In 1973 guitarist, producer and songwriter Rick Derringer issued an album, his first solo release that in its own way helped define the 1970s era of guitar hero rock ‘n’ roll. Called All American Boy, the album was a powerhouse of great song writing with Derringer in the driver seat on many of the instruments as well as sharing production chores with legendary producer Bill Szymczyk (The James Gang, Joe Walsh, Eagles, etc.).
For teenagers of a certain age in 1973 All American Boy was an essential as it included his then big hit “Rock ‘n’ Roll Hoochie coo.” Unbeknownst to many of us, however, the album was also issued in short-lived Quadraphonic (aka “Quad”) form on multi- channel 8-Track cartridges and long playing vinyl records. Given the failure of the platform, most of us never got to hear those dedicated four channel mixes. I learned about the Quads years later but have always wanted to hear what they sounded like…
Fast forward to a month or so back in early 2021 when I learned about a company in England that has been diligently — and officially — getting the rights to re-issue the Quad mixes of rare albums from that period on SACDs!
I ordered some right away (click here to read my review of the Quad mix of Carlos Santana and Alice Coltrane’s Illuminations album).
As a fan of Rick Derringer’s music since my early teens, I had to order Dutton Vocalion’s Quad SACD of All American Boy and I am not disappointed. It is a wonderful listen.
Most of the core band is happily centered in the front channels which makes sense given it is pretty much a traditional four-piece rock band kind of scenario. The surround channels are used for overdubbed guitar solos, back-up vocals and even orchestral strings.
The original producers did a really nice job on this release, delivering a nice sense of room ambience even though it’s “just” a four speaker mix.
It’s worth noting that some Quad mixes from back in the day could be “gimmicky” – that is, having effect swirling around the room or not necessarily natural placement of instruments. Personally I genuinely like some of those mixes however I can understand why some people do not. The good news for those of you who fall into that latter category is this is one of those non-gimmicky Quad mixes that just works. Because of these production choices, the music doesn’t fall apart or get any less rocking because of the expanded separation.
One of the other nice things about this Quad SACD of All American Boy is that Dutton Vocalion did not try to “modernize” or enhance the sound when remastering. So the recording sounds pretty much like what the the album should sound like, regardless of whether listening in Quadraphonic or Stereo.
To that, the Stereo “layer” of the album sounds terrific as well, perhaps a bit brighter than my original LP.
Some of my favorite tracks on the Quad SACD of All American Boy include the desperate “Jump Jump Jump” with its epic guitar solo, haunting piano and jazzy-bluesy cinematic touches. I’ve always loved the near jazz fusion vibe of the instrumental track “Time Warp” and the Quad version does not disappoint.
Speaking of jazz fusion I must highlight one of the happy surprises on this disc you actually get two albums for the price of one, a very nice deal, indeed. Included on this album is Rick Derringer’s second release from 1975 called Spring Fever. Although it didn’t do quite as well as that the1973 debut, it is still a terrific album that rocks hard when it needs to yet has a remarkable diversity of pop songs, ballads even blues jams.
“But what’s the connection to jazz fusion?” You may be asking
Well I was pleasantly surprised (albeit, bittersweetly, given the recent turn of events) to read in the liner notes a detail that I completely overlooked all these years. At the end of side one (on the original vinyl LP version) is a song called ”Rock,” a leftover track from the All American Boy sessions that was completed by none other than Chick Corea (RIP)!
Chick lays down some quite awesome and rocking synthesizer lines in a duel with Derringer’s guitar work. On its own, this song is a pretty basic prototypical “arena rock” stomper with a crowd-pleasing hook and chorus revolving around the title phrase. Yet, with Chick Corea’s synthesizer textures, this song is elevated to another level that makes it really quite interesting and fun! I think it is also one of the rare instances where Corea actually plays straight ahead rock.
Let us know in the comments section below if you know of any other sessions he did in the rock realm…
Spring Fever also has a fun reggae-fied cover of The McCoys classic 1965 smash hit “Hang On Sloopy” which — in case you didn’t know — was Rick Derringer’s original band! Yes, he was one of the founding members of The McCoys which soon became Johnny Winter’s back up in the early 70s. This trajectory ultimately led to Derringer’s solo career as a producer and multi instrumentalist.
Kudos again to David Zimmerman for his liner notes which are concise yet offer quite a compelling back-story as to what went into the making of these records. And kudos to Dutton Vocalion for a job well done delivering another ‘70s rock classic in Quadraphonic sound that most of had never had a chance to hear before.
Proof, that Quad can rock!