Chickenfoot - III [Album Review]
By Chad Baalman
If Chickenfoot only gave us a nibble with its début effort in 2009, those who buy its newly-released follow-up, III, will get just about everything short of the feathers.
"There's more meat to it," bassist Michael Anthony said on the DVD that comes with the Best Buy deluxe version. "It's thicker. It's more involved. It's evolved and the band has grown."
Chickenfoot, the supergroup comprised of former Van Halen lead singer Sammy Hagar, guitarist Joe Satriani, Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith and Anthony, also late of Van Halen, dipped its toes into a little bit of everything for this disc: political and economic issues, ballads and blues, pop and driving rock.
Having already achieved so much in their respective careers, the guys could have, to borrow a golf phrase, "laid up" and taken a safe approach with Chickenfoot III. Instead, they dug in and produced a multi-dimensional product.
"Not that they were jam songs on the first album," Anthony said of the self-titled release, that has achieved Gold status. "The songs are a lot deeper this time."
"Come Closer" and "Three and a Half Letters" are two songs that fit that bill, with the former being a soul-based, heart-felt ballad and the latter showcasing Hagar reading letters from fans who had fallen on hard times economically and emotionally. ("I need a job. I'm willing to work, but I need a job!, Hagar screams in the chorus).
"It's really about what's been going on in my life and where my head's at," Hagar said on the DVD. "It's a big deal."
Satriani shows that he doesn't have to tap the fretboard a thousand times a minute to be effective. The album's opening number "Last Temptation" attests to that, with Satch laying down a dirty, punch-to-the-ribs riff. "Alright Alright" is finger-and-toe-tapping tune that makes for a perfect No. 2 track on the album thanks to the work of Smith on the drums.
That leads into "Different Devil," which sounds as if it could have fit in on Kid Rock's Born Free album. Regardless, as a ballad with a big chorus that the tag team of Hagar and Anthony know how to deliver vocally, it seems destined for a proper single release, heavy radio play and screams commercial appeal.
It's hard to believe Hagar turns 64 in October. Sure, he might look like a clown and obsessively talk about tequila flowing from his bar in Mexico (which, thankfully, I couldn't find any such references to in this album), "The Red Rocker" seemingly has more fun than those half his age and his voice has held up remarkably well over the years.
The middle part of the album is chock full of attitude. Satriani delivers a catchy opening riff on "Up Next" and takes us up and down the ladder throughout. "Lighten Up" sounds nothing like the song's title suggests. Starting out with an ominous, Deep Purple-ish sound, it turns into an in-your-face rocker. The album's first single, "Big Foot," a no-frills, simple stomper, resides on the latter half of the track listing along with "Dubai Blues," which displays some funk and blues characteristics.
Give producer and engineer Mike Fraser (AC/DC, Aerosmith, Metallica) high marks as well. The mix is clean and isn't muddled. It doesn't have all four parts trying to trample over each other. Anthony's bass lines peak through the surface at just the right times and it was wise to give his background vocals a prominent role.
Rock supergroups have traditionally enjoyed short shelf lives (The Traveling Wilburys and Damn Yankees come to mind), so it remains to be seen how far down the road Hagar and the gang will take the Chickenfoot act. Smith has already gone back to his regular gig with RHCP and he will have to sit out if Chickenfoot goes out on tour later this year.
If this is the last time we see Chickenfoot in the studio in its current form, the members can certainly hold their heads high knowing they made a solid effort at exploring different corners musically and lyrically with III.
Chickenfoot - III track listing
1. Last Temptation
2. Alright Alright
3. Different Devil
4. Up Next
5. Lighten Up
6. Come Closer
7. Three and a Half Letters
8. Big Foot
9. Dubai Blues
10. Something Gone Wrong
11. Untitled (Hidden Track)
The Best Buy Deluxe Version includes DVD about the making of Chickenfoot III.
Chickenfoot will perform at The Pageant on November 4, 2011. Presale tickets go on sale 10/4 and tickets go on sale 10/7/11