Chickenfoot, the supergroup of Sammy Hagar, Joe Satriani, Michael Anthony and Chad Smith, released their self-titled debut album in 2009 — a solid, hard-rocking, good-time album, with several key tracks that most anyone who liked the Sammy Hagar era of Van Halen would probably enjoy, including “Soap on a Rope,” “Down the Drain,” “Sexy Little Thing,” “Get It Up,” “Turnin’ Left” and “Future In the Past.” (Yes, there really are that many killer tracks on their first album!)
So when Chickenfoot hooked us up with an advance copy of their second album, jokingly titled “Chickenfoot III,” we were salivating for our first taste.
If you own their first album and you thought you knew what Chickenfoot was all about musically, you’re wrong. The group’s sophomore set is in no way a carbon copy of the first record. In fact, it’s quite different. It features several rockers as expected, but the band boldly expanded their sound, delving into some unexpected directions, such as pop, blues, soul, and even a couple slow-tempo cuts. Many fans will enjoy these new directions, but others will likely wish that the group had stuck with the same successful formula it tapped for its debut.
While it’s a great album, “Chickenfoot III” sounds a little less uniquely “Chickenfoot” than the group’s inaugural set. Throughout the album, Sammy brings it lyrically and vocally, and Michael’s solid bass playing and completely unique background vocals are evident. Joe’s guitar playing and Chad’s drumming shine a little less often than they did on the debut, however, which leaves a few of the tracks sounding like a mixture of a Chickenfoot song and a Sammy Hagar solo song. It seems that Satch was purposely playing less technical and flashy, and more in a song oriented style.
The album opens with the super heavy licks of “Last Temptation,” a hard-hitting, mid-tempo stomper.
“Alright, Alright” is a tremendously fun bluesy rocker musically reminiscent of the Stones. A great party vibe, with plenty of fun signature Michael vocals and a very cool guitar solo with some funky key changes. We will gladly take as many fun songs like this as we can from Chickenfoot!
“Different Devil” is the band’s obvious attempt at a pop single, and is by far the most commercial-sounding song Chickenfoot has recorded. We’re all for the group writing a pop song, but this sounds like a Sammy Hagar track, not a Chickenfoot tune. Granted, it’s a catchy, melodic, and radio-friendly number, and some fans will be thrilled with it, but few will be able to recognize Satch’s or Smith’s involvement. Think “Sexy Little Thing,” but softer rock and more generic, with nice, sunny background vocals from Michael.
“Up Next” blazes full speed back into familiar Chickenfoot territory, with the rhythm section stomping hard, and Satch delivering some very riff-heavy and bluesy guitar while leaving lots of open spaces where Sam can do his thing. It’s a killer song with a fun chorus that finds the whole gang shouting the vocals, and it features a crazy and spacey guitar solo.
The intro for “Lighten Up” screams Deep Purple, and the song ultimately turns into another rocker with some tasty guitar fills. The track’s last minute-and-a-half, which finds Sammy singing over Joe’s wailing guitar, is reminiscent of Van Halen’s “Aftershock.”
“Come Closer” is shockingly mellow — a surprising foray into R&B/soul territory. Sam presented the lyrics to Joe and asked him to write some fitting music. The result is something truly different for Chickenfoot. Sammy sings in a smoky, soulful baritone, and Michael sings some wonderful harmonies. Fans will be very divided on this; we predict they’ll either love it or hate it. Either way, though, you gotta give the band kudos for having the balls to venture out and do something like this!
Sammy’s late manager, Carter, had been asking the singer to write a topical song about the economic situation. Instead of writing lyrics, Sam decided to read actual letters from desperate fans who had written him letters describing their hardships and asking him for help. The result is “Three and a Half Letters,” the verses for which are comprised of Sam reading the letters, and the chorus for which features Sam screaming “I need a job!” While obviously a unique concept, we feel that it ultimately didn’t work, and that Sam’s lyrics and delivery make it more of a novelty. Chickenfoot’s fans are all about having fun, and we can’t see them playing this song in heavy rotation.
The token car song and first single “Big Foot” is definitely one of the more fun and rockin’ songs on the album, and has the vibe that says, “This is Chickenfoot!” The lyrics were a lot less thought-out than on the other songs, as Sammy sang quite a lot of it off the cuff while the band was tracking. Since the band loves the “live” feel, they left it at that.
“Dubai Blues” is a unique treat built around funky and bluesy riffs. Lyrically, Sammy plays the part of a lovestruck billionaire sheik complaining that he can’t buy his way into the heart of the woman he desires. An instant blues-rock classic, the groovy guitar riffs will stay in your head after this one.
“Something Gone Wrong” heads confidently back into uncharted territory, this time with acoustic guitars and banjos, and wraps up this relatively experimental album.
Highlights: “Alright, Alright,” “Up Next,” “Big Foot,” “Dubai Blues.”
Disappointment: “Three and a Half Letters.”
Surprises: “Come Closer,” “Something’s Gone Wrong.”
“Chickenfoot III” is an unexpectedly diverse album. Fans of the group’s first record will enjoy it, and the band absolutely kicks ass on tour, so we highly recommend adding the album to your collection and catching at least one Chickenfoot show when they tour next year.