I bought this CD because I’ve been a true diehard Sammy fan for years. After his abrupt split with VH, I wondered how he would sound solo after being with the group for 12+ years. Well this album proves that the red rocker is not only back, but he delivers with the drive and intensity that he had back in the Montrose days. This album rocks!!! I recommend it to anyone who enjoyed Sammy as a solo artist, with Montrose, and even with Van Halen. His songs have depth and soul and a matureness that only a real talented musician can posess. I’m actually looking forward to his next CD, because I know he still has it!!
Metal Album Reviews[RSS]
The saga of Van Halen is one of the most storied in music history, even if they haven’t been around long enough to justify such a soap opera. When lead singer David Lee Roth left in 1985 to go solo, he was replaced by moderately-successful rocker Sammy Hagar. After a short-but-excellent time as lead singer of another guitarist-led band Montrose, Hagar went solo & had some hits here & there, but nothing too mindblowing. When he joined Van Halen, he finally got the worldwide stardom he had been wanting his whole career.
Even though Van Halen’s success just increased with their new lead singer, it was clear from the beginning that this was an uneasy arrangement. By 1995’s BALANCE (probably the best Van Halen album with Hagar), the pressure cooker finally boiled over & Sammy got the boot in a very-publicized ouster from Van Halen. But whereas David Lee Roth saw his career suffer after being fired, Hagar must have taken it as a blessing in disguise. Only a year after his firing, Sammy returned to his solo career with 1997’s MARCHING TO MARS. After the overblown arena rock he had created with Van Halen, this album saw Sammy returning to the stripped-down rock he had made his solo career on. While not until 2000’s TEN 13 would he truly be back on the top of his game, MARCHING TO MARS was one hell of a good start.
The bluesy acoustic-electric opener “Little White Lie” has Sammy claiming that he never was happy during his time with Van Halen in the first place & he always felt like an employee, not a leader. From this song alone, it is clear MARCHING TO MARS was a labor of love for Sammy with help from many famous friends. “Little White Lie” boasts slide guitarist Roy Rogers (no, not THAT Roy Rogers!), Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash, Huey Lewis on harmonica & Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, who’d play a significant role on the rest of the album.
While his work with Van Halen may have been power-ballad after power-ballad, Sammy’s latest solo work has been all about loud, screaming rock. MARCHING TO MARS proves once again that even as he approaches his golden years, he’s not about to start fashioning his show in Vegas. The totally-live-sounding title track, “The Yogi’s So High [I'm Stoned]” (Sammy a druggie? I certainly hope not), “Salvation On Sand Hill”, “On The Other Hand” & “Would You Do It For Free?” make it clear Sammy’s insistence on stadium-ready ballads when he was with Van Halen was just a front. All this time, his rocker persona was on an extended vacation & was now back.
That’s not to say Sammy has totally given up on slow songs altogether. It’s just that he’s the one calling the shots & goes for something more organic & rocking than Eddie Van Halen’s slicker-than-slick approach. “Who Has The Right?” & “Amnesty Is Granted” (first recorded by Meat Loaf) are more obvious attempts at ballads, but not completely neutered for our consumption. “Leaving The Warmth Of The Womb” & “Both Sides Now” (not the Joni Mitchell classic) are not quite traditional ballads, but something more undefinable. The only time he verges on Van Halen territory is “Kama”, an unabashedly sentimental tribute to his then-newborn daughter. Hey, even a hard rocker like Sammy Hagar can be moved, is that a crime?
MARCHING TO MARS is indeed filled with famous friends who are around to help make music, not sell the album. “Who Has The Right?” is co-written by Jefferson Starship’s Craig Chaquico & features former Starship lead singer Mickey Thomas on background vocals. “Would You Do It For Free?” has Parliament/Funkadelic bassist Bootsy Collins helping Sammy funk things up. “Leaving The Warmth Of The Womb” has guitar work by the man who helped give Sammy his big break, Ronnie Montrose. “Kama” has the Cult’s Matt Sorum on drums & another appearance by Mickey Thomas singing back-up. Mickey Hart appears also on “On The Other Hand” & “Both Sides Now” along with co-writing & producing the title track. To top it all off is producer Mike Clink (Guns N’ Roses & Motley Crue, among others) helping to give Sammy his most up-front & hard-edged sound in years.
Clearly, Sammy Hagar being fired from Van Halen may have hurt him, but not for long. MARCHING TO MARS indicates that he’s done his soul-searching, learned from his mistakes & is now ready to move on. While the album may seem overrun with guest artists & attempts at sounding too experimental, a “fun” record like MARCHING TO MARS was something Sammy needed to do to get back in touch with his muse. RED VOODOO (1999) would continue that journey back to his roots before TEN 13 proved finally that Sammy was home from the war that was Van Halen.
I have been a fan of Sammy going back to the Montroes days. This is one of Sammy’s most powerful eforts ever!! He plays with such power and passion on this CD. One listen to this CD and you will say “Van Who?” Rock on Sammy!!
Van Halen died the day Sammy was fired. Sammy took the emotion of that whole experience, as well as the healing process, and created what I think is his most musically diverse and mature album to date. The many of the selections have a more bluesy feel to them. I was a Van Halen fan before I became a Sammy fan, and as I compare MTM to a pathetic VH3 album, I must say that I leave the Van Halen era as a true Sammy fan.
I own every single Sammy Hagar CD, from Montose’s self-titled debut, to 2000s “Ten 13.” In my opinion, I think “Marching to Mars” is Sammy’s finest album. In fact, in my opinion, “Marching to Mars” is one of the best albums of all time. This album doesn’t have the arena rock sound of Sammy’s pre-VH albums, such as “Standing Hampton” and “VOA.” Instead, Sammy heads for a more bluesy direction. Unlike Sammy’s two other post-VH albums, Sammy does not have his backing band the Waboritas. Instead, Sammy uses a variety of talented musicians, such as Slash and Matt Sorum (ex GNR) Bootsy Collins, and Mickey Hart. Sammy was out to prove that he didn’t need VH to put out good music, and he certainly did! The album has several highlights. “Who has the Right?” is an anti-death penalty song. “Would you do it for free” is a 70s funk song directed towards the VH brothers. The title title track, is an upbeat rocker that you could dance to. “Amnesty is Granted,”which I think is the best song on the album, is a song about forgiveness. “Leaving the Warmth of the Womb” sees a Montrose reunion. If you like Sammy Hagar’s music, this is a must have.