Sound — 8
There was a lot of hype created over the release of Chickenfoot's sophomore effort, but does it live up to expectations? Mixed reviews followed their debut album, and since then multiple interviews from the band members indicated that the band is much tighter now and the new record was going to be much heavier. Lead singer Sammy Hagar, joined by guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani, ex-Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony, and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, seemed to have a fire under their a-ses, and it shows in their latest effort, humorously titled "III". Here's a brief track-by-track review of the album: 01. "Last Temptation": Solid opening track, meant to kick you right in the face, the use of stop time during the verse is followed by a driving, anthemic chorus. "Last Temptation" is a more dynamic opener than "Avenida Revolution" that sets a better first impression. Some might find the song would benefit from changing some of the lyrics up a bit, but the heavy rhythm keeps listeners interested. 02. "Alright Alright": Hagar said this track was written during the first Chickenfoot tour, and you can really tell. It's less heavy and more straightforward than the opener, with an intentionally repetitive chorus. Just when you're about to get bored, Joe throws a curveball with a key change and a nice solo followed by a neat spoken word bridge. 03. "Different Devil": This song is Hagar's attempt at deeper, more meaningful lyrics (he claimed to have spent three weeks in Cabo fine tuning them), based on an old phrase regarding different lovers: Same Hell, Different Devil. The chorus is catchy and has a nice hook, but nothing too fancy from the rest of the band, I would expect Joe to include more melodic bits, but instead he takes a back seat and leaves the spotlight to Sammy. 04. "Up Next": If you fell asleep during "Different Devil", this should wake you up, a thumping verse is followed by some fast moving riffage from Joe. Another hooky chorus is featured in this song, followed by the anthemic chants of Who's Next!?!, which some might find a bit cheesy. Some listeners might get turned off by the tired Biblical references, but an absolutely ethereal solo from Joe should lift them back up. 05. "Lighten Up": Don't let the title fool you. This possibly has the heaviest rhythm on the record with some very dynamic drumming by Smith. Joe adds another dynamic when he engages his POG pedal to make his guitar sound like an organ. With a song this heavy you would expect some angry, in-your-face lyrics. Instead, Sammy sings about his girl who is pushing too hard, lighten up, which is an interesting irony, but perhaps also an indication of his aging, weakening voice, which 25 years ago would be saying F*** off instead. 06. "Come Closer": Sammy handed Joe a page of lyrics and said Write music to this. What ensued was a melodic soundscape under which Mike and Chad lay down a fat groove. Sammy is much more in the zone during this song, not stretching his range and singing a softer tenor. This song could very easily be on a Satriani solo record (for obvious reasons), but Sammy's inspired (and inspiring) lyrics take the song to a new level. Come Closer is definitely one of the highlights of the album. 07. "Three And A Half Letters": Unlike "Come Closer", this song was much more impromptu, with Sammy reading letters from fans with life problems over the band who are trying to play as heavy as they can. Every aspect of this song sounds forced, from the rather uninspiring melody meant to give the song a sing (or hum) along quality, to the simple but boring chorus riff with Sammy's scream of I Need A Job!. Even Satch's solo has little musical value (although his harmonic squeals are always entertaining). This song is intended to be a release of frustration and a sort of tribute to fans who are having tough times, but it's a blatant and somewhat unfruitful effort that detaches from the musicality of the rest of the album. 08. "Big Foot": This song was the single for the album, simple bluesy, driving riff, with classic Hagar rock lyrics backed by Mike's vocals. If there was one song on the album that would be considered vintage Chickenfoot, this is it. Sounds like a heavier, more driving version of "Soap On A Rope", with a nice turnaround during the chorus for that anthemic hook. Old Chickenfoot fans will love it, but more critical listeners might not be so easily swayed. 09. "Dubai Blues": Another song with an awesome groove from Mike and Chad and a heavy blues riff from Joe, with light rhythm playing during the verse a bit reminiscent of older ZZ Top records. Sammy's lightheartedly sings about having the Dubai Blues, i.e. having all the money and possessions in the world but no woman to love. All four band members shine in this undoubtedly catchy song, and fans will for sure be screaming the chorus of Ain't Got You when it's played live. 10. "Something Going Wrong": Chickenfoot step outside of the box a bit on this one, "Something Going Wrong" is a more folk-oriented ballad featuring Joe on acoustic guitar and mostly showcasing Sammy and Mike's vocals. Joe layers a banjo and his electric atop the acoustic during the chorus, adding the thicker sound you would expect from not only Chickenfoot, but a Satriani solo record as well. Some listeners might not appreciate the deviation from the heaviness of the rest of the album, but it functions well as a closing song. 11. "Hidden Bonus Track": Hard to review this one, it's a wall of sound with an atmospheric intro followed by a hard groove and Sammy belting out politically inspired lyrics. A cool listen for Chickenfoot fans (and who can name another recording where Satch goes nuts with sweep picking?).
Lyrics — 7
It's easy to tell that Hagar made an effort to go beyond writing straightforward rock lyrics and writing more meaningful songs. However, considering his age, it seems that older listeners would more likely identify and connect with these lyrics, while younger listeners might get bored or be left with a bad impression, that, combined with his aging voice, the energy isn't there anymore. That said, listeners should keep in mind that Sammy can still belt it out, just not on every song, so on a few songs he steps out of the box, with relatively decent results, but at the same time, the songs that shine on the album are the ones where Sammy sticks to what he does best.
Overall Impression — 8
Although the band is tight and in good form, Sammy is starting to show his age, both in vocal quality and lyric content (especially when he attempts to push either envelop). Younger listeners might get the impression that the target audience is middle aged people. That said, all four members are still extremely talented, and the chemistry is growing stronger. Listeners who were fans of Chickenfoot since the beginning will love this record. The band is tighter, more dynamic, and most of all heavier on this album. Fans who want ballads will really like "Different Devil" and "Come Closer", while others may not be so inspired. Casual fans who only listened to "Soap On A Rope" and "Down The Drain" on the first album may be pleasantly surprised with the majority of this record, especially the heavier songs like "Last Temptation" and "Big Foot". Skeptics who were critical of the first record should note that this record is certainly an improvement from the first, but whether or not they are swayed may not be very likely.