|Night Ranger Hole In The Sun||Frontiers Records|
Could this, the first Night Ranger studio album in some 10 years be the most controversial release of the year? Could it be the most controversial release of the band's career?
It shouldn't be, but in both cases, it just might end up that way.|
Why? Because once again a much loved band with a long musical history has dared to update their sound and some fans are not going to be willing to come along for the ride.
As also stated within the REO Speedwagon review, there will be some fans that are happy to see their favourite band evolve and produce new sounds (as long as the quality is there) and there will be others that will remain sticklers for the artist's classic sound.
Night Ranger's case is further complicated by the fact they have constantly evolved throughout their career and not everyone has loved every record (except perhaps me!).
Night Ranger are constantly being held to the sound of their first three records – the records that saw them break through into mainstream success and pick up a legion of fans along the way. But after the third record 7 Wishes I recall the band at the time saying there was a need for a change and change they did.
Since 7 Wishes in 1985 the band made another 4 studio albums (5 if you include the Feeding Off The Mojo release) and none of them have sounded remotely the same!
Depending on the day of the week and my mood, my favourite Night Ranger album varies. Most days it will be Big Life, but sometimes it will be 7 Wishes. Other days Man In Motion is picked and I'm really fond of Neverland also. Then there is the classic debut and Midnight Madness and one can never forget Feeding Off The Mojo, featuring a fractured band line-up.
I know not everyone will feel the same way as I do, but personally speaking I love each and every Night Ranger record. They have never let me down and Hole In The Sun is no exception.
Now when I am in a loud, kick-ass mood and I have a penchant for something big, uptempo, in your face and very contemporary, Hole In The Sun will be my favourite for the day.
A few things have to be said about Hole In the Sun. It is a seriously in your face kick-ass rock n roll record. There are guitars everywhere on this record and less keyboards than on any other Night Ranger release to date.
It is also a very contemporary release, with some down-tuning of the guitars and some moments of sheer modern rock commercialism.
Knowing how the roots of the band are firmly entrenched in 80s melodic rock along with some of the fanbase, it is inevitable that the style of this record will cause a stir and I expect debate will continue throughout the year ahead.
I have had the advantage of living with this record for more than 2 months now. That's a lot of valuable listening time and in some ways it was needed as I was definitely thrown by the directness of the songs and the style at first.
The album took a few listens to get my head around, and then a few more before all the songs really began to click.
Sometimes the best albums are the ones that challenge you and demand extra attention.
I am acutely aware that for all I have written here, there will be some that will not give this album the time it deserves and some opinions are going to be wildly passionate for both sides.
Until I see the feedback once this gets released, I will not be able to see if my feelings are in the majority or the minority, but put a tick in the positive column for me – as like all other Night Ranger albums, I love this record too.
Track By Track:
Tell Your Vision sets the album up perfectly. It describes in audio what this album is all about – loud guitars and in your face riffs, modernized for the band's first album of the 21st Century. The song launches with a massive guitar riff and from there it only gets heavier. Kelly Keagy has never sounded so menacing, howling along through the verse before Jack Blades takes over for a psychedelic bridge before both vocalists dive into the short, but harmony filled chorus hook. Initially I thought the song was way out there for Night Ranger, but with subsequent listens it becomes more familiar and includes the odd influence from Dawn Patrol and Man In Motion.
Drama Queen simply has guitars everywhere! It isn't as heavy as the opening track, but rocks along at a faster pace. The song has a modern rock vibe but classic Night Ranger dual guitar riffs that are constant throughout the song - so much so it is almost like one long solo, with the guys laying on multiple layers of riffs.
The chorus is something new to get into and gets better with every listen and elsewhere in places like the bridge, it sounds just like old Night Ranger.
Gonna Hear From Me is another stomping rocker which reminds me a little of the Damn Yankees sound, with that brutal in your face hard riffing that Ted Nugent is so good at. Except this is Brad and Jeff and the duo serve up a straight ahead, old school rock n roll riff to blow your head off. Along with Tell Your Vision, this to me is one of the heaviest tracks I have heard from the band and quite simply it rocks with massive attitude!
Whatever Happened is the first of a couple of major curve balls, but the more I listen, the more I love it and the more it sounds natural for the band as they are in 2007. Starting with an attitude laced Jack Blades vocal and punkish bass slap, the song reminds me of something Avril Lavigne or Kelly Clarkson might record and score a hit with. The hooks are there during the verse, but the chorus is from heaven. This is a full-on commercial modern pop rocker mixed with Night Ranger's all-in harmonies and sonic guitar onslaught, complete with another left turn with a mid-song bridge.
There Is Life is quite simply Sister Christian 2007. While it isn't a replica of the band's smash hit from the early 80s, it has the same style, class and vibe, down to the piano into and the building verse to the big sentimental chorus. Kelly Keagy delivers a fine lead vocal and once again the band's trademark harmonies are in full force.
Rock Star is left turn number two and matches the contemporary modern rock vibe of Whatever Happened. This is a great track, I love it. There's attitude to the max in this spunky, punky rocker with a killer chorus. At the heart of the song is a great lyric and general sentiment and another catchy chorus, although this song is the most tuned down and modern song of all those on the album.
The album's title track Hole In The Sun is another rocker with a ton of attitude and another kick-ass chorus with an extra layer of guitars. A simple premise only gets better with each listen, this song has a little more of the band's classic sound in it and a nod of the head towards the Seven and Neverland sound.
I wasn't into Fool In Me to start with, but have grown to like it a lot as simple acoustic ballad accompanied only by some cool percussion and fine harmonies. It actually reminds me of something that could have come from a Shaw/Blades release, except Kelly is singing.
White Knuckle Ride has a tuned down and dark guitar riff and some production effects and sees both Jack and Kelly sharing lead vocals. The song rocks and has a heavy riff through the chorus, but takes a few listens before it makes complete sense.
Revelation 4 AM is a simpler track, which starts slow and gently, with a smooth Kelly Keagy vocal. The chorus again takes a little work, but is pretty cool – more acoustic driven than electric, but still quite uptempo. There's a lot to listen to underneath this track's obvious musical parts, so it takes some time to get to know fully.
Wrap It Up is probably the most traditional Night Ranger song of the whole album. This is a dual lead guitar riff-rocker, with a solid tempo and a good fun chorus. Lots of guitar parts here and a traditional sound base that could fit on Man In Motion perhaps.
Being closes the album in a fairly laid back setting. It is a simple (for Night Ranger at least!) acoustic ballad with various additional musical backing such as soft percussion and non-intrusive keyboard parts. An ok song, but perhaps the weakest track of the album.
Their desire to move forward and create something new and fresh shines through on this hard rocking record – perhaps the band's heaviest release ever.
Negative point - that album cover! ok, so...some aren't going to get it, some won't want to get it, but for others, I'm sure it will be a highlight of 2007. Let the debate commence…
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