|Night Ranger Hits, Acoustic & Rarities||iRock Records|
Why would any band want to re-record the most treasured songs of a long, illustrious career?|
Many have done it over the years and you will only see it happen more and more as classic rock artists discover there is still a strong market for their music after all this time, but their back catalogue is tied up in draconian label deals that don't give access to the artists themselves.
Re-recording your own hits without the original label taking all the money is a great way to sell records and get instant rewards through the songwriters publishing returns.
It is also an easy way to get new music to fans without having to write a full album of new music.
In the case of Night Ranger a new US record label approached them with the idea, which the guys loved. It was also a way to get new music to fans while we wait for the all new studio album due out in the first half of 2006.
A new US release in stores increases a band's touring prospects as promoters like the fact a band has a new release to promote.
The downside is the fact that any band doing an album such as this is messing with a long established musical legacy and the fact that it is nearly impossible to add to that legacy.
These much loved tracks that have been with fans for years. In fact, some tracks here are now 23 years old. Has it really been that long?
Some artists change style formats, some strip things back with an acoustic album, but in Night Ranger's case, the guys have decided for the full band approach, reprising the originals faithfully.
So what is the point? Well, for long time fans, it is something cool to check out and it in this instance it shows how the band have matured and how years of touring has given these songs a slightly different shape.
And for the first time, we get to hear new keyboard player Michael Lardie at work. The former Great White member replaces original keyboardist Alan Fitzgerald, who is busy working on the Bruce Springsteen tour as keyboard tech (he's formerly toured with Van Halen also).
On Hits, Acoustic & Rarities the band treats their songs with faithful renditions, with a little newly added flair here and there.
The production is good, albeit much less polished than the originals and has a live-in-the-studio organic feel, but the harmony vocals are still layers deep. Talking of the tracks recorded, Don't Tell Me You Love Me features a harder hitting drum sound with some extra fills and also a harder edge guitar riff.
Sentimental Street is a little heavier, with a nice update on the guitar solo and Lardie's piano tone is slightly different to that of Alan Fitzgerald's. The guys change the end of the song just a little to be more in line with what they do live – which I love.
Four In The Morning features a rawer and more laid back vocal from Jack Blades, who has changed the phrasing of certain words a little.
And Rumors in the Air sounds pretty fresh too. Lardie's keyboards make their presence felt and the guys add a little grunt to the song with some extra guitar fills.
Goodbye closes out the full band re-recordings. I like this new version a lot. Kelly's voice sounds great and has a raw emotional quality.
I also like the way the song closes, with some additional parts added as the song is done live.
On a less positive note, the band's signature hit Sister Christian doesn't sound that great. Here Kelly Keagy is missing that raspy quality to his voice and to be honest – it doesn't even sound like him in a couple of places. Sing Me Away is similar – although a little better. I'm not sure what vocal effects were used, or whatever reasons the vocal is what it is, but I expect long time fans to complain about this as the result isn't too pleasing to these ears.
The acoustic version of Sister Christian actually features a better, grittier vocal.
The 7 minute plus Don't Tell Me You Love Me is from the band's 2003 Japanese tour and is part of an entire live album and DVD which remains unreleased. Time to get moving on that boys!
The vocal harmonies throughout the album are terrific – as they should be. But some of the lead vocals don't have the power of the originals. Some rawer, more emotional performances counter balance that negative.
Two small complaints to close with - the title really isn't the best - I doubt it would mean much to any potential buyer that wasn't already aware of the information behind it – fan or otherwise. I also really would have loved some more tracks than just the 9 full band tracks featured. a 15 track release featuring something from the all too often ignored Big Life and Man In Motion releases would have been better value.
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