porch; bleary eyed with a jug of horrible whiskey. Except for that deduction, the song makes you smile, as does much of this album.

"Salvation on Sand Hill" is mesmerizing, with a subtle guitar lick and woven keyboards that beg for repeated listens. After a few bars, Sammy winds up and busts you in the face as the song kicks into fifth gear. Sammy's voice is exceptional here, proving that he can still sing after all these years.

The album lags on "Who Has The Right?" and "Would You Do It For Free," but picks up again on "Leaving The Warmth Of The Womb." Sammy's career comes full circle here, with Ronnie Montrose lending a hand on guitars, as Sammy once did for Ronnie with his voice.

"Kama" is a textbook ballad, leading off with 12-string guitars and Sammy's "sensitive" voice. If I have a criticism here, it's that this song is a chokingly typical ballad, suitable for prom night. But I gotta admit, it's pretty good, and it left me smiling, again.

For the rest, I'll leave that up to you. This brings me to the most difficult part of reviewing this album, assigning it a letter grade like we always do here. This one's really tough, because it's probably Sam's best solo work, and it's a good album over all. The problem is, Sammy uses a lot of proven methods here, stuff you'll recognize. Many songs use typical guitar licks/lyrical phrases that border on cliché. But he repaints these old standbys into new and interesting paintings, which is the fundamental definition of creativity. This is a much better album than many of the albums to be released this year, so if you liked him with Van Halen, give him a chance on this album. You'll find that many of these songs are killer driving tunes, others will leave you with a smile. I will say this; Van Halen will have to be VERY good to be better than this. If their album sells more this December, one will have to wonder if it's the name that's selling.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1997 Larry (Duke) Williams and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Track Factory, and is used for informational purposes only.