Tuesday, October 04, 2011

You Really Can Still Rock In America

To a smaller audience, but yes you can. A few weeks ago I got the most recent album from Night Ranger, a Bay Area band I've been a fan of since their debut Dawn Patrol way back in 1982-83. After a three album hot streak of killer rock and flick your bic power ballads the band seemed to lose direction - going all synthesizer, then firing the keyboard player, then turning into a power trio before doing the whole reunion thing in the 90s. Despite their best efforts, Night Ranger was not able to recapture that spark they had early on - they rocked yet lacked that hyper adrenaline manic edge of their early days. I thought maybe that edge could only be captured in the studio by the late producer Pat Glasser since he handled the first three albums. When last we saw our "Sister Christian" heroes, they were searching for a new sound that would fit in with the 21st Century. The guitars were lower (think the term is "downtuned"?) and an emphasis on alt rock style melodies dominated Hole In The Sun. Sun turned off the fan base and the quick dismissal of long time axe slinger Jeff Watson didn't help.

So here we are in 2011 and Night Ranger is making a 180 from Hole In The Sun. They're going back to the 80's - the early 80's, to recapture their original sound. And unlike so many bands who have done this same maneuver only to prove you can't go home again, Night Ranger pulls it off on their new disc Somewhere In California. Those high flying choruses, barrelling grooves and twin guitar attack have sting again. Rockers like "Growin Up In California", "Bye Bye Baby" and "Rock And Roll Tonite" are dazzling spectacles of AOR perfection. When the band hits that guitar solo build up part of "Lay It On Me" I'm in rock heaven. And the power ballad quota is met with the decent "Time Of Our Lives". Somewhere In California front loads the best songs in the first half, the second half is good but not as memorable (save "Tonite" and a rampaging cover of AC/DC's "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" as a bonus track). This disc shows off a revitalized band who I hope to see live tomorrow (weather permitting).


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