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Derringer

Complete Blue Sky Albums 1976-1978

Review by G. W. Hill
By the time Rick Derringer formed the band that went by his last name he quite an impressive history. He had been part of The McCoys when they had their big hit "Hang On Sloopy." He was one of the musicians encompassed by the word "and" in the name "Johnny Winter And..." He wrote and recorded his trademark "Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo" during that stint. He' done a lot of other work to find himself at this point in his career. He would later go on just as "Rick Derringer," too.

The band Derringer included Rick Derringer on guitar and vocals along with Vinny Appice (before his stint with Black Sabbath) on drums, Kenny Aaronson (who had previously played in Stories among other credits) on bass and vocals and Danny Johnson (who would later play with Alice Cooper and Steppenwolf) (guitar and vocals).  You can infer that the guitar playing is extremely noteworthy. You would be right.

The albums here are their full output as a band. There is a transition from rough around the edges rocker to more polished guitar gods and then to more produced pop rock. The liner notes on this suggest that Derringer is the straight line between Montrose and Van Halen. I can see some of the truth in that analysis, but both Montrose and Van Halen opted to put others in the lead vocal role. I think perhaps it might have been a good idea for this band. Rick Derringer's vocals on the first album are really not very good. He gets a lot better over the course of the life of the band, but the band could have still been better served by a strong singer, I think. All that said, this is a cool set. It's a great way to get the full catalog in one affordable shot. It should be noted that the first live album was originally an "airplay only" disc. It specifically said, "not for review," so the very act of reviewing it was a bit strange.

Track by Track Review
Disc One: Derringer

                       
Let Me In

This is a pretty straight ahead rock and roll cut. It's not all that special, but it works pretty well.

You Can Have Me
Another straight-ahead rocker, this is a bit stronger than the opener was, if you ask me. I really like the guitar solo section on this. The bass work on that part is great, as well.
Loosen Up Your Grip

I love this song. It's more of a melodic rocker with some balladic elements at play. It has some real drama and magic built into it. The harder rocking stuff works better than the last couple tunes, too. The guitar solo driven instrumental section later is pure passion, too. This whole tune just works so well.

Envy
I love the funky bass on this. The cut works to some rocking territory over that. There is plenty of soul and more built into this number.
Comes a Woman
Cool, fusion like jamming opens this piece. The cut is a slower moving kind of number that has a great groove to it. There is plenty of blues in the mix, along with hints of psychedelia. This is one of the highlights of the set. I am definitely reminded of Robin Trower at times on this.
Sailor
Here we get a tune that's more of a straight ahead hard rocker. This is not bad, but not really a standout, either.
Beyond the Universe
Now, I love the driving riff that's at the heart of this. It manages to elevate the cut for sure. There are some killer changes on this. The guitar really makes it shine. The jam later is purely on fire, too.
Goodbye Again
More of a mainstream rock tune, this one doesn't do that much for me. It's alright, but just not all that special.
Bonus Track
                  

Let Me in (Mono Version)

This is what it says, a mono version of the album's opener. Personally, I think it sounds better like this.

Disc Two - Live in Cleveland (1976)
          

Let Me In

Here we get a live recording of the song that opened (and ended) the first CD of the set. I think I like this take better than the studio one. There is a bit of a punk angst built into this performance that wasn't captured on the album.

Teenage Love Affair
Hard rocking, this has a punky edge to it for sure. It's good rock and roll blended with that raw element.
Sailor
This still doesn't really stand out. There's nothing wrong with it. It just doesn't really grab me. That was true of the studio version, and it's true of this one. It reminds me a bit of Grand Funk Railroad.
Beyond the Universe
I prefer the studio version of this tune. This still has a lot of energy and fire. It just loses some of the finesse on this performance. There is some pretty awesome guitar soloing built into this, though.
Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo
This song would become Derringer's trademark for a lot of people. I don't like this as well as some other versions I've heard, but the cut still works. Mainly I miss the backing vocals on this. The guitar solo section here gets a bit tedious, too. They turn in a version of The Kinks' "You Really Got Me" in the midst of this. I wonder if this cover influenced Eddie Van Halen and company to cover the tune. The guitar solo that takes it from there back into the original tune is on fire.
Roll with Me
Now, this rocker is a powerhouse that's very cool. It's a highlight of the CD.
Rebel Rebel
Here they turn their attention to a David Bowie tune. I like this version quite a bit. to me it sounds just a bit like Cheap Trick at times. This is great rocking way to end the disc.
Disc Three: Sweet Evil

                       
Don't Stop Loving Me

Starting a bit stripped down, this works out to more of a rocker. I'm not crazy about this tune, though.

Sittin' By the Pool
The riff battle at the start of this is part Led Zeppelin, part Rush and part prog rock. The cut works out from there into a cut that's very Zeppelin-like. This cut is much stronger than the opener of the CD was. There is some particularly impressive guitar soloing on this stomper, too. I would say that this is one of the most effective cuts of the entire set.
Keep on Makin' Love
More of a straight ahead rocker, this is another of the stronger pieces of music here. It's not Earth shattering, but it's crunchy and energized, yet still somewhat catchy. It's very definitely hard edged 70s rock. As you might expect, the guitar soloing is exceptional.
One Eyed Jack
The introduction (which returns later in the track, too) is riff driven and just a little proggy in terms of the slightly off-kilter progression. Beyond that, it's more of a catchy hard rocker that leans toward heavy metal.
Let's Make It
This is a fiery, fast and furious stomper. It's another that's almost heavy metal.
Sweet Evil
The title comes in with a mellower movement that's part rock ballad and part fusion-like prog. The cut grows gradually out into more of a pure rocking movement. This isn't that far removed from a lot of later metal power ballads in terms of song structure. As it sets up the alternating, growing pattern the balance between mellower and more rocking stuff is great. The fast paced powerhouse jam later in the track is full on 70s metal.
Drivin' Sideways
I like the balance between rocking and mellower stuff on this. The whole arrangement here is very classy. This is slightly left of center, but also catchy. There are some dramatic textures on the cut. The guitar soloing is particularly tasty.
I Didn't Ask to Be Born
I love the fast paced groove on this. It's another highlight of this CD, and indeed the whole set. This isn't a huge change with it's frantic, funky, guitar driven rock. It's just more effective than a lot of the rest. It's a killer tune.
Bonus Track:

                
Don't Stop Loving Me (Mono Version)

Here we get another mono version of the album's opener as a bonus track. The trouble is, I'd consider that song to be the weakest of the set. This version is not different enough to really stand out.

Disc Four: Derringer Live
                   

Let Me In

This is the strongest version of this tune on the set. It has a great driving rock sound to it. Look up "70s rock," and this has to be in that list.

Teenage Love Affair
Another straight ahead hard rocker, this works so well here. Again, it's not anything Earth-shattering. It's just strong 70s hard rock.
Sailor
Again, this live version surpasses the studio one. This is a hard rocking, fast paced jam that works well here. The noise driven closing section is a bit over-kill for me.
Beyond the Universe
Screaming into being, this has an almost metal energy in this live rendition. Again, this is the best version of the cut of any of the albums. The guitar jam later in the track is quite impressive, but gets a bit tedious.
Sittin' By the Pool
Here is another solid rocker. I'd say this is about level with the studio version. It works really well in the context of this concert, though.
Uncomplicated
Another straight ahead rock and roller, there is no new ground broken here, but this is just a fiery hot rocker.
Still Alive and Well
I really like this rocker a lot. It's not a big change, but just a fast paced riff driven slab of smoking hot hard rock.
Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo
Here they do another live version of this classic. This is a smoking hot tune. I like this rendition better than the one on the other album. While it doesn't have the backing vocal part, Derringer replaces it with guitar fills. That works well. It goes into "You Really Got Me" like the other live rendition did.
Disc Five: If I Weren't So Romantic, I'd Shoot You
                   

It Ain't Funny

I love the chorus line, "It ain't funny, but it sure is fun." If anything this song might be a little over-polished. Still, this is a killer pop rock number. It's energized and (as it should be) a lot of fun.

Midnight Road
More of a mainstream rocker, the production on this is just about perfect. The cut has just the right balance of produced and raw. It has a nice balance between rock and pop, too. This is one of the best songs of the set, really.
If I Weren't So Romantic, I'd Shoot You
A song co-written with Bernie Taupin and Alice Cooper, this is more of a mellow rock tune. It's cool, but not as strong as the two opening pieces.
EZ Action
Here's another that's a bit on the over-produced side. It's a decent tune, but nothing all that special. The guitar solo, though, really rocks.
Lawyers, Guns and Money
Here Derringer covers Warren Zevon. It's a good tune, but not a standout.
Power of Love
Another that's more of a pop rocker, this is one of the stronger songs on this CD. It doesn't sacrifice the rock for the hooks. It also doesn't suffer from overproduction.
Sleepless
I love the cool riff driving this thing. The cut works really well. It's a little on the goofy side, but the old school rock and roll element really manages to elevate it. That riff even makes me think of something The B52s would do. It's close to "Planet Claire."
Tonight
Now, this is great. It's one of my favorites on the set. The guitar is meaty. The hooks are strong. The whole cut just works really well.
Rocka Rolla

I'm a huge Judas Priest fan, so I can't see that title without thinking of their debut album. This is nothing like Priest, though. It's a bouncy kind of 50s rock and roller. It's a bit over-produced, but is reasonably fun.

Attitude
Now, this comes in fast paced and rocking. It does suffer a bit from that over-production thing, but it has a definite raw edge. Produced a bit differently, this could pass as punk rock. I love the guitar soloing on this thing.
Monomania
There are some weird little processed vocal bits here that are kind of funny. The cut is a hard rocker that makes me think of Max Webster a bit. This is energized and a lot of fun.
Bonus Track
       
Lawyers, Guns and Money (Mono Version)
Predictably the bonus track is a mono mix of one of the songs on the disc. Rather than the opener, though, it's the Warren Zevon cover. This isn't a big change, and seems a bit like a throwaway to me. Still, it's a bonus track.
 
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