REVIEW: Sammy Hagar – Turn Up the Music! (EMI special markets)

SAMMY HAGAR – Turn Up the Music! (1989 EMI)

Turn Up The Music! is a compilation by EMI Special Markets. Translation: You know those cheap CDs that they sell at gas stations? That’s what this is. It has no booklet or liner notes, it runs at a brief 35 minutes and the tracks are not remastered. However I really enjoy this CD and here’s why.

Back in ’89, I got this album on cassette.  I remember going to a pharmacy store to get acne medicine with my parents and this tape was sitting in their cheapie bin.  Yep, I was so cool there at the pharmacy store with my folks buying zit cream. I remember seeing a girl there from my highschool on this particular trip.  I was so embarassed.  I always remember that detail when I listen to Turn Up The Music!

This was my first exposure to pre-“I Can’t Drive 55” Hagar. To this day I don’t know a lot about this stage of his career but mostly because those albums are hard to find on CD, not because I don’t dig the music. I lost this tape a while ago (probably in a Thunder Bay landfill), but it’s pretty easy to find the CD version online.

I know “Trans Am” and “Plain Jane” come from the Street Machine album (one that I do have). I love these two songs. I wish Van Halen covered “Trans Am” live, that would have been something. Eddie would have gone bananas on those cool guitar slides. “Plain Jane” is just a really cool Seger-esque song, based on piano and acoustic guitar on the verses. The bass line bops along and Sammy sings awesome.

“Iceman” is kind of an odd duck. It tries to be atmospheric and bluesy but it really only sizzles during the chorus. “Run For Your Life” was my second favourite song after “Plain Jane” and I am really glad to finally have this song back in my collection again. It’s really 70’s in this cheesy/cool Journey way. In fact Steve Perry sings on it.

“I’ve Done Everything For You” is also from the Street Machine remastered CD. This song, I am 110% certain, was not on my cassette original. It could be this is an extra track. Anyway, this pop rocker was a major hit for Rick Springfield later on, apparently.

Side two of the original cassette began with “Rock N’ Roll Weekend”. This is a cool fast rocker, another one that Van Halen would have sounded awesome covering. The lyrics are your typical “Been working hard all week, now the weekend’s here and it’s time to party lyrics.” And that’s fine, there’s always time to party.  If I feel like listening to something more serious I already have all the Dream Theater albums….

“Turn Up The Music” is a fun rocker with a nice tuneful riff. There’s some nice Seger-ish piano backing this one too. “Urban Guerilla” is one I never liked much for its awkward riff. As far as hard rock goes, this is as heavy as Sammy’s ever been. This one is pure heavy metal, fast and brutalizing. If only it had decent production. Unfortunately the song is tinny and the hi-hat is maddeningly annoying.

“Love Or Money” is a fast over the top rocker, catchy and memorable as hell. The final track is also quite metallic in delivery, “Reckless”. Aside from the overused title, this one is loaded with charisma. It works great as a compilation closer. An organ riff keeps it grounded inside a solid pocket.

So there you go, 10 songs, a full 7 of them being worth owning to me. Maybe there is a better compilation of this material elsewhere, I really don’t know. I do own the really cool Essential Red Collection but most of these songs are not on there. There is a CD called The Best of Sammy Hagar that has 7 of these songs, but my second favourite song “Run For Your Life” isn’t on it.

Proceed with that in mind, and purchase accordingly. The original cover of the cassette, by the way, was the same picture as the Danger Zone album cover. Weird!

3/5 stars

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32 comments

  1. Haha, I remember these gas station cassettes and CDs. Back when my husband lived in Pembroke, the major Husky Big Stop gas station sold those! That was late 90s…We were there this past summer and the Big Stop STILL had those CDs in a bargain rack by the door. Hilarious!

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  2. Hagar’s pre-VH career is definitely a whole thing I need to investigate in future. I know a few songs from live albums/DVDs and I’ve got that Red collection you mentioned but I’ve never really gotten to grips with that stuff. I’m more up on his post-VH albums, some of those have been brilliant.

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    1. Marching To Mars was a good one. I didn’t like how he seemed to be dissing Eddie with the Little White Lie video, with the monkey playing guitar. I thought that was beneath him. Of course Sammy’s had much to say about Eddie since then.

      I want his new Sammy Hagar & Friends album.

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      1. On the other hand, I think Ed’s had it coming. I hate to say it but Eddie VH seems to be such a douche, right up there with Geoff Tate. I guess his addiction took the best of him, but Sammy had to take a lot of crap from the VH bros. And then they fired Mike Anthony for being friends with Sammy. Hallo, kindergarten….
        And yeah, you should get the Sammy & Friends album. Great stuff.

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        1. I’m trying to give Eddie the benefit of the doubt since he hasn’t said too much in response to Sammy. Unlike Geoff who keeps opening his big mouth. “No matter the outcome, I win.” Nice spin, douchebag.

          Anyway they got a 2 week extension from the judge, to keep hammering out a deal, which is in progress. That’s straight from Bravewords.com.

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        2. It’s sad how addiction can not just kill, but change a person. I hope Eddie has kicked his addictions, I hope he makes another Van Halen album, and I hope he one day invites Mikey back to the band. But I don’t think that last one will ever happen.

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        3. I wonder if Mikey even wants to come back after all the shit EVH has made him eat. I know I wouldn’t.

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        4. Jon maybe I’m naive, but maybe I give people benefit of the doubt when people say they’ve changed. If I were in Mikey’s shoes I might be drawn to giving Eddie another chance. Also if I were Mikey, I’d know that Sammy would always have my back (for what it’s worth in that band).

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        5. Yeah, I agree, Mike. I’m like that as well, most of the times anyway. But in this case, Mike hadn’t done anything apart from being friends with Sammy. And for that he was treated like a leper. They even removed his pic from the album covers. How childish and mean is that? I think I’d draw the line somewhere around there.

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        6. I remember that. They replaced him with Wolfy until the fans freaked out. That was…weird.

          Yeah I’m not defending Eddie’s behaviour at all, I was a shocked as you were.

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  3. I owned this one as well but for I think $3 at Sears back in 87 !! For me I always dug the Live 1980 album Hagar recorded in England. Had a blistering version of This Planets On Fire..it cooks man….I was lucky to catch him on his VOA tour in Duluth a yr before he joined Halen and it was a huge rock show he even brought the lighting truss that Halen eneded up using on the 5150 tour! ( u can see it on the Live Without A Net Tape)…so when I heard he had joined Halen I was pumped cuz I already knew he was a kick ass live guy!

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    1. OK, so adding the Live 1980 CD to my wishlist. If I remember there’s something weird about CD versions, like not all of them have all the songs. So I’ll have to do my research and buy carefully.

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  4. It funny that you mentioned “gas station”, as that is exactly where I picked it up during a school trip, along with the comp “Cruisin’ and Boozin'”, also from Capitol records. I believe they were 2 for $5, so I selected these two Hagar titles together.

    I have to disagree with the issue date of 1989, but I cannot prove it, as I have misplaced my cassette (and my CD was issued years later in 1993). The school trip took place between 1986 and 1988, so it was certainly issued prior to 1989. I still have my “Crusin’ & Boozin'” comp tape. It is Copyright 1984. I would guess that “Turn up the Music” was released a year or two after.

    I now own the complete Capitol discography from Sammy, and taken together, these two cassette comps did a pretty good job cherry-picking the best tracks from Sammy’s stint at Capitol. However, unlike “Turn Up The Music”, Cruisin’ & Boozin'” was never re-issued as a CD.

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    1. Yeah I have no idea whether this was “first” issued in 89 or not, just that’s the earliest date I could find. The CD says 93, which I know is not right.

      I don’t have a complete Sammy collection, just a couple. Three Lock Box is here somewhere…or was it Standing Hampton? Shoot I can’t remember.

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  5. I love oddities like this. I’m a total sucker for CDs for $5 at the gas station. Or SEARS (OMG Deke, I forgot they used to sell CDs!!). Anyone else remember when Canadian Tire used to rent movies?!?! Anyway, I can’t knock it. I bought a Barenaked Ladies Yellow Tape, brand new, from an upright spinning carousel thing in a Stedmans, back in the day. Still have it, too.

    r.e. the girl from school: as if SHE didn’t have zits. Man, we all did. You could have bonded over zit-cream. “Haha you use this too, yeah being a teenager sucks. Wanna hang out sometime and we can try for second base and I’ll write your name on my pencil case and binder?”

    r.e. the lost cassette: Betcha we can get you one next time in Taranna from the Wall Of Tapes.

    It’s cool you got to hear this stuff, and that it became a gateway.

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