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Chickenfoot

Chickenfoot

Review by Rick Damigella

When I first read about the formation of Chickenfoot, I nearly fell over. The idea of a group consisting of Sammy Hagar, Joe Satriani, Michael Anthony and Chad Smith sounded so brilliant, with each member a musical genius in his own right, joining forces to make a great rock album. The epithet “supergroup” instantly sprang to mind, as did comparisons to two of the members’ previous tenure (Anthony and Hagar in Van Halen – ed.) in the same band. And how would their similar yet dissimilar backgrounds mesh together?

The great thing about Chickenfoot is the comparisons to each member’s history are really trivial. Yes, Michael Anthony’s and Sammy Hagar’s harmonizing is reminiscent of glories of their past, but that is where the comparisons stop. Chad Smith rocks the drums in-the-pocket, nothing too flashy, but with just a little something more splashed on. Michael Anthony’s force of nature bass playing is something that rock has sorely missed for far too many years. Sammy Hagar hasn’t lost a step of his characteristic vocals. It must be something in the tequila?  Then there is the Satch-factor. The guitar wielding alien plays in such an understated way (for him) that he sounds the way he should; playing real guitar solos as part of a group, and not as a solo guitarist.

I can honestly say that if you haven’t listened to Chickenfoot’s self-titled debut yet, you are missing out on one of the strongest rock albums of the 21st century. In an era where more musicians are decrying the album as a dead format, Chickenfoot has crafted a set of songs, which, are strong on their own, but when played together, could fuel a Saturday night kegger or be the soundtrack of an extended drive. In essence, it’s the perfect summer album. It consists of 11 top notch songs (12 if you opt for the vinyl or digital download) and comes complete with rockers, invitations to get your buzz on, not one but two stripper anthems and what is hands down the greatest power ballad of the 21st century. The whole thing took 43 days to write and record, which is both a testament to the talent in the band, but is also an unintentional knock at those who perhaps over think the creative process. The physical product itself, with its heat sensitive cover art and double-gatefold vinyl edition, is yet another reminder the album isn’t dead, at least in the hands of people who actually know how to make one.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Avenida Revolucion
Joe Satriani's unmistakeable sound heralds the start of the song, shifting quickly into a dark groove - darker than one might expect from a Sammy Hagar penned song. The lyrics touch on the darker side of Hagar's beloved Mexico. The tandem vocals of Hagar and Michael Anthony blend as well here as they ever did on a Van Halen album.
Soap on a Rope

As Mr. Hagar might say: “Uh! Woo!” This song features a rocking guitar groove and Hagar’s signature lyric style inviting you to just chill out and partay! You should definitely check out the band’s website for the great music video to this one. Yes, you heard that right - an actual music video. This is why you leave this kind of art to the experts.

Sexy Little Thing

This is the first of my initial three favorite songs on the album. The opening guitar riff became an instant earworm which would not leave my cortex. You will hear a familiar sound following it; the too-long-gone bass thump of Michael Anthony. Those four strings paired with Chad Smith’s skin pounding will have you nodding your head right along. Satriani’s solo fits brilliantly into the mix. If there are strip club DJ’s who know how to play something other than hip-hop at distorted volume, you need to listen to this song.

Oh Yeah

If this one doesn’t get your party started, you obviously are throwing a really bad party. Hagar’s goodtime lyrics and the shout along chorus drive the party atmosphere right along. That plunk plunk thud you hear before Satriani’s solo is Michael Anthony treating a four-string as only he can. For a party song there is a lot going on. This is no simple verse-chorus-verse-solo-chorus number.

Runnin’ Out

Alright, if you held a 12x12 to my head I would say, out of the whole album, that this is the one song that reminds me ever so slightly of Van Hagar. The bass line combined with Hagar and Anthony’s vocals give it that feeling. However, take a very straight ahead guitar line from Satriani and add a bluesy/wah solo and it turns into Chickenfoot.

Get it Up

Awwww yeahh! Or as Hagar declares: “Arriba riba!” This is one hell of a fun song. Satriani’s guitar riff propels the song properly from the outset, as does his coloring of Hagar and Anthony’s shared vocals throughout. If there is one time Satch sounds like Satch on the solo, this is it.

Down the Drain

There is something about Hagar talking to the other musicians as the song begins that is just so, Sammy Hagar. It gives the song a real live feel. The slower grinding Satch groove is accentuated perfectly by Mr. Anthony’s thudthudthud. Satriani delivers a solo worthy of any air guitarist worth their airpick. As the song reaches the bridge and solos, it picks way up in pace, with Hagar vamping ad libs, seemingly spurring the band on.

My Kinda Girl

Hands down, this is my favorite song on the album. It hooked me in and I loved it from the first listen. It starts off with a quieter intro which gives way to one of the hottest riffs on the disc. Check your pulse if the music doesn’t pull you instantly. The lyrics tell the story of a girl, as only Hagar can write them. This is easily the best example of why Hagar and Anthony singing together is one of those pieces of rock and roll magic that happens, you can’t just create it. For full appreciation, suggested listening is playing this at high volume, while driving with the windows or top down. Please obey any applicable traffic laws.

Learning to Fall

Set the way back machine for some time before 1991, when there was an unwritten law that you couldn’t release a rock album without a lighters-in-the-air power ballad. It just wasn’t allowed.  This song is simply chilling, from Hagar’s earnest love filled lyrics to its multitracked vocals in the chorus, the sweeping arrangement and the fact that Satriani just plays like a guy with a guitar, not “that guy” with the guitar. If you think there is little magic left to music in the Oughties, I encourage you to play this. Guys, you want a first class ticket into the heart of your desired girl? Hold her hand and play this song or dedicate it to her in some fashion. And if you are seeing Chickenfoot live, put away your damn iPhone/Blackberry/phone of choice and hold up an actual lighter for crying out loud! You can buy them even if you don’t smoke!

Turnin’ Left

We’re back to the rockers with this one. The interesting thing about this and most of the songs here isn’t what they sound like, but rather what they don’t. With the various musical pedigrees in this band, you might think you would hear more things to compare these songs to, but instead, you will keep finding unique songs that exist in their own right and not as a rehash of former glories.

Future in the Past
The longest track on the album closes it. The opening acoustic strumming, accented with harmonic pull-offs is another nod to the roots of where this music originated from; a time and a place. You have likely never heard Satriani play this way. The piece kicks into a medium paced tempo with Anthony doing some killer riffs on his bass, that when listened to in the proper setting almost takes command over the other instruments.
 
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