Friday, April 17, 2009

Night Ranger - Hole in the Sun

Y’know . . . I don’t remember Night Ranger sounding like this.

I always remembered Night Ranger as being that band that I would give the man nod of respect to because they had that heavy guitar sound when they chose to open the volume to a decent decibel. Then, of course, in that same nod I would remember that these were the same guys who made the girlies pinch their legs together in excitement, so how could any self respecting tough guy ever claim to be a Night Ranger fan? With Hole in the Sun, a lot of those sentiments still hold true, but it seems that the band has matured to the point where it’s all about the music. I’m not questioning that the Night Ranger of old weren’t concerned about the music, I just think that they got caught up in the MTV Generation and had to succumb to the call of the image. Regardless of how good of a musician you were, if you didn’t have the looks, you didn’t get the love. Just ask Christopher Cross.

With that being said, Hole in the Sun is a hard rock album with flourishes of radio friendly pop to entice the fragile ear to some heavier elements. Night Ranger have and probably will always be a hard rock band at heart . . . God bless ‘em, and this new disc doesn’t stray too far from the bands original formula. Though, what I did find most enjoyable was that these guys didn’t hit me with a typical one-two punch. There are other musical aspects that snuck in from my blind side and tapped me on the shoulder to say, “Ha! I gotcha’!” And, those moments are always welcome to my listening experiences.

“Tell Your Vision” kicks the whole ride off with one of the ballsiest, hard rockin’ riffs that I’ve heard from these guys since “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me,” and let me tell you . . . it’s a killer! The guitar work has an almost nu-metal vibe, which may not sound complimentary but in this case, it most certainly is. What I found most compelling about this riff is the somewhat off kilter note changes that they throw into every other measure. It keeps the sound consistent, yet ever so slightly different every time through. Speaking of guitar work, the six string tag team brawl that occurs during the solo is outstanding. Jeff Watson and Brad Gillis simply unload with a flurry of passion, bouncing from left speaker to right and back again, filling the air with the virtuosity that should appeal to the gear heads in the audience. Jack Blades’ vocals still retain the warmth and nuance that has always fit Night Ranger like a glove. Just gruff enough to endear itself to the male demographic while sensual enough to draw the women to the front of the stage like a honey bee to a blooming rose.

Then they change things up a bit by dropping an almost pop-punk tune into our laps. “Whatever Happened” is just an upbeat, almost light hearted and fun tune with some great vocal harmonies and a chorus that would fit well within any teen movie. It almost has an 80’s, Rick Springfield-type of tone to it and has grown to be one of my favorite tracks from the disc. The lyrics fill me with memories of a bunch of the girls that I’ve known through life. All girls filled with strong ideals and grand schemes, and all of which have found themselves pushing a stroller through suburbia. It just makes me smile. I’m really not a vindictive person. I swear. Also, there’s some excellent guitar work throughout the tune, especially the attack on the wah pedal during the outro of the song. To hell with more cowbell! The new war cry should be “More wah!”

Again, to keep from being pigeon-holed too much, Night Ranger change things up a bit more by drawing from the sleazier side of rock n’ roll. “Rockstar” is an edgy, street metal tune that features more of a rap-type vocal than full on sustained vocals, at least during the verses. Once it gets to the chorus, the whole thing soars! With this bands history in the music industry, I’m sure a lot of the lyrics are coming from firsthand experience. It’s an upbeat rocker with great washes of distortion that also features some interesting musical twists. Check out the guitar solo as it almost sounds like two people having a conversation. In one speaker, the words are clear and concise while in the other speaker, it’s as if the words are spoken in another tongue. It kind of reminds me of when the left of center saxophonist, John Coltrane, would perform a duet with say, Cannonball Adderley, who’s approach was much more straight forward and easy to understand. Two completely different styles, playing two completely different emotions that magically meld to create a harmonious piece of music. That’s what I’m hearing with Watson and Gillis on this solo. And, yes . . . I just compared this solo to Adderley and Coltrane.

“White Knuckle Ride” is a steady, rhythmic pummeling from Blades and drummer Kelly Keagy, who is terribly underrated as a drummer, singer, and composer. Waves of ambient synth wash across the background as the rest of the band crashes in to create an extra special amount of heaviness. The lyrics are very well stated about a fight against alcoholism, very descriptive and filled with excellent imagery. It’s a tune the cements the fact that I need to go back and pick up some of the earlier Night Ranger releases, because maybe . . . just maybe I’ve had the wrong impression about these guys all along. Other tracks of interest are “Drama Queen,” “Revelation 4AM,” and the title track.

Amongst the ballsy rockers that I’ve mentioned up to now, there’s a handful of the more laid back, ballad-y type tunes, but I didn’t want to focus on those. Though good songs and all, I found that Hole in the Sun has more to offer in the heavier range of music. Never will this disc be compared to anything that’s current in the world of metal, it was never supposed to. If anything, Hole in the Sun is an album that could give the new breed of hard rocker a run for his money. Ya’ hear that Nickleback? 3 Doors Down? Night Ranger paved your way to success and just to prove that they’re not quite done yet, Hole in the Sun is here to serve notice. You can still rock in America. Oh yeah. All right. - Pope JTE

buy here: Hole in the Sun

1 comment:

CosmosGaming said...

You know, for some reason when I was getting ready to review this last year I thought it was going to be terrible for some reason. But I was completely blown away, Night Ranger is better on Hole In The Sun than many of their modern rock peers. This is still a disc I spin on a regular basis, and it is much better than the incredibly boring Shaw/Blades album that came out in 2007.

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