Release Date: June 21, 2011
California hard rockers, Night Ranger caught something of a bad wrap back in the big hair 80’s heyday. With the monster success of their 1983 ballad, “Sister Christian”, guitarist Brad Gillis saw his worst fears realized when the band’s hard rock credibility took a massive hit. Night Ranger never quite recovered from their success as the label kept pushing the band away from its heavier edge, looking for a follow up to their trademark song.
After five quality studio albums, culminating in 1988’s Man In Motion, the band like so many others of that era fell victim to grunge and a changing musical climate. In the intervening years the band has reformed to release new material, that while good, never quite fulfilled the promise of their first few records.
With the release of the band’s 30th Anniversary album, Somewhere in California, Night Ranger has recaptured its signature 80’s vibe which so enamored fans a quarter century ago.
In fact, Somewhere in California could quite easily slip in between Midnight Madness, Seven Wishes or Big Life without losing any continuity. The album’s lead off track “Growin’ Up In California” is one of those feel good rockers that begs to be cranked, driving down the summertime freeway with the top down and sunglasses on.
“Lay It On Me” is one of the band’s heavier tracks, with a thick guitar riff that gets stuck in your head, and monster harmonies that have always been part of the band’s unique sound. Gillis maintains his place as one of the best axemen out there while newcomer Joel Hoekstra picks up where former guitarist Jeff Watson left off. The guys do some more than adequate shredding on this track.
Bassist and vocalist, Jack Blades, has lost nothing of the boyish energy from his vocal performances. “Bye, Bye, Baby” reunites Blades voice with all the sonic elements that make Night Ranger’s music so addictive; an infectious melody, over a tight rhythm section and driving guitars.
“Follow Your Heart” kicks off with a funky keyboard and bass intro that recalls early Styx more than Night Ranger, but when Blades comes in, the band’s signature style returns. At nearly seven minutes long, its one of the more adventurous songs on the record. Great guitar harmonies.
“Time Of Our Lives” is a classic Night Ranger ballad in the mold of “Goodbye”, while “No Time To Lose” is another uptempo feel good melodic rocker.
New keyboardist Eric Levy shines throughout (mostly in the background), but has some of his most memorable work on the album closer, “Say It With Love”. He also tunes up the organ for some Jon Lord inspired work on “Rock N’ Roll Tonite”, a ballsy rock and roll jam, with lyrical music pop culture references.
Depending on which version of the album you get, there are a few bonus tracks floating out there including covers of AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds” and Damn Yankees’ “Comin’ of Age”. The latter which features Ted Nugent, and blends in his song, “Stranglehold”.
Track by track the band has returned with an album of its most memorable songs in a quarter century. Night Ranger‘s trademark vocal and guitar harmonies throughout, and stellar musicianship and chemistry that only three decades of constant touring and recording can create. If you gave up on Night Ranger after the 80s, Somewhere In California gives fans a reason to come back home.