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Rick Derringer - “Joy Ride: Solo Albums 1973-1980 (2017) review


Rick Derringer - Joy Ride: Solo Albums 1973-1980 (HNE Recordings, 2017)

First finding success in 1965, at age 17, as a member of The McCoys, with their smash hit “Hang On Sloopy,” (which was a #1 hit on the Billboard charts) Rick Derringer followed this by stints in Johnny Winter And, recording two albums with the group, and Edgar Winter’s White Trash, appearing on the live album “Roadwork” which included a guest appearance by Johnny Winter. By 1973 Derringer was well established as part of the rock music scene, and released a total of eight albums between 1973 and 1980, four with the band which bore his surname, and four solo efforts.  “Joy Ride,” released on Cherry Red Records’ HNE imprint, compiles the four solo albums, supplemented by six single sides, including five presented in their mono versions.

Derringer, born Rick Zehringer, released his first solo LP “All American Boy” on Epic Records in 1973. The album is composed of twelve tracks, including Derringer’s signature song “Rock And Roll Hoochie Koo” which had already seen three previous releases, appearing on Johnny Winter And’s self-titled album, the same band’s “Live” LP and on “Roadwork” with Johnny Winter making a guest appearance on the tune. Derringer’s solo version, however, was a Top 40 hit, reaching #23 on the Billboard charts and garnering much radio airplay. “All American Boy” is a classic album, produced by Derringer and Bill Szymczyk, and featuring guest appearances by Joe Walsh, Edgar Winter, Bobby Caldwell (Captain Beyond), Suzi Quatro and David Bromberg. The LP is especially noteworthy due to the inclusion of two instrumentals, the title track of this box set as well as the space rock feeling “Time Warp” which bears no relationship to the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” tune of the same title. Among the album’s other highlights are the hard rocking “Slide On Over Slinky” with its stabbing, echoed guitar and the snappy little rocker “Teenage Love Affair.” “Joy Ride” adds three bonus tracks to the album, both the stereo and mono single mixes of “Rock And Roll Hoochie Koo” and the mono single mix of “Teenage Love Affair,” all very welcome additions.

Derringer’s second, self produced, solo LP “Spring Fever” was released in 1975 on Epic’s familiar Blue Sky imprint, known for releases by Johnny Winter, and Winter produced come back albums by Muddy Waters. “Spring Fever” spotlights Derringer’s guitar work and includes some tunes already quite familiar to Derringer fans. “Still Alive And Well” was written by Derringer for Johnny Winter and was the title track to Winter’s 1973 album. “Hang On Sloopy” is included in a reggae, dance hall style, quite an interesting contrast to the version recorded by The McCoys. Especially interesting is the guitar driven version of Rufus Thomas’ rhythm and blues classic “Walkin’ The Dog” sounding much darker and more menacing than the original. “Spring Fever” also features the melodic “Don’t Ever Say Goodbye” with its gentle, rolling guitar intro and gorgeous vocals. Guests appearing on the LP include Edgar and Johnny Winter, as well as Dan Hartman, a member of Edgar Winter’s band who would go onto solo stardom before his untimely, premature demise. The album is supplemented by two bonus tracks, the mono single mixes of “Hang On Sloopy” and “Don’t Ever Say Goodbye.”

It was three years before Derringer released his next solo effort, 1978’s “Guitars And Women.” The album featured co-production by Todd Rundgren and bears a distinct resemblance to recordings by Rundgren’s band Utopia, especially since it features members of Utopia making guest appearances. The album is an interesting combination of Derringer’s pop inclinations and Rundgren’s progressive influences. This combination works especially well on the ballad “Something Warm” which would have fit nicely on Rundgren’s hit album “Something/Anything” and the LP’s title track an up-tempo rocker with its infectious riff featuring Derringer’s chugging guitar and nicely executed tempo changes. The disc closes with the album version of “Don’t Ever Say Goodbye,” a hard rocking number with Derringer’s guitar driving the rhythm and his lead line rising above the tune’s melody. Guests on the album include Pat Benatar’s guitarist husband, Neil Geraldo and drummer Myron Grombacher, Dust and Derringer bassist Kenny Aaronson, and Utopia synthesizer player Roger Powell and bassist Kasim Sultan. All in all “Guitars And Women” is a most pleasant documentation of Derringer’s power pop capabilities.

“Joy Ride” closes with the 1980 release “Face To Face.” While Rundgren was not involved in the recording of this album, his influences can be heard throughout. Standout tracks include the album opener “Runaway” with its driving guitar and gorgeous vocals, the hard rocking “You’ll Get Yours” featuring Derringer’s heavy guitar and call and response vocals and the stomping, boogie woogie textured “I Want A Lover.” “Let The Music Play” features a radio friendly riff while alluding to the guitar solos Derringer would add to Steely Dan tunes in the years to follow. Evidence of Derringer’s versatility comes in the form of a live take of “Jump, Jump, Jump” originally appearing on “All American Boy” presented here in mellow fashion with Derringer delivering a tastefully restrained solo standing in stark contrast to his live cover of Neil Young’s “My My Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue)” with Derringer putting the pedal to the metal, his guitar at times reminiscent of heavy metal, the tune playing out with waves of feedback, an incredible album closer. The mono single mix of “Let The Music Play” is added as a bonus track to close out the box set.

“Joy Ride” displays the many sides of Rick Derringer’s music and his versatility on guitar which would go on to be documented on works by Steely Dan, Bonnie Tyler, Meat Loaf and even Barbara Streisand, as well as his production abilities evidenced by six albums released by Weird Al Yankovic during his heyday. While Derringer’s solo albums may not have burned up the charts they have aged well and document a guitarist/songwriter/producer during a most important period of his career. “Joy Ride” features a 16-page full color booklet with full track listings and musician credits, an essay by Malcolm Dome, complete album artwork and many other photos. All in all a most pleasing package, this set has a place in the collection of 1970s rock fans and is most highly recommended.

- Kevin Rathert
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