Written by General Jabbo
Earlier this decade, when the chances of reuniting with Van Halen seemed remote at best, Sammy Hagar put together a supergroup consisting of himself, former Van Halen bandmate Michael Anthony, and Neal Schon and Deen Castronovo from Journey. The group was called Planet Us and made a few appearances, even jamming with guitar legend Joe Satriani. Then, in 2004, the Van Halen reunion happened and Planet Us was put on the backburner. History tells us Hagar’s second go-around with Van Halen ended worse than the first one and he was back to being a solo artist. With Schon and Castronovo back with Journey full time, Hagar once again called upon Anthony and Satriani and, on drums, Chad Smith from the Red Hot Chili Peppers — a friend of Hagar’s and frequent guest at his Cabo Wabo Cantina. The band wrote some songs and decided to go into the studio, but they needed a name. As a joke, the name Chickenfoot was thrown out with the intention of a “better” name being picked later. Well, Chickenfoot stuck and the supergroup has unleashed their self-titled debut on the world.
Any band with two former Van Halen members and Eddie Van Halen-disciple Satriani on guitar will naturally draw comparisons to them, and sure enough, there are some Van Halen-sounding cuts on the album. “Soap on a Rope” could easily fit on For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge or Balance with its sleazy riff, big chorus, and innuendo-laden lyrics. “Runnin’ Out” has a bluesy groove not unlike “Finish What Ya Started,” while “Down the Drain” sounds like Roth-era VH, something the band often shied away from when Hagar fronted them.
It’s not all Van Halen imitation going on here. The opening cut, “Avenida Revolution” features a menacing Satriani riff and the driving rhythm section of Anthony and Smith. Smith’s funk chops are all over the disc and Anthony really gets to shine now that he is out of Eddie’s shadow (Anthony played little to no bass on the last several Van Halen releases) as the drum/bass breakdown on “Avenida Revolution” shows.
Other hard-driving cuts include “Get it Up” featuring blistering lead work from Satriani, and “Turnin’ Left” with a sinister funk groove and dark guitar work recalling George Lynch. While Hagar’s post-Van Halen records are fun, party albums, he is at his best when he has something to prove (as on 1997’s Marching to Mars). He sounds inspired to be working with world-class musicians again. Satriani has said in interviews that he always wanted to play in a band situation, but never found the right one. He may have with Chickenfoot, as his playing and tone are positively monstrous throughout.
Chickenfoot is the sound of four veteran musicians having fun together. There’s only one ballad and the band rocks hard through the other 10 tracks. They’ve certainly upped the ante, and one can’t imagine Eddie Van Halen not trying to top this album with his own rumored Van Halen record. Chickenfoot plans to tour and if the live shows are half as thunderous as the CD, fans will be in for a treat.