Friday, June 17, 2011

Review: Night Ranger “Somewhere in California”

Melodic rock
Has it really been 30 years since Night Ranger first stormed onto the 80s hard rock scene? Best known for their big classic hits such as “Sister Christian”, “When You Close Your Eyes”, and “Don't Tell Me You Love Me”, the band is back to show they can still rock in America. The lineup for the new effort, “Somewhere in California” includes Jack Blades (bass, vocals), Kelly Keagy (drums, vocals), Brad Gillis (guitars), Joel Hoekstra (guitars), and Eric Levy (keyboards). It was hard to find a high school dance in the 80s that did not have Night Ranger on the playlist – will any high schools want to play a new Night Ranger track today? Of course not, but this is no fault of the band – they stay true to their 80s sound and avoid catering to today’s musical trends. Fans are going to love the band for this choice.

I have to admit that the lead off track and first single, “Growin' Up In California” left me disappointed. Who needs another song about &!#$#ing California?! The performance is tight, but the lyrics are bland and the melody is tired. “Lay It On Me” brings Night Ranger into 2011, with heavy riffs and modern guitar tones driving the rhythm. Unfortunately, there isn’t anything more memorable about this tune. Things get much better by the third track, the radio-friendly anthem “Bye Bye Baby (Not Tonight)” – the chorus on this one shines and finally reminds us of the band’s gift for melody and harmony. “Follow Your Heart” is an AOR staple as you can judge from the title, and there is a decent song somewhere in this near seven minute labyrinth, but it takes too much effort to find it. “Time Of Our Lives” is the first requisite power ballad – it is beautifully done and grows on you after a couple spins, but doesn’t hold a cigarette lighter to their 80s work.

The second half of the record is a little better by comparison. Sounding like a .38 Special single, “No Time To Lose Ya” is spectacular – one of the catchiest choruses on the record. “Live For Today” is an interesting rocker with psychedelic verses flanking a more orthodox melodic chorus…but at six minutes, it wears out its welcome. The “it ain’t over till the fat lady sings” spirit is captured in the steady rocker “It’s Not Over”, which also features some excellent lead work. “Rock N Roll Tonight” is a rather lame sequel to "(You Can Still) Rock in America", but the album’s closer, “Say it With Love” is compelling. After pseudo rap verses comes a traditional Night Ranger chorus, ending the record on a high note.

“Somewhere in California” will be out June 17 (Frontiers Records).

iPOD-worthy: 3, 6, 8, 11

Night RangerOfficial site.

Check out the video “Growin' Up In California”: