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Night Ranger - Somewhere in California

Night Ranger
Somewhere in California
by Mike Novak at 21 September 2011, 9:27 PM

It may not seem significant that another 80s Pop-Metal band is releasing an album over two decades past their heyday. However, NIGHT RANGER has always been one of those bands that had the chops to back up their songwriting, even if they did get bogged down in the excesses of the day at times. Some may have balked at their last album, “Hole in the Sun,” due the experimental and modern nature of many of their songs. Personally I thought that had some fine, if underrated, songs, but I’m only 24 and was no fan of most of their biggest hits, so my views probably do not match up with many longtime fans’. That being said, there is a lot on their newest album, “Somewhere in California,” for both old and new fans to enjoy.

The modern and experimental elements are mostly gone and what we have instead is Hard Rock that drifts between AOR and the more bluesy faire of artists like Joe Lynn Turner. Aside from the modern-sounding production, many of these songs would have fit right in 20-30 years ago. Thankfully, many of these songs are good enough that they could have been hits had they been released back then as well. If you have any doubts, listen to “Growin’ Up in California.” This is a song meant for driving on the highway with the stereo turned all the way up and the windows down (and the top off of your convertible if you’re lucky enough to have one). Things only get more infectious with “Lay it on Me,” which would have been a fantastic arena anthem back when the band still played arenas. For those who love the ballads, they will not be disappointed in the beautiful “Time of Our Lives,” which is something I wish I could have danced to with a beautiful girl at a dance rather some R&B nonsense that they usually play these days.

Anyone who denies Brad Gillis’ skill on guitar is not paying attention: he does not go into full-shred mode like he did when he guested on VICIOUS RUMORS’ “Warball.” He does still demonstrate his skill without sacrificing the direction of the song. Fellow guitarist Joel Hoekstra is no slouch either; together he and Gillis combine for a formidable guitar team. Jack Blades does some solid work on bass, but it’s his vocals that really shine. Not only does he write contagious choruses, he sings in tune without trying to go beyond his range while not sounding limited either. Eric Levy provides keyboards and adds depth to many of the songs as well as emphasizing melody.
However, the reason that this album succeeds is because of the combination of what each member contributes to the band, whether it be guitars, well-utilized keyboards, drums or singing. Things take a bit of a dip at times in the second half, but there is more than enough worthwhile to give “Somewhere in California” a high recommendation. There may be a stereotype of old rockers releasing pathetically out-of-touch material years out of their prime which appeals mainly to people going through their mid-life crises, but NIGHT RANGER proves that some bands deserve to stick around well past their alleged expiration date.

4 Star Rating

1. Growin’ Up In California
2. Lay It On Me
3. Bye Bye Baby (Not Tonight)
4. Follow Your Heart
5. Time Of Our Lives
6. No Time To Lose Ya
7. Live For Today
8. It’s Not Over
9. End Of The Day
10. Rock N’ Roll Tonite
11. Say It With Love
Jack Blades- Vocals / Bass
Brad Gillis- Guitars
Kelly Keagy- Drums
Joel Hoekstra- Guitars
Eric Levy- Keyboards
Record Label: Frontiers Records


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