Night Ranger

Dawn Patrol Night Ranger - Dawn Patrol (MCA) 1982

1. Don't Tell Me You Love Me (4:19)
2. Sing Me Away (4:09)
3. At Night She Sleeps (4:08)
4. Call My Name (3:42)
5. Eddie's Comin' Out Tonight (4:26)
6. Can't Find Me a Thrill (3:19)
7. Young Girl in Love (3:32)
8. Play Rough (4:14)
9. Penny (3:47)
10. Night Ranger (4:22)

The first two tracks from this CD will forever remind me of the summer of 1982. It was walking the boardwalk at Sea Side Heights, hanging out with friends at Six Flags Great Adventure, eating some good pizza, parties, etc. You couldn't be a kid in 1982 and not have heard "Don't Tell Me You Love Me" and "Sing Me Away". Both songs blasted from every FM radio and jukebox that summer. I even remember hearing it screaming from the speakers of the Bob Sled ride at Six Flags Great Adventure. "Dawn Patrol" is just good 'ol, good times, rock and roll. Yes, it's cheesy. Yes, it's slickly produced and the keyboards take the band in similar territories as Styx, Foreigner and Loverboy. However, who doesn't like a bit of cheese once in a while? "Don't tell me you love me, don't tell me you love, don't tell me, I don't waaaaannnaa know.."

Midnight Madness Night Ranger - Midnight Madness (MCA) 1983

1. (You Can Still) Rock in America (4:14)
2. Rumours in the Air (4:31)
3. Why Does Love Have to Change (3:47)
4. Sister Christian (4:59)
5. Touch of Madness (4:58)
6. Passion Play (4:41)
7. When You Close Your Eyes (4:16)
8. Chippin' Away (4:10)
9. Let Him Run (3:20)

Night Ranger are one of those keyboardy, 1980's girlie bands that no male metal fan worth his denim and leather would ever dare admit to liking. The band featured bassist/vocalist Jack Blades (later Damn Yankees) and guitarists Jack Watson and Brad Gillis, who played guitar with Ozzy for a spell following the death of Randy Rhoads. Gillis is a shredder, no doubt about it. The whole band are quite talented. However, what they delivered on "Midnight Madness" was slick, simplistic, corporate 80's hard rock, though back in the day many labeled them pop metal. Night Ranger have a lot in common with 80's Foreigner, 80's Styx, the pop side of .38 Special and Loverboy. Think slick production, smooth keys, big drums, huge hooks and sing-along rock anthems. It all reminds me of the Summer of 1983.

The album garnered three hit singles, including "When You Close Your Eyes", the rock radio staple "(You Can Still) Rock in America" and the mega-hit "Sister Christian", which made Night Ranger instant superstars. "Sister Christian" is a power ballad and was the blueprint many other pop and metal bands used for future hit power ballads, including Night Ranger themselves. Unfortunately over saturation has sort of hurt "Midnight Madness" over time. It has become one of those albums that many people are just tired of hearing as those three songs are still frequently played on rock radio. For my money, I actually prefer the non-hits on this album. "Touch of Madness" is probably the song I enjoy the most, though I do admit to enjoying "When You Close Your Eyes" and "Sister Christian".

7 Wishes Night Ranger - 7 Wishes (MCA) 1985

1.   Seven Wishes (4:53)
2.   Faces (4:12)
3.   Four in the Morning (3:54)
4.   I Need a Woman (4:40)
5.   Sentimental Street (4:13)
6.   This Boy Needs to Rock (3:59)
7.   I Will Follow You (4:15)
8.   Interstate Love Affair (3:15)
9.   Night Machine (4:35)
10. Goodbye (4:19)

Night Ranger's third album wasn't chock full of radio hits like the first two albums, thus it hasn't been ruined over time with over-saturation. For the most part, "7 Wishes" is straight forward hard rock that isn't overly saturated in studio gloss and keyboards. Surprisingly the guitars are out front for the most part and not totally drowned out by the keyboards, a trend that would become very popular in the mid-to-late 80's. There was one radio hit with "Sentimental Street", a decent ballad that is an obvious, but successful attempt to follow up "Sister Christian". The album ends with a made-for-radio, sugary sweet ballad titled "Goodbye". Unfortunately for Night Ranger, this was the type of piffle they are remembered for. However, there are some solid hard rockers on here such as the title track, "Faces", "I Need a Woman" and the  "This Boy Needs To Rock".  "Four In The Morning" is a good mid-tempo track as well and was a moderate hit for the band. Overall, fits in fine with the band's first two albums and continues mostly with the same mixture of hard rock and ballads.

Big Life Night Ranger - Big Life (MCA) 1987

1.      Big Life  (5:16)
2.      Color of Your Smile  (4:13)
3.      Love Is Standing Near (4:24)
4.      Rain Comes Crashing Down (5:56)
5.      The Secret of My Success (4:26)
6.      Carry On (4:19)
7.      Better Let It Go (4:40)
8.      I Know Tonight (4:03)
9.      Hearts Away  (4:58)

"Big Life" was Night Ranger's fourth album, and though their first three albums were certainly slick hard rock albums, "Big Life" was an obvious attempt at a Top 40 format (not unlike Def Leppard's "Hysteria") This one sounds as safe as vanilla ice cream. Ned Flanders for sure! Seriously though, where "Dawn Patrol" and "Midnight Madness" succeeded was in the blend of hard rock and sugery ballads all wrapped with undeniable pop hooks. With "Big Life" the hooks just don't jump out like they did on those first two albums. Of course, this may not be a bad thing as those first two albums have been overplayed to death, whereas "Big Life", much like "7 Wishes" remains fresh and unpolluted by massive radio exposure. Despite the slick feel, the album does have those layered vocal harmonies that Night Ranger were know for, as well as some nice solo work from Brad Gillis and Jeff Watson.

The song "The Secret of My Success" sticks out like a sore thumb on this record. The song, complete with a horn section, was was recorded for the 1987 film of the same name starring Michael J. Fox. This song is probably the most instantly recognizable on the album and does have a definite pop hook. Apparently the single was considered a flop as it didn't crack the Top 40 pop charts, though it was a Top 20 hit on the Mainstream Rock charts, hitting number 12. Otherwise there is the straight forward rock of the title track, which is one of the best songs on the album. As well there is the slightly anthemic "Color Of Your Smile" and the the melodic power pop of "Rain Comes Crashing Down".  The album finishes with a ballad titled "Hearts Away" and is an attempting to recreated the success of "Sister Christian" and "Sentimental Street".

Man in Motion Night Ranger - Man In Motion (MCA) 1988

1.      Man In Motion (4:26)
2.      Reason To Be  (4:11)
3.      Don't Start Thinking (I'm Alone Tonight) (4:43)
4.      Love Shot Me Down (4:06)
5.      Restless Kind (4:41)
6.      Halfway To The Sun (5:19)
7.      Here She Comes Again (4:22)
8.      Right On You (4:14)
9.      Kiss Me Where It Hurts (4:35)
10.     I Did It For Love (4:49)
11.     Woman In Love (4:41)

Exit keyboard player Alan Fritzgerald and the songs are now more centered around the guitars and less around the keys. So does this mean that Night Ranger are now playing balls-to-the-wall heavy metal? Hardly! It is the 1980's and it is Night Ranger. Actually, "Man In Motion" is exactly what anyone would expect from Night Ranger, so the keys are still there, but the songs were not written so much with keys in mind as in the past. "Man In Motion" is a solid, melodic, rock 'n' roll record, and the world ignored it for the most part. After releasing some hugely successful albums in the early 80's, by 1988 Night Ranger were now mostly playing to their core fan base.

"Man In Motion" has a good variety of sounds and tempos. There are some hard rockers such as the title track, "Love Shot Me Down", "Kiss Me Where It Hurts" and "Halfway To The Sun". "Halfway to the Sun" is a Jack Blades composition that gives a bit hint to the sound of his next band, the Damn Yankees. There is a pop rocker in "Don't Start Thinking". There are also plenty of ballads like, "I Did It For Love", "Reason To Be" and "Restless Kind". "Restless Kind" is an attempt to re-created the success of "Sister Christian", complete with those layered vocals and the big, sing-along chorus. However, "Reason to Be" very well could be one of Night Ranger's finest. The song marries together Zeppelin with Kansas and builds from a gorgeous acoustic guitar sound to a heavy rocker. Jack Blades voice has grown a bit more rock 'n' roll weary and is all the better for it, especially in this melodic, classic rock song. As usual the guitar tandem of Brad Gillis and Jeff Watson still presents plenty of meaty guitar solos. Despite the pop nature of Night Ranger, few would deny the talents of these two men. For proof positive, listen to the solo break in the title track. Where this album really differs from "Dawn Patrol", "Midnight Madness" and "7 Wishes", besides the subdued keys, is that the hooks aren't as immediately present. That doesn't mean that the hooks aren't there. It just means that they aren't as blatant and obvious. Had radio caught on, I am sure that every red-blooded, mullet-wearing, rocker in '88 would have been be-bopping down the road to "Man in Motion" and "Don't Start Thinking", singing along to the chorus, just as they were with songs like "Don't Tell Me You Love Me" and "(You Can Still) Rock in America".

This album would be the last studio release from Night Ranger until the mid-1990s.

Night Ranger - Feeding Off the Mojo (Drive Entertainment) 1995

1. Mojo (4:12)
2. Last Chance (5:05)
3. Try (For Good Reason) (3:56)
4. Precious Time (4:41)
5. The Night Has a Way (4:51)
6. Do You Feel Like I Do/Tomorrow Never Knows (4:53)
7. Music Box (5:38)
8. Longest Days (5:01)
9. Tell Me I'm Wrong (4:36)
10. So Far Gone (5:15)

"Feeding Off the Mojo" is Night Ranger's first effort without key members Jack Blades and Jeff Watson. Bassist Gary Moon (ex-Three Dog Night) joins guitarist Brad Gillis (ex-Ozzy Osbourne) and drummer Kelly Keagy. Blades has always been a major player in Night Ranger's sound, and his absence is very noticeable. However, that is not to say that "Feeding Off the Mojo" isn't a solid effort. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by the album. The band doesn't stray far from the melodic hard rock, Night Ranger sound, though the sound is slightly less slick and more earthy than those popular 1980's albums. Less keyboards and more guitars give the album a slightly rougher sheen, though the songwriting is still of the pop rock/hard rock variety. Gillis is a superb guitarist and vocalist Gary Moon has a fantastic, velvety smooth voice. "Do You Feel Like I Do/Tomorrow Never Knows" sticks out as one of my immediate favorites on this album. The song is a compilation of two covers by Peter Frampton and The Beatles. (Phil Collins has also covered "Tomorrow Never Knows".) Of the original songs, "Tell Me I'm Wrong" rings out as one of the more likable tracks, though "Last Chance" and "Music Box" are standouts as well.

Neverland Night Ranger - Neverland (Legacy) 1993

1.   Forever All Over Again (4:59)
2.   Neverland (3:41)
3.   As Always I Remain (4:35)
4.    Someday I Will (4:16)
5.   My Elusive Mind (3:56)
6.   New York Time (4:40)
7.   Walk in the Future (4:01)
8.   Slap Like Being Born (3:55)
9.   Sunday Morning (4:56)
10. Anything for You (4:29)
11. Don't Call This Love (4:09)

Wrapped in a rather bland cover, "Neverland" was the 1997 reunion album for Night Ranger. For the first time in a decade, all five original band members were back together and recorded for the first time. Keyboardist Alan Fitgerald left the band before the 1988 album "Man In Motion" and the band only had two original members for "Feeding Off The Mojo" (1995).

Being that Night Ranger are generally remembered as an 80's hard rock band, it's odd that "Neverland" would open up with a mellow, melodic song like "Forever All Over Again". The song was released as a single, but just seems like an odd choice for an opening number. The title track is a more upbeat rocker, though never approaching the hard rock the band created in the 80's. The next two tracks, "As Always I Remain" and "Someday I Will" are mostly acoustic in nature.  "New York Time" is a solid rock track that brings back memories of the '80s version of the band. Actually, this song and album closer "I Don't Call This Love" both could easily have been recorded by Jack Blades 90's band, the Damn Yankees. "Walk In The Future" has a slightly modern sound but is pretty mellow and a bit reminiscent of the Shaw/Blades solo record. For the most part, "Neverland" is a fairly mellow, melodic and organic rock album. There are still those layered vocals, like on the early Night Ranger albums, but it's definitely less polished. "Neverland" is a straight-forward rock and roll record. While it still sounds like Night Ranger, it's not quite as slick and pop oriented as their 80's hits, but an an enjoyable album nonetheless. (Thanks Vexer6)

7 Night Ranger - Seven (CMC International) 1998

1.     Sign Of The Times  (5:07)
2.     Jane's Interlude  (:27)
3.     Panic In Jane  (4:41)
4.     Don't Ask Me Why (4:42)
5.     Kong (5:33)
6.     Mother Mayhem (4:57)
7.     Soul Survivor (3:53)
8.     Sea Of Love  (4:34)
9.     Peace Sign  (4:07)
10.   When I Call On You  (4:03)
11.   Revelation  (4:32)

It's odd that Night Ranger named this album "Seven" as it is actually their eighth studio album. Regardless of the name, "Seven" is for all intensive purposes a follow-up to the Shaw/Blades album as many of these tunes could have been right at home on that CD.

"Seven" opens up with a guitar heavy track that may indeed be one of the hardest rocking tracks this band has recorded. This song is immediately recognizable as a Jack Blades composition and could have just as easily appeared on a Damn Yankees record. Some songs like "Soul Survivor" and "Peace Sign" sound like classic Night Ranger songwriting but without the pop sheen of songs like "Don't Tell Me You Love Me", "Sister Christian" and "Sing Me Away". "Panic in Jane" sounds very much like what rock radio was playing in the mid-to-late 1990's but, of course, you would never heard them playing Night Ranger, as 80's bands like Night Ranger were considered dinosaurs during that musically depressed era. "Kong" sounds a bit like a Damn Yankees song with even the vocals and guitar solo break sounding a bit like Ted Nugent. Since former Damn Yankee bandmate Tommy Shaw co-wrote the track "Kong" with Jack Blades, the comparison to Damn Yankees seems even more apparent. The acoustic guitar driven "Mother Mayhem" is a perfect example of the Shaw/Blades comparison made earlier.

Some fans may find it ridiculous for me to say, but I actually enjoy albums like "Seven" moreso than the band's more commercially successful albums. Whereas albums like "Midnight Madness" and "7 Wishes" may be fan favorites, there is no denying that those albums were more polished and studio driven, whereas albums like "Neverland" and "Seven" are more organic, earthy and less polished rock albums. All-in-all, "Seven" is just straight-forward, no-frills, classic American hard rock.
(Thanks Vexer6)

Hole in the Sun Night Ranger - Hole In The Sun (Frontiers Records) 2007

1.      Tell Your Vision (4:59)
2.      Drama Queen (3:56)
3.      You're Gonna Hear It From Me (3:50)
4.      Whatever Happened (3:44)
5.      There Is Life (5:33)
6.      Rock Star (4:17)
7.      Hole In The Sun (4:50)
8.      Fool In Me (4:09)
9.      White Knuckle Ride (4:15)
10.     Revelation 4 AM (4:52)
11.     Wrap It Up (4:19)
12.     Being (4:44)

"Hole in the Sun" is the first Night Ranger album in nearly a decade. However, it's not 1983 any longer and "Hole In the Sun" is not "Midnight Madness Pt 2". "Hole in the Sun" introduces a more modern, updated sound to Night Ranger, though not that far off from the bands late 90's offering. On the surface I hear a sort of Cheap Trick meets the Beatles vibe. However, the vocals still have that Night Ranger feel. A few songs, such as "You're Gonna Hear It From Me", "Wrap It Up" and the incredibly hooky ballad "There Is Life" leave no doubt as to who this is. (Just don't expect "Sister Christian Pt 2".) The upbeat "Drama Queen" and the melodic "Wrap It Up" even haves some of that 80's-style shred guitar soloing that Brad Gillis was known for. On the other hand, "Hole in the Sun" sounds like it could have been recorded by Jack Blades other band, the Damn Yankees. "Revelation 4AM" is a hooky hard rock song with the layered vocals and some tight guitar work. The album ends with an acoustic love ballad that very endearing.

The album as a whole is more guitar driven, with a bigger, beefier, more modern guitar sound. There are also lots of layered, modern studio tricks to add to the updated sound. Overall, the album is more driven and possesses more cojones than anything the band has recorded in the past, even if the whole 80's anthemic vibe is no longer present. For me, Night Ranger have managed to create some very good songs, retaining their identity without recreating the past.

"Hole In The Sky" was released in Europe in 2007 and in the U.S. in 2008 on VH-1 Records with new artwork.

Somewhere in California Night Ranger - Somewhere in California (Frontiers Records) 2011

1.   Growin' Up In California (4:26)
2.   Lay It On Me (4:36)
3.   Bye Bye Baby (Not Tonight) (4:35)
4.   Follow Your Heart (6:46)
5.   Time Of Our Lives (5:15)
6.   No time To Lose Ya (4:29)
7.   Live For Today (6:04)
8.   It's Not Over  (4:35)
9.   End Of The Day (4:08)
10. Rock N' Roll Tonite (4:11)
11. Say It With Love (5:17)
iTunes Exclusive Bonus Track
12. Coming of Age [featuring Ted Nugent] (7:47)

"Somewhere in California" unites Brad Gillis, Jack Blades, Kelly Keagy, and new guitarist Joel Hoekstra and celebrates the 30th Anniversary of this classic hard rock band. With it, Night Ranger return to their roots, delivering a big arena-rock album packed with those catchy melodies and hooks, big anthems and plenty of guitars.

The album opens strong with two songs that easily would have been hits for the band in their heyday. "Growin' Up in California", "Lay It On Me" and "Bye By Baby" sees Night Ranger delivering those classic hooks amidst a wave of rockin' guitar riffs and some choice chops. Gillis has lost nothing with age. "Follow Your Heart" is heavy rocker with crunchy guitar riffs, some melodic leads and intertwining keyboards. They keys on this album work well and are not overwhelming, nor do they rob the album of it's hard rocking edge. "Follow Your Heart" is nearly seven minutes long and features a nice instrumental jam in the middle of the song. This time around there is only one ballad, the melodic "Time of Your Heart". The song features those harmonized vocals and, much like some of the other material on this album, could have been a hit had this been released during Night Ranger's heyday. The CD ends with the trio of melodic rockers; "End of the Day", "Rock n Roll Tonight", and "Say It With Love".

"Somewhere in California" is a great record that is as good as the band's 80's material yet hasn't been polluted by radio saturation. As such, it may very well be one of my favorites from their catalog.

As an added bonus to buy the album digitally, iTunes and Amazon offered a bonus track, a re-recorded cover of "Coming of Age". The song was originally recorded by Blades 90's band Damn Yankees. The re-recording is a kick-ass extended cut that features a guest appearance on guitars and vocals by Ted Nugent. The song morphs into the jam section of Ted Nugent's "Stranglehold" and transitions back into "Coming of Age" to close out the song. It's a shame this gem wasn't added to the CD.

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