Posted on January 25, 2010 -
By the time Sammy Hagar released “Standing Hampton,” the Red Rocker was already a veteran hard-rocker. The former Montrose and future Van Halen singer had spent the 70s releasing a string of solo albums for Capital Records. Although these albums, were for the most part consistently good, it’s Hagar’s 80s Geffen albums that see his finest solo offerings. Hagar’s knack for writing good, catchy AOR songs hit its high point during this period. Released in 1981, “Standing Hampton” was the best album Hagar released, since Montrose’s debut album, which was released five years earlier.
“Standing Hampton” is a great, meat-and-potatoes, 80s hard-rock album. It’s all killer and no filler. Each song is tightly written and has a good hook, sing-along-chorus, and a few cool solos. Most of the songs on this disc are mid-tempo, but this album never gets tepid or runs out of steam. I would go as far as to say that “Standing Hampton” surpasses any album Hagar released with Van Halen, in terms of memorable, well-written songs with good hooks. As a guitar player, Hagar is no Eddie Van Halen, but his solos and playing on this album are still excellent. So even if Hagar isn’t the most technically proficient guitarist, his playing and his solos are undeniably good. And most important, Hagar is a first class songwriter.
“Standing Hampton” is an enjoyable, good natured album. Personally, I feel that this album is sort of like musical meatloaf, it’s comfort music. Although I should point out that it still is substantive; it’s not mindless fun, like Poison.
The album starts off with the mid-tempo “I’ll Fall in Love Again.” A song about keeping it going after being burned. “There’s Only One Way to Rock” is a fast-paced arena-rocker that could have easily been used for Van Halen (VH often played this song live). “Baby’s On Fire” is another mid-tempo song that sounds a bit like “Man on a Mission” from Van Halen’s “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge” (1991). The synth-heavy rocker “Can’t Get Loose” is one of Hagar’s more underrated songs. It’s a song about people who just can’t seem to get a break. It features some of Hagar most thoughtful lyrics. “Heavy Metal” is another Hagar classic. It pretty much sums up the spirit of the genre for which the song is named. The album slows down a bit for the striking baled “Baby it’s You.” This underrated gem is far superior to many of the love songs for which Hagar is famous for (i.e., “Why Can’t This Be Love,” “Feels So Good.”) “Surrender” is a more upbeat, underrated gem in the same vein. “Inside Lookin’ In” is another very cool, catchy rocker, and keeps up the momentum. “Sweet Hitchhiker” along with “One Way to Rock” is one of the albums more fast-paced songs. The album closes with an excellent cover or the Janis Joplin classic “Piece of My Heart.” This version may not surpass the original, but it’s easily just as good. The saxophone solos are a nice touch.
“Standing Hampton,” stands alongside Montrose’s self-titled debut, Van Halen’s “5150,” and “Balance” and his first post VH album “Marching to Mars” as Hagar’s best work. Any fan of 80s rock, AOR, or Van Halen is sure to love “Standing Hampton.”