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.
Derin Dow Band: Reviews
Derin Dow is Los Angeles-based musician, songwriter and guitar player; (on his album he also played bass ), active from late 80's period.
During the 90's period, he began contributing to the musical scores of several independent films, and he has also been featured in "RECORDING" magazine on two occasions. Since 2005, Derin and his band have opened shows for artists such as: Asia, Shaw-Blades, Ambrosia...
Derin is a strong songwriter and fine vocalist. His interesting sphere is deeply in melodic rock / AOR / classic rock fields, and most of his songs possess a late 70's and early 80's approach. In some aspects his musical legacy reminds one of REO Speedwagon or Foreigner style, but he is convincable enough in his performing attitudes. All of the 13 songs on the "Retroactive" album possess radio friendly usings, and also are pretty attractive for concert playings. Under the mentioned genre's tendencies, " Retroactive" is more than an interesting and acceptable album.
Out of Los Angeles , California comes guitarist/vocalist DERIN DOW who sent me his CD ‘Retroactive'. Musically he is definitely a fan of the 80s, with his combination of pure AOR/Melodic Rock, clean melodic vocal-work and catchy choruses a la TRIUMPH/ and actually quite superb shredding guitar-work (MALMSTEEN/VAN HALEN). Happily, it also sounds pretty good, both production-wise and song-wise, because Derin’s voice is really good enough for this type of music, moving somewhere between the voice of the TRIUMPH drummer (Gil Moore) and Carl Dixon of CONEY HATCH fame, although some of the later songs on the CD are bringing him straight into STYXish Tommy Shaw signature.
Musically Derin’s songs go for a sound that makes me feel it’s 1983 all over again. CONEY HATCH, RICK MATHEWS, a little MITCH MALLOY and JIMMY DAVIS; but most of the time there’s a lot of 70s American Midwestern Rock/Pomprock/Westcoast going on here (STYX, HEAD EAST, ROADMASTER, and AMBROSIA). and TRIUMPH are really the best comparisons one can make here when the music is pure (especially during the beginning of the CD). But some tracks also go for a more pure mid-80s AOR approach that remind me of
The song “Signature” is an excellent piece of pure early 80s AOR/Melodic Rock that could well be either on a SANTERS, CONEY HATCH or early 80s TRIUMPH record, easily reaching the same high level. A little STYXish Tommy Shaw can be heard in the semi-Pomprockballad “Door To Your Heart” that rocks out classic 1970s style all the way towards the end with some amazing guitarwork. Other highlights are “Right Side Of The Road” that mixes a classic 1970s groovy guitar lick a la JEFF BECK meets PAT TRAVERS with some superb vocal melodies that even reveal NELSON similarities, while once again the guitarwork is amazing. And also the song “Runnin To Win” should be mentioned, because this song's sound has a lot of similarities to 1970s ROADMASTER. More of the TOMMY SHAW – STYX period can be heard in the tune “Highways” followed by the DAMN YANKEESish meets STYXish ballad “I Do Love You." Actually each of the 13 tracks included here contain influences of so many of our well beloved AOR/Melodic Rock acts (with obviously 1970s STYXish TOMMY SHAW era being the best comparison in the end, although the harder rocking tracks can also be compared to 1970s TRIUMPH). But the funny thing is that DERIN DOW is doing it quite excellent and therefore I can really highly recommended his CD ‘Retroactive,' which just proves that there are still very talented musicians out there with a Classic American AOR/Melodic Rock sound. Do not miss this release…
Derin Dow is a name that fans of classic melodic rock and AOR should be writing down now. Derin is from Los Angeles and plays regularly on the circuit. He has performed with the likes of Asia and Shaw/Blades, and is inspired by 70's and 80's rock music. Derin is originally from Indiana and had a band back in the day called Aura, which some die-hard's may remember. After Aura broke up in the late 80's Derin struggled to make a name for himself and wrapped himself up in the studio, writing and recording, and also teaching. There's a saying that is all too familiar with today's Indie melodic rock releases, which is simple: 'Had this been released back in the day, the band/arist would have been hugely popular'. I think this applies to 'Retroactive'.. it is that strong and throws in many influences. The album kicks off with 'Friday', which is pure melodic rock, right from the Boston and REO Speedwagon school. Derin's vocals are very good and the instrumentation also is very catchy. This whole song works well and has that vintage 80's sound. A fun, feel-good start to the album. 'Signature' has a strong Tommy Shaw feel and is excellent, whilst 'Door To Your Heart' is a deep, melodic, piano-led ballad with stirring guitars and vocals. This song is just superb and could have easily been on Tommy Shaw's 'Ambition' album; a gorgeous song. 'Lower The Boom' is an instrumental guitar number in the Kansas vein whilst 'Right Side Of The Road' is a very strong catchy track. This track has an almost R'NB edge to it. I just love the feeling you get, and this is where the 70's rock connections come into play. An excellent song. 'Runnin' To Win' was one of my early favourite tracks, and I still adore it. It's a fantastic song, Boston-inspired rock.. makes me think of many of their songs. This should be all over the radio; absolutely first class all the way. 'River Of Time' is a lovely, laid-back ballad. The songwriting is excellent and the style reminds me of 'Good Times' by David Lee Roth from 'Skyscraper.' The music has the same summery feel in parts, (not the vocals I might add), but then it takes on another direction and comes over like a mix of vintage Kansas and Foreigner.. so a cool mix of styles here. 'Inside' is another vintage 70's influenced song. There is a cool vibe here. The Wurlitzer keyboards give it that diverse feel, and the lyrics are also very strong.. excellent song. 'Slave Train' showcases Derin's Tommy Shaw vocal influences once again. The song is melodic and has a looser feel that the rest of the material. Again, a lovely song. 'Highways' again has that vintage feel and is a gorgeous dreamy song; this has a Blue Oyster Cult/Kansas feel. 'Passage' will get the feet tapping once again. This is another song that by rights should be all over radio. This is the type of song you can cruise to with the top roof down. Superb. The ballad 'I Do Love You' comes right out of the Styx book; cool guitar vibe and strong Tommy Shaw-style vocals. 'Feelin' Free' ends the album as a glorious west coast style instrumental. 'Retroactive' is quite a glorious album. Quite why the melodic rock labels have not picked this album up is beyond me. This is how AOR and melodic rock should be done. 'Retroactive' is excellent from start to finish. It has a stripped-down, vintage, summery feel and everything sounds just right; not like the over produced AOR fodder we get today. Everything with this album works well and is just what the doctor ordered. Nice work Derin. Take a bow sir.
Thanks to xhuxk (Chuck Eddy), Derin Dow sent me his "Retroactive" and it certainly is more of the Eighties-influenced big hook classic heavy AOR that lit up this thread upstream. "Slave Train," "Highways," "Passage," and "I Do Love You" are my favorites so far and they come one after another near the end. The man's axe is all over the tunes and it has a very heavy, very modern (split diff between Marshall JCM800, revved up Marshall and Mesa-Boogie Recto) tone which sets it apart from direct Eighties, which is mostly just the former in the parentheses. There is some hard Journey with Steve Perry in it -- mostly in the voice and the lyrical, skyscraping hookage. "Highways" is special in this regard because it wanders across many trails for seven plus minutes and never gets less than uplifting. Hard to do in songs that are essentially mid-tempo, but Dow's good at bringing the drama. It also has some in common with old LA AOR glam pomp act, Fortune, a record I dropped in here last week for a one-shot when it made it to CD digital land for the first time. Above all, the guitar mix and tone sets this out from the style as it's, it's....it's CRUNCH. Anyway, fukc me, "Friday" by Derin Dow is playing -- the first cut on the CD -- and the reason it sounds so Eighties and CRUNCHING is because the rhythm guitar is Eddie Van Halen-tone! And Lou Gramm is singing, so xhuxk's right on about him sounding like Foreigner dude for one tune. Third tune again gets a lot from Foreigner. Lotta Y&T, another Eighties Cali-band, in Derin Dow's first instro, "Lower the Boom." He's showin' off his David Meniketti licks. Don't know if xhuxk has heard a lot of Y&T prior to their Geffen records, the latter for which they started shooting videos while walking on the Santa Monica beach in ripped fishnets and spandex. The Y&T records I mean were the ones now big in Japan with songs like "Open Fire" and going home with an ugly girl after being overserved. February 24th, 2006.
Derin Dow's *Retroactive* is totally classic-sounding, kick-ass, melodic hard rock, AOR pop-prog (thanks to synth/Hammond/clavinet/rhodes parts). Think the Nuge side of early Foreigner, maybe? Knocking heads and riding stars. Dude sings like a slightly higher-pitched Lou Gramm, though whatever more accurate description comes to George's mind when he hears it will make me slap my head. Derringer? I dunno. Extremely catchy stuff, though, and I'm only through the first eight tracks. (Well, the third song "Door to Your Heart" starts a little slower than some others, but then it soars, and a swinging ripping guitar instrumental called "Lower the Boom" comes next.) My favorite chorus so far is in "Right Side of the Road": "And now all that is left to me is that old 12-string and an '84 Caravan. And it's all I can do to keep it on the right side of the road." In the picture on the inner sleeve, Derin's got a funky goatee and long lovely locks and his guitar is frying to death with smoke coming out from all the wicked chords he's been banging, and his band knows how to keep the rhythm swinging while he bangs. Came out in 2005, I kid you not. Oops, turns out a guy called Chris Pinnick plays lead guitar in "Lower the Boom" and "Right Side of the Road," but Derin more than holds his own when Chris ain't there. Also, "Slave Train" is a protest about how all he sees when he looks around America is luxury next to misery in the tradition of say "Golden Country" by REO, at least when it speeds up, and its slow parts are um probably in the tradition of some Hendrix song or something. The obvious alternate-universe car radio rock hit on Derin Dow's album is the opener, "Friday," a 5 pm end-of-week whistle blower blowout firmly in the "Working for the Weekend"/"Weekend Warrior" tradition. I still can't quite put my finger on who Derin sounds like -- Foreigner and Loverboy and Nugent aren't quite right. If anybody listens to the songs on his cdbaby.com page and figures it out, please let me know. And the closing instrumental "Feelin' Free" (also with Pinnick on lead) is total smooth jazz (of the funky variety)!
Derin Dow is a singer, songwriter and producer who also plays guitar and bass. Derin's musical influences include Boston, The Eagles and Styx. Dow's sound is classic yet contemporary. His thirteen-track CD spans the gamut from ballads to high octane rockers. Derin pens intelligent lyrics woven into musical tapestries that unfold in colorful guitar solos. Dow aims for a live sound on his record using few overdubs. Derin is a pro who surrounds himself with other veteran players, thus "Retroactive" is solid straight through. The CD opens strong with the energetic "Friday." It has red-hot guitar leads and thoughts that any overworked person can relate to. Yet the hook and more sizzling guitar licks set Derin and the listener free. Derin describes "Highways" as an opus that came from two different songs (a ballad and an instrumental). The track is expansive as the story of loss flows into innovative instrumentation and the chorus filled with rich, spiritual imagery. Derin Dow is a multi-talented artist and "Retroactive" is timeless!