Reviews Zone

Derringer: The Complete Blue Sky Albums 1976-1978: 5CD Box Set (HNE Recordings Ltd) 27th January

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Are you ready to rock? You need to be if you are gonna spin this pure gem of a five-disc box set. Those who know Rick Derringer’s work as a guitarist will need zero persuading to go grab this one.

The band Derringer released three studio albums and one live record in a three-year period in the late 1970s, and you get all four here, plus a rare radio promo live album and some mono-version singles.

Rick Derringer first found fame aged just 17 in 1965, when his band The McCoys had a number one hit in America with ‘Hang On Sloopy’, touring most of 1966 as support to The Rolling Stones and famously knocking The Beatles’ ‘Yesterday’ off the top spot. Subsequently making significant appearances with Edgar Winter and Johnny Winter, as well as Steely Dan and Alice Cooper. Rick had solo hits with “Teenage Love Affair,”, and 1973’s ‘Rock And Roll, Hoochie Koo’, before deciding to put together his own band in 1976.

Naming the band Derringer, the singer and guitarist was joined by bassist Kenny Aaronson, future Black Sabbath and Dio drummer, Vinny Appice (brother of Cactus, Iron Butterfly, Beck Bogart & Appice and Rod Stewart drummer Carmine Appice), with the quartet completed by guitarist Danny Johnson. Going for a rockier, harder, less poppy sound than Rick’s previous musical excursions, Derringer signed to Blue Sky Records, a subsidiary of Columbia, in 1976. Simply titled “Derringer”, among the original tracks the debut included lyrical collaborations with famed song writer Cynthia Weil.

Although the band had yet to perform live together, they nevertheless set out on the road, forging a formidable live reputation, playing shows with the cream of 70s rock, giving Journey, Tom Petty, Boston, Foghat and Peter Frampton a run for their money.

Although only achieving cult status, the 1976 debut was followed up by “Sweet Evil” in 1977. Although the “Derringer” debut was produced by Rick himself, Jack Douglas, famed for his work with Aerosmith, was enlisted for the 1977 follow up for a more commercial edge.

As it was felt that the band didn’t quite capture their onstage fire in the studio, the release of a live album in 1977, simply titled “Derringer Live”, made perfect sense. It was also to be the final recording from the original quartet, as the band slimmed down to a three piece in 1978.

With future Pat Benatar drummer Myron Grombacher coming in to join Aaronson and Derringer for the more contemporary sound on 1978’s “If I Weren’t So Romantic, I’d Shoot You”, Derringer’s final album was produced by Mike Chapman, famed for his work with Blondie, Sweet and Suzi Quatro, among many others.

This five CD set also features the rare, promo only “Live In Cleveland” album, designed to promote the band to radio in 1976, which includes an onstage version of ‘Rock And Roll, Hoochie Koo’ as well as a cover of David Bowie’s ‘Rebel Rebel’. This superb collection is completed with rare mono single versions for ‘Let Me In’, ‘Don’t Stop Loving Me’ and the Warren Zevon song ‘Lawyers, Guns And Money’, plus liner notes from specialist rock writer Malcolm Dome, based on new interviews with Derringer members Kenny Aaronson and Vinny Appice.

There’s mega power and energy emitting from the speakers when this band play, and this quality quintet of recordings capture their essence perfectly.  Rick is now 69, still active as a musician and producer, was part of Ringo Starr’s 11th All-Starr Band, has won several Grammy awards, and a quirky factoid about him; Rick penned the entrance songs for Hulk Hogan and Demolition as part of the WWF wrestling circus. In 2007, he legally changed his name from (Ricky Dean) Zehringer to Derringer. Rock on Rick.


By Simon Redley




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