SCORE - 70%
User Review( votes)
For those unfamiliar with my affinity with Night Ranger, they’ve been close to my favourite band since 1985 and have rarely disappointed throughout their distinguished recording career.
They’re also responsible for a couple of my most loved live albums over the years.
Add in solo albums, favourite songs and general songwriting prowess and you should get the picture – Night Ranger are melodic rock royalty.
With that status, each album is therefore highly anticipated. For a band recording since 1982, with 12 studio albums to their name (yes, I’m including the marvellous Mojo record), they have a remarkably consistent catalogue. And in the last decade they have continued to prove that veteran bands can still deliver fresh, energetic and engaging new music.
The guys peaked with the flawless Somewhere In California in 2011 and followed it up with the also excellent High Road in 2014. Don’t Let Up slipped a little off the pace in 2017, so fans were anxiously awaiting the band’s 2021 statement.
And I’m sorry to deliver the point of view that the band has missed a step here, delivering for me at least, their weakest album since 2007s inconsistent, modern-rock dominated Hole In The Sun album. And the reasons are very similar to why. Basically, the band has again veered off path, leaving some of their much-loved trademark sound behind. There are less harmonies, much less keyboards and a whole lot less of Kelly Keagy on this record. And while the band’s most popular songs showcase their knack of delivering emotional uplifting mid-tempo anthems, here the band is either rocking hard, or not. There’s not much middle ground.
Track By Track:
Opening with the furious rocker Coming For You, the band are off to a flying start and make up for the lack of a sing-along chorus with added raw power.
Bring It All Home To Me adds those layered with harmonies, which is a plus and its dominated by some sterling shred work from Brad Gillis, which culminates in the closing minute, but overall the song straddles the line between styles. Strip the guitars and add a banjo and it wouldn’t sound out of place on country radio. A theme that makes repeated appearances on ATBPO.
Breakout sees a welcomed increase in keyboard presence and is another track that races along at breakneck speed. Being the lead single there are considerable public comment on this track and many bemoan the lack of a big chorus. I say that note and appreciate the excellent melodic bridge that leads into the short, sharp chorus. A track that sounds great to me.
Hard To Make It Easy is the first major left turn and will be one of the songs I edit out on my playback version. I simply don’t need honky-tonk Night Ranger and while the song ‘rocks’, it isn’t in a way I can appreciate and is another almost-country song.
On the first ballad of the album, Can’t Afford A Hero, the band stop hiding behind the pseudo-country hints and come out as a full country flavour acoustic driven track that’s more Shaw/Blades or Garth Brooks than Night Ranger. I’m sad to say it’s another hard pass for me.
Now, the start of Cold As December has my full and immediate attention. The opening riffs and melody hint at an anthem of epic proportions, with intricate keyboard and guitar parts lighting up my ears. But without warning at the 48 second mark, the song abandons the entire premise to become another pretty bland screamy hard rocker. The melodic refrain makes a brief return at 3.35 for a few seconds, but I’m left wondering where that song went and why we were left with the one here.
Dance is a feel good mid-to-up tempo rocker with another strong Shaw/Blades vibe and a reasonable chorus, but again, it’s not Night Ranger.
The ballad The Hardest Road sees the first appearance of Kelly Keagy on lead vocals. Where has he been? It’s a warm vocal, but the song is reminiscent of the other Beatlesque ballads Night Ranger have delivered on the last two albums.
The attitude filled hard rocker Monkey has some recent era Night Ranger familiarity to it, but the chorus is horrible. “‘Cause I’m your monkey, well I’m your money, I’ll be your junkie?” Guys…c’mon.
A Lucky Man is another decent track, but it’s another with a strong rock-n-country-pop vibe and I just don’t think this is Night Ranger.
Closing the album is a good rocker sung by Kelly again, which is welcomed. Tomorrow is one of the more traditional Night Ranger sounding tracks and will likely rate as one of the fan favourites.
And that is And The Band Played On. Honestly, as much as I love all things Night Ranger, I’m not afraid to make a stand when something doesn’t live up to my high expectations.
To me, this is more a Jack Blades solo album. And that isn’t meant as an insult in any way. Rather it is more a point of reference to describe what I think this album is. Less ‘Night Ranger’ and more dominated by outside influences and styles. Ones I’d rather hear on solo albums, than on a new Night Ranger album. We only get them every 3-4 years, so for me, I want to hear Night Ranger at their very best each time.
I might add for the record – I’m not at all opposed to a band trying something different, but to do that successfully, the songs really have to be there. For me, that isn’t happening here.