Sammy Hagar has insisted—loudly, publicly, and on many occasions—that he’s the ex-Van Halen singer the band should have re-hired when it came time to make a new album. When Eddie and Alex Van Halen instead opted to put David Lee Roth back on the payroll, the agreeable Hagar didn’t get mad; with Chickenfoot III, he went out and made a record with the group’s other refugee. There’s no mistaking the distinctive backing vocals from former Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony on songs like the power ballad “Different Devil,” where the so-so chorus is lifted up by those golden pipes as surely as the filler on 5150 and OU812 was. With Joe Satriani and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith ably stepping into the roles of the Van Halen brothers, Chickenfoot sounds like a cock-rock superstar act with the mentality of an amiable bar band. It may never headline stadiums like Hagar’s old group, but Chickenfoot offers up the same kind of bone-headed rock that suddenly becomes pleasurable after several shots of tequila down on the beach in Cabo.
Actually the second album by this surprisingly successful “supergroup,” Chickenfoot III mostly reflects Hagar’s personality and musical persona, with lots of songs about not driving 55 (“Big Foot”) and living life without regrets (“Up Next,” where Sammy strides confidently through the Pearly Gates with “no carry-ons”). Hagar’s bandmates are amenable to falling in line behind their singer, most notably Satriani, whose out-and-out impersonations of Eddie Van Halen’s guitar-playing (like on the opening track, “Last Temptation”) belie his own reputation as a guitar-geek deity.
It goes without saying that Chickenfoot III is frequently moronic, no more so when Hagar strains for seriousness on the grating “I need a job!” chorus of the state-of-the-economy number “Three And A Half Letters.” But as the title suggests, Chickenfoot III is stupid like a fox, filling a VH-shaped void created by the inaction and endless drama of Hagar’s former bandmates.