Tuesday, May 31, 2011

NIGHT RANGER: "Living In California"

Rating: 9/10

Label: Record

Review by Alan Holloway

I remember getting interested in Night Ranger in the mid eighties, when I heard their theme tune for the film “The Secret Of My Success”. I absolutely loved it, and soon started enjoying their energetic, hugely melodic back catalogue. The last album I heard, “Seven”, had some great moments on it, but it seemed their peak was definitely behind them. A few years ago we got “Hole In The Sun” which did a good job of splitting fans down the middle, and I wondered whether it was time for the to fade away and carry on with the “Greatest Hits” circuit.

Always at their best when containing the power core of Jack Blades (Vocals, bass), Kelly Keagy (Drums) and Brad Gillis (guitar), Night Ranger have done something very odd with “Somewhere In California”. What should be a decent but uninspiring platter has turned out to be one of the best albums the band has released, as they manage to once again put lightning in a bottle and grab hold of what is essentially the classic Night Ranger sound.

The most worrying track is album opener “Growing Up In California”, mainly because it’s so perfect. With shades of “You Can Still Rock In America” and a hook so catchy it should be quarantined, it’s Night Ranger through and through, and my first was that the rest of the album has no chance following this. “Lay It On Me” has a go, and despite starting off quite worryingly with a chunky core riff, it emerges as a good track that even so should not really be here, especially as track two. From here on, though, it’s fun in the sun all the way, and “Bye Bye Baby (Not Tonight)” kicks down the walls with yet another horrendously catchy chorus that equals the opener with ease. Phew… thank fuck for that.

One of the best things, for me, about Night Ranger is Brad Gillis’ guitar solos. He manages to get a unique yet pleasing tone and energy to them so that every time he lets one fly it immediately lifts up any song, and this is abundant on this album. With Jack Blades’ vocals soaring like they did so long ago, it’s wonderful to hear the guitar parts complimenting and flowing with the vocal harmonies. I dare anyone to listen to the opening of “Follow Your Heart” and not get the urge to do a little Bill & Ted-esque air guitar. Excellent indeed.

“Somewhere In California” is the album Night Ranger fans have been begging for since the late eighties, full of energetic, happy happy joy joy melodic rock, and ballads that fit in just right. This is a band who have discovered the fountain of youth and want to share it with everybody. They can get away with a song called “Rock n Roll Tonite” without any shame and can pen a song called “Say It With Love” that isn’t a ballad. More catchy than Journey’s own excellent revival, and just as much fun as last year’s Danger Danger return, this is the essence of melodic rock, bottles so that future generations can understand why we loved it and why some of us thought mullets were a good idea…


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