Review Summary: Theorem: III > I.Chickenfoot
: the supergroup that tried to be super, but really only ended up as a group of well-known musicians making sub-par music. Their collaboration seemed a match made in (almost) heaven, with the line-up of Sammy Hagar, Joe Satriani, Chad Smith, and Michael Anthony. Anyone familiar with these guys knew that their collaboration could be a force to be reckoned with in the rock community; sadly, their debut effort failed to cement them as such. Bland riffs, a virtual lack of bass and simple song structures resulted in a bland attempt at arena/mainstream rock that produced alarmingly few bright spots over the course of forty-plus minutes. It could be said that some expectations were not necessarily high for their second attempt at a first impression.
Right off the bat, it can be noted that things have changed a bit; the first track, "Last Temptation," can be described as something not common on the first album: a hard rocking song that maintains its catchiness and melody throughout. From the opening guitar (Santana-esque in nature) to the groovy main riff and the effects-laden shredding solo by Satriani, coupled with Sammy’s still surprisingly strong voice, "Last Temptation" was/is the perfect song for the guys to let everyone know they do know how to make strong rock songs as a group. In fact, musically, the album trumps their previous one in many ways. Satriani seemed like a caged bird just waiting to be let out on their first album, exercising a great deal of restraint in playing unmemorable riffs and very few solos that would give indication to a non-fan that he is, in fact, one of the great guitar players of all time. While he doesn’t completely come out of this shell on III
, his riffs are far more entertaining, groovier, and his solos seem to contain quite a bit more emotion and technicality to them, making the guitar one of the main attractions on the album. Moreover, there are quite a few tracks where his playing ends up being the most memorable aspect of the song, notable inclusions "Three and a half letters," the aforementioned "Last Temptation," and arena-rocker "Dubai Blues." Specifically on 3 ½ letters, Satriani takes over the song on three separate occasions, busting out instances of shredding and distorted, effects-driven solos that break the song up quite nicely. These are in addition to his well-known tapping ability, which makes quite an appearance in a few songs, enough to make anyone take a step back and think “wow, this guy’s good.”
And while Satriani has been noted as accepting and relishing in his role of playing the rhythm section as well, his main riffs and solos that dominate the closer Something Gone Wrong leave the listener longing for much more long after the final note plays. The entire feel of the song has a strong, old school country western vibe to it, almost like Bon Jovi's "Blaze of Glory." Furthermore, Satriani seems to be just oozing emotion throughout the entire song, whether it's his rhythm guitar taking a back seat to the lead acoustic guitar or his solos which are some of the more emotionally charged he has released with the band to date. These reasons alone are enough to make "Something Gone Wrong" one of the finer moments and a highlight of the entire album.
Couple Satriani's resurgence with the now audible bass and you’ve got just one more reason this album shouldn’t even be compared to their first. It’s quite nice to hear Michael Anthony audible on this record, as it demonstrates that he is, in fact, quite a talented bass player who knows how maintain a strong groove. While he doesn’t make his presence known on a few of the songs, the ones in which he does are among some of the best, notable inclusions are "Three and a half letters" and strong closer "Something Gone Wrong."
Furthermore, while it’s been noted that Sammy Hagar is not known to write introspective and deep lyrics, as seen on their first album, his sometimes laughable lyrics find themselves in songs that are just plain fun to listen to. In fact, hearing a sincere, serious song from Sammy Hagar just doesn’t seem to gel that often; Sammy comes off as an older guy who just loves to have a good time, down some tequila, and play some rock n roll music. That’s why, with the exception of closer “Something Gone Wrong,” the slower songs on the album seem very out of place on this otherwise fun rock n roll album. While these songs do demonstrate his still phenomenal voice, at the ripe age of 63, they just don’t flow well with the rest of the album. From his first declaration of “I’ve been a sinner/all of my days,” to his announcement “When I arrive at the Pearly Gates…Gonna ask the choir/if I can sing along,” we know that Sammy is still having a good time making music, and even if you don’t like that Sammy’s lyrics are often immature, can you fault a guy for wanting to have fun, sometimes at his own expense, when making an album of rock music? Nevertheless, one need look no further than "Three and a half letters" to encounter that true “what the ***” moment of the entire album; a song aimed directly at the poor economy, the chorus consists of Sammy screaming “I need a job” after describing, in a spoken word form, three separate individuals who have fallen on hard times. Despite his probable good intentions, it’s tough to picture Sammy Hagar, of all people, penning these lyrics, with even his last declaration of "f***" causing a quick smirk to appear, as it sounds like he’s at the end of his proverbial rope.
If it seems strange that all but the drums have been described, a few listens to the album will quickly put to rest those thoughts; Chad Smith is a fine drummer, as anyone that has listened to RHCP will attest, but he does nothing spectacular on this album. The performance is workmanlike as usual, but nothing sticks out in any of the songs, except that the drumming flows well with everything else on the album. And, really, that’s all one need to know, since Chad Smith is probably not the reason one would pick up a Chickenfoot album in the first place.
Overall, Chickenfoot III shows that the concept of the supergroup with these four guys can work quite well; Satriani’s riffs and solos, Sammy’s still strong voice, Anthony’s now audible bass, the consistent although unmemorable drum work of Chad Smith, and the fun vibe created by the majority of the songs make this album a good listen for anyone that likes rock music, Sammy Hagar, or someone looking for the debut album that Chickenfoot
should have been.
Something Gone Wrong