Night Ranger: Hole in the Sun
It's been more than 20 years since they first proved -- nearly scientifically -- that you could still rock in America. And with their new album "Hole in the Sun," Night Ranger is intent on showing their original theorem hasn't faded with time.
Know this up front: The 12-cut CD is heavy with head-banging, fist-thrusting explosions. If you're looking for the softer side of the band that cranked out 80s classics like "Four in the Morning" or "Sister Christian," you're better off grabbing a "best-of collection." For the most part, the band seems to have put its pop-rock sound on the shelf this go around.
"It's new Night Ranger, but in a lot of ways it's classic Night Ranger," singing/bassist Jack Blades says in the official release announcement.
Credit guitarist Brad Gillis with flexing his sizable guns on the work here. "Brad brought in a lot of great ideas, some more modern-sounding things," explains drummer Kelly Keagy. "We wanted a lot of songs like 'Drama Queen' -- great, gritty songs that establish our roots in hard rock."
Here are the highlights:
TOP HEAVY: Like a lot of CDs I've heard lately, the best tunes are right up front. "Tell Your Vision" and "Whatever Happened" make for a fast start.
SOUNDS FAMILIAR: "There is Life" is the closest thing to a "Sister Christian" sequel. I got chills from the opening notes on the piano and found it easy to connect with the lyrics: "It's never all for nothing. If we have hope, then we gotta try." There's something to be said for a message you can understand.
OLD, OLD SCHOOL: "Revolution 4AM" has almost a '70s southern rock anthem feel to it. You half-expect to evolve into "Free Bird." It's the last thing you'd expect from a San Francisco band, but it works.
NOD TO THE CLASSICS: The review copy of "Hole in the Sun" includes two surprise bonus tracks -- acoustic versions of "Don't Tell Me You Love Me" and "Sister Christian." It's a nice way to mellow out after the guitar fiesta of the first dozen songs. And "Christian" on a simple acoustic guitar is a simple and satisfying pleasure. It's clear that Jack, Kelly and Brad still enjoy playing their signature tune.
BUY OR NO BUY?: Hard-core Night Ranger fans will love the album; the import version from Japan sold well since its 2007 release. Casual fans looking for the next VH1-friendly hit won't find much here outside of "There Is Life" and the two classics redone acoustically. One you figure out which group you fit into, the answer is obvious.
[Photo by Scott Harrison]