Tuesday, June 21, 2011


It's been nearly three decades since "Dawn Patrol", the debut album by Night Ranger released in 1982. Originally called Ranger they were forced to change their name before the first pressing was shipped when it was discovered there was already a country band named ranger. They had recorded the Jack Blades song "Night Ranger" for the release and that inspired them to just add night and become Night Ranger.

Night Ranger actually rose from the ashes of the band Rubicon when bassist/vocalist Jack Blades, guitarist Brad Gillis and drummer Kelly Keagy decided to form a hard rock trio. They later added former Montrose and off-stage Van Halen touring keyboardist Alan Fitzgerald. They then added second guitarist Jeff Watson. The quintet that would become Night Ranger was set. That first release, "Dawn Patrol" really did rock and although looking back it was more power rock than hard rock it certainly had a hard rock style with the twin killing licks of Gillis and Watson. Night Ranger intended to keep that sound as their calling card with their second release, "Midnight Madness" in 1983. They released the hard rocking, guitar inspired "(You Can Still) Rock In America" as the first single. After all, in their hearts they were a hard rock band. But in  the 80s record companies had a formula for their hard rock artists and that formula called for the power ballad and for that power ballad to be their second single. I think they did this because they thought it attracted the female audience. So Night Ranger, being the dutiful artist under contract released "Sister Christian" which changed the perception of the band forever to the mainstream and to what was expected from them by their record label.

"Sister Christian" became a massive mainstream success. It was on the Billboard singles chart for twenty-four weeks peaking at number five. "Sister Christian" also was in very heavy rotation on MTV. Yes in the 1980s Music Television aired music. "Sister Christian" would prove to be the band's biggest success and also the biggest thorn in the side of their long planned intentions of being a hard rock band. Now the record label wanted them to do whole albums of Sister Christian type material. While the band welcomed the success they didn't feel they were a ballad band, they rocked.

Night Ranger would release five albums in the 80s selling over ten million albums. Their first three albums were certified platinum. They never received the acclaim or success of "Sister Christian" and put them in a no win situation. That ballad and its success chased away their hard rock fans while they continued to carry on as a rock band and the masses that flocked to them specifically for the ballad did not go for the heavier stuff.

Night Ranger would disband in 1989 with its members pursuing solo and group projects. They would reunite in the latter half of the next decade and although there have been a number of lineup changes since the original three of Blades, Keagy and Gillis are still the power behind the band which is still going strong today with guitarist Joel Hoekstra and keyboardist Eric Levy filling out the rest of the current lineup.

Night Ranger have released "Somewhere In California", their tenth studio release and their first new material in four years. "somewhere In California" is somewhat of a pleasant surprise. Being true to what they always wanted to be this album is chock full of melodic rock songs. Arena rock style anthems that are all radio friendly. Lots of the hooks and riffs that remind me of when it all started with "Dawn Patrol" nearly thirty years ago.

The album kicks off with "Growin' Up In California" which has the leg thumping rhythm you'd want in a song while cruising up the pacific Coast Highway with the top down. this is followed by the heavier "Lay It On Me" follows which gives us the first taste of some great fret work by Gillis and Hoekstra. The best, to me, being "It's Not Over". The ballad does rear its ugly head here in the from of "Time Of Our Lives". It's not a bad song but it is not going to threaten "Sister Christian" for most successful Night Ranger ballad either. The rest of the album is filled with some catchy rockers and very good lead and solo guitar pieces. Brad Gillis has never received the credit for how talented a shredder he is. People forget he stepped in as Ozzy's touring guitarist after the tragic death of Randy Rhoads and was brilliant. He is also the axeman you hear on Ozzy's "Speak Of The Devil" album.

We've been very lucky with all the great music being released lately from the metal, hard rock and power rock veterans we know and love. It's a real pleasant surprise we can add "Somewhere In California" to that growing list.


01. Growin' Up In California
02. Lay It On Me
03. Bye Bye Baby (Not Tonight)
04. Follow Your Heart
05. Time Of Our Lives
06. No time To Lose Ya
07. Live For Today
08. It's Not Over
09. End Of The day
10. Rock N' Roll Tonite
11. Say It With Love

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