Cherry Red Records has recently continued its series of “complete albums”-style box sets with a set from Derringer on its Hear No Evil Recordings imprint, and a continuation of the Hawkwind story from its Atomhenge imprint.
Guitarist/songwriter/producer Rick Derringer has one of the most enviable C.V.s in all of rock and roll – as lead singer of The McCoys’ classic oldie “Hang On, Sloopy,” as writer of the hit “Rock ‘n’ Roll Hoochie Koo,” as producer of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s beloved parodies “Eat It” and “Fat,” and as a sideman supporting Edgar and Johnny Winter, Steely Dan, Todd Rundgren, Alice Cooper, Kiss, and Cyndi Lauper. Hear No Evil (HNE) has collected all five Epic/Blue Sky albums from his hard rock band Derringer – originally released between 1976 and 1978 – in one new 5-CD box, The Complete Blue Sky Albums 1976-1978.
Rick Derringer formed his self-named band with drummer Vinny Appice, bassist Kenny Aaronson and guitarist Danny Johnson in 1976 after having recorded a pair of solo albums for the CBS-distributed, Winter Brothers-affiliated Blue Sky label. Derringer’s debut aimed for a heavier sound, which in retrospect may have hampered the band as the album didn’t contain any obvious hits. But it was happily heavy, too, on the unit’s tight musicianship as captured at the Hit Factory by engineer Harry Maslin (of David Bowie fame). Danny Johnson contributed “Sailor,” but most of the songs were Rick’s own compositions including four with lyrics by one-half of a famous Brill Building duo. Cynthia Weil made a rare foray into hard rock, collaborating with Rick on the single “Let Me In,” plus “You Can Have Me,” “Comes a Woman,” and “Goodbye Again” (the latter of which featured Edgar Winter on piano).
The promotional Live in Cleveland followed in 1976, with tracks from Derringer as well as covers of Rick’s solo songs and Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel.” The next year, the band regrouped for a sophomore studio effort, this time enlisting Jack Douglas (Aerosmith, John Lennon) to produce. Sweet Evil boasted two songs this time by Johnson (“One Eyed Jack” and “Drivin’ Sideways”) as well as a host of Rick’s new songs including another with Cynthia Weil (“I Didn’t Ask to Be Born”). It turned out to be the final album by this line-up, though, as Johnson and Appice soon exited the band. The original group was preserved one last time on the 1977 release of Derringer Live, recorded in Hartford, CT; Youngstown, OH; and Toronto, Canada. It featured five of the same songs as heard on Live in Cleveland, though their many shared experiences together onstage had made the band even tighter and more powerful.
For their Blue Sky swan song, Rick and Kenny were joined by new drummer Myron Grombacher and producer Mike Chapman. 1978’s If I Weren’t So Romantic, I’d Shoot You was a mixed bag by a band in search of a steady new direction. It welcomed Blue Sky labelmate Dan Hartman on guitar and piano, and Hartman also contributed the song “Power of Love” to the LP. Alice Cooper and Bernie Taupin penned the title song with Derringer, and producer Chapman offered “It Ain’t Funny,” written with his usual writing partner Nicky Chinn. Grombacher and Aaronson also got in on the songwriting action, and the band tapped the Warren Zevon songbook for a cover of his mordant “Lawyers, Guns and Money.” It wasn’t long, however, before Derringer – the band – called it a day.
HNE’s box set is packed in a compact clamshell case. It has a full-color 16-page booklet with notes by Malcolm Dome, with each album in a mini-replica sleeve. Andy Pearce and Matt Wortham have remastered, and three bonus tracks have been added, all mono versions: “Let Me In” to Derringer, “Don’t Stop Loving Me” to Sweet Evil, and “Lawyers, Guns and Money” to If I Weren’t So Romantic.
Atomhenge is following up its box set series dedicated to space-rock pioneers Hawkwind with the release of The GWR Records Years 1988-1991. This 3-CD set follows 2016’s releases of The Charisma Years 1976-1979 and The RCA Active Years 1981-1982, and as on previous sets, this box has only the original albums – not any bonus tracks appended to Atomhenge’s past reissues.
Hawkwind joined the U.K. independent label GWR (home to Motörhead) following its stints with RCA and, briefly, Flicknife Records. 1988’s The Xenon Codex marked the band’s fifteenth studio album. Its line-up, stable since 1985, consisted of Dave Brock (guitar/keyboards/vocals), Harvey Bainbridge (keyboard/vocals), Huw Lloyd-Langton (electric guitar), Alan Davey (bass/guitar/vocals) and Danny Thompson Jr. (drums). Produced with Guy Midmead, Xenon was supported by an extensive U.K. tour, and managed a No. 79 placement on the U.K. Albums Chart. After the tour’s conclusion, however, Thompson left the band. He was replaced by Richard Chadwick, but by the time of 1990’s Space Bandits, Huw Lloyd Langton was also out. Simon House on violin picked up the slack from Langton’s departure, and vocalist Bridget Wishart had joined the group, adding a new dimension to the Hawkwind sound in the process. Produced by the band and Paul Cobbold, Space Bandits became one of Hawkwind’s strongest and most consistent LPs, with House’s violin harkening back to the early, classic period. The LP was supported in both the United Kingdom and North America. Though House didn’t remain as a full member, he can be heard on the 1991 live album Palace Springs, which was actually recorded prior to Space Bandits on Hawkwind’s 1989 North American tour. It remains a rare live document of Wishart’s work with the band.
Hawkwind’s next release would come on the Essential Records label, with the group reduced to a three-piece. But that’s a story for another day, or another box set. This release from Atomhenge is housed in a clamshell case similar to those for the previous collections, and has a foldout poster with credits but no liner notes. Each disc is housed in a mini-replica sleeve of the original album artwork.
Both Derringer’s The Complete Blue Sky Albums 1976-1978 and Hawkwind’s The GWR Records Years 1988-1991 are available now from Cherry Red Records!
Box set contains:
- Derringer (1978)
- Live in Cleveland (1976)
- Sweet Evil (1977)
- Derringer Live (1977)
- If I Weren’t So Romantic, I’d Shoot You (1978)
Box set contains:
- The Xenon Codex (1988)
- Space Bandits (1990)
- Palace Springs (1991)