Monday, November 22, 2010

Derin Dow – Retroactive

An open letter of apology to Derin Dow:

Sorry man, I did it.  I broke the cardinal rule of being a music lover—I judged the album by the cover. 

Now admittedly, and I think you’ll agree, the cover of your dynamite album, Retroactive, er . . . leaves a little to be desired.  Not that it’s bad mind you, but it’s hardly an eye catcher, and in some ways looks a tad amateurish.  And in truth, I’m no fan of guitar heroes.  Just mention the names Malmsteen, Satriani, or Vai to me and my eyes will glaze over as if I was in an amnesiastic fugue.  Add in this day and age of proTools and desktop publishing, the thought that any schmoe can strap on a guitar and force-feed me 40 minutes of string-wankery, unleashing that slop to the general public . . . well . . . it made me wary.

And sorry again, but the first song “Friday,” did nothing to dispel my fears.  Sure there was some nice playing on it, but let’s be honest, it’s not the best demonstration of your talents.  With it’s retro-80’s hair metal vibe and a chorus of “Baby, I’m banging it out on a Friday/I won’t be back until Monday,” . . . well, again, I felt my sphincter tightening, believing I was gonna be in for a long 40 minutes.

Now’s where the apology comes in.  The second track “Signature” was better by far.  That nice strum of the acoustic, that searing guitar-verse lead guitar, that motoring pace and rhythm, your voice sounding so much stronger and more nuanced -- my ears perked up.  Now I could see where you were coming from, the glory days of the melodic rock of the 80’s when guys like Aldo Nova provided guitar heroics. It should have hit me sooner, after all the album’s title is Retroactive, but I’m a tad dense at times.  “Door to Your Heart,” maintained my new found interest with its gorgeous piano intro and your tale of love lost, but it was the freak-out of an instrumental “Lower the Boom” that really made me jump to my feet and take notice.

Folks, take this apology to heart.  What we got here is one damn fine blitzkrieg of good old-fashioned guitar magic.  A pure nugget of melodic rock/AOR treasure with that extra spark of something special.   Listening to “Lower the Boom,” the only word my mouth could utter was, “wow!”  This song jams about as hard as any of the best rock instrumentals I’ve heard.  I was mesmerized by that dramatic chord progression leading into a blistering world of guitar heat.  Think Jeff Beck, think Pat Travers.  You could probably think Satriani. I personally was thinking of Tommy Bolin and anybody that can ever bring the thought of Bolin into my mind is alright with me.  My only complaint was that at 2’45” long it was way too short (and trust me, that’s not usually something I say about rock instrumentals).  I wanted an 8 minute freakout, a 10 minute extravaganza.  Hell, pour it over both sides of an LP and I bet I still wouldn’t be satisfied.

Now fully attentive, I waited eagerly to see what else you could pull off your fretboard, and the rest of the album didn’t disappoint.   “Right Side of the Road,” is another standout track, with just another electrifying assault of shredding guitar.  Derin, you chose some great people to accompany you on this album, primarily Chris Pinnick, whose chops provide the terrific leads in these last two songs.  But throughout, the playing is stellar.  “Right Side of the Road,” picks up right where “Lower the Boom,” left off, that gorgeous guitar tone slicing through the opening chords, and here I think you’ve found you best vocal work and melody.  More Travers here?  Some REO?  No matter which way you slice it, the song just kicks ferocious ass. 

From there, the rest of the album is just a sparkler.  “Runnin’ to Win,” is a strong mid-tempo melodic rock staple with a freaking cool mid-song breakdown and sing-a-long chorus.  “Inside,” recaptures some of that stellar guitar-vibe with it’s clean tone and building choral break.  And, wonders of wonders, after the intensity of “Lower the Boom,” I found myself actually looking forward to the closing instrumental “Feelin’ Free.”  Once again, you didn’t disappoint.  With it’s strong jazzy feel, and Pinnick’s tasteful leads, you ended the album on a high note.

I now sit before you humbled, my hat in hand, crow in mouth.  Thanks for dropping such a sparkling retro-80’s guitar bomb into my lap, and thanks for keeping me honest and open in the way I listen to music.  I promise, I won’t make that same mistake again.


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