Night Ranger – Somewhere In California (2011, Frontiers Records)
- Growin’ Up In California
- Lay It On Me
- Bye Bye Baby (Not Tonight)
- Follow Your Heart
- Time Of Our Lives
- No Time To Lose
- Live For Today
- It’s Not Over
- End Of The Day
- Rock N’ Roll Tonite
- Say It With Love
Jack Blades – Lead Vocals & Bass
Brad Gillis – Guitars
Kelly Keagy – Lead Vocals & Drums
Joel Hoekstra – Guitars
Eric Levy – Keyboards & Piano
Will Evankovich – Guitars on ‘Growin’ Up In California’
Producers: Night Ranger
Executive Producer: James Blades
Total Time = 54:24
Night Ranger is back again with their new studio album, SOMEWHERE IN CALIFORNIA, and it’s another album that follows the traditional Night Ranger melodic rock sound. If you go back and listen to the band’s back catalogue then you know that Night Ranger just isn’t a ballad band as they have been pigeon-holed as since the multi-platinum success that followed their biggest hit, ‘Sister Christian’, back in 1983. What Night Ranger have always been at their core is a twin guitar Rock band and they have always written solid uptempo Rock songs that highlight the guitars. On a lot of their past records, some of my favorite songs and some of their best songs are ones that weren’t singles…..Night Ranger has always been about the whole album and they always create albums of high quality songs.
The opening track ‘Growin’ Up In California’ is a pure Hard Rock song with a great trade-off between guitarists Brad Gillis and Joel Hoekstra that reminds me of classic songs like ‘Don’t Tell Me You Love Me’ and ‘When You Close Your Eyes’ from back in the day. What a great way to start a record! Uptempo Hard Rock that’s so easy to sing to with it’s infectious hooks, the solos are blistering and the lyrics give a nod back to the late ’70s and ’80s when these guys were up and coming. ‘Lay It On Me’ continues the guitar driven Rock sound with a song that sounds very Damn Yankees (is there really that much different between either band with Jack Blades as the main guy?) crossed with a little Bon Jovi maybe. Big gang choruses with heavy drums and big guitars, including another guitar solo that reminds you Mr. Brad Gillis was once in Ozzy’s band! Definitely a great heavy track. Asking for three in a row would be truly great because you know that a ballad is coming eventually and ‘Bye Bye Baby (Not Tonight)’ continues the uptempo Rock with even more guitar! What I like about ‘Bye Bye Baby’ the most is the vocal harmonies…..Kelly Keagy and Jack Blades have always been a solid team trading off vocals and you can hear their harmonies brilliantly. That’s another great Night Ranger trademark…..two solid lead singers. The opening of ‘Follow Your Heart’ has this cool ’70s feel to it and, if you listen closely, you can detect a similarity in parts of the guitar and drums after the bass and keyboard intro that have a touch of Judas Priest’s ‘The Sentinel’. It’s very slight but listen for it. ‘Follow Your Heart’ is another heavy track with a very basic riff and modern sound and it would easily fit on more modern HOLE IN THE SUN but the classic ’80s Night Ranger sound filters in and out with the vocal trade-offs and harmonies around the chorus. I really like that swirling twin guitar riff that runs through the song, you can tell that the Gillis/Hoekstra guitar tandem is just as solid as the classic team of Gillis and former guitarist Jeff Watson.
No Night Ranger album is complete without ballads and ‘Time Of Our Lives’ is another great Night Ranger ballad and it could become one of their signature songs live. Kelly Keagy did lead vocals on ‘Sister Christian’ and ‘Goodbye’ back in the ’80s and he’s still a phenomenal singer bringing passion to the ballads and it’s no exception here. Of course, the harmonies with Kelly and Jack are present throughout the song and the chorus is absolutely huge but the piano work is really great, Eric Levy filling the sound out with a superb performance giving it that touch of beauty. No time to rest after a great ballad because ‘No Time To Lose’ cranks the guitars again throughout this anthemic sounding rocker that has one of the catchiest chrouses on the album. Everytime I hear this song, the foot starts tapping, the fist starts pumping a little and I’m singing right along. Most of the songs on this album are exactly like that, they get you right away and the melodies and harmonies are hard to get out of your brain! Another great set of duelling guitar harmonies that give the song such a big sound. Things slow down slightly with ‘Live For Today’, more mid-tempo but still very melodic. Definitely a song that fits more along the modern style off the previous album HOLE IN THE SUN but it also has this slight trace of ’60s psychedelia. Actually, ‘Live For Today’ reminds me of the SEVEN album from 1998 and that would easily fit with songs like ‘Panic In Jane’, ‘Sea Of Love’ and ‘Peace Sign’. ‘It’s Not Over’ is another melodic rocker with Kelly Keagy on vocals and follows the formula of the rest of the uptempo rocker on the album. This is that one song where I feel like there’s something missing or that it’s all a bit too much of the same thing. This isn’t a bad song, I just feel like I’ve already heard it a couple times already.
The opening to ‘End Of The Day’ casts away that “sameness” from other songs on the album, it has a touch of acoustic country-fried twang to it but it leads into a definite modern riff with a bit of feedback and it moves into more modern territory. It’s sounds a little more edgy compared to the rest of the album, maybe it’s Kelly Keagy’s vocal because he’s got that great gritty delivery. When I first heard ‘End Of The Day’, I pulled Kelly’s two solo albums and compared, this could easily fit on either. I like the tone of the guitars, not completely clean but still expertly played. This is a great song and it definitely stands out. The band gives us a rock anthem with ‘Rock N’ Roll Tonite’ and it needs to be immeadiately added to their live set. I like the underlying Hammond organ under the guitars and the ’70s sounding guitars…..Night Ranger always have fun as a band live and they play some covers and medleys during their shows and I think that ‘Rock N’ Roll Tonite’ is a product of that, this would be a great set opener. Last song on the album is another solid uptempo Hard Rock song, ‘Say It With Love’, that capitalizes on those trademark harmonies the band is known for. I almost could compare this with the opening song ‘Grownin’ Up In California’ in some parts and it really ends the album on a high note.
Leading up to the release of SOMEWHERE IN CALIFORNIA, one of the press releases I read said that Night Ranger was going to return to their classic Melodic Rock sound. I’ve been a fan of the band since 1982, has Night Ranger ever deviated from the sound that made them popular? I’ll admit that 2008’s HOLE IN THE SUN is a little more modern and experimental compared to the classic MIDNIGHT MADNESS (1983) or 7 WISHES (1985) from their platinum era but Night Ranger has been creating the same brand of Melodic Rock all along….take a listen to their late ’90s albums NEVERLAND (1997) and SEVEN (1998) and you will here classic ’80s Night Ranger. SOMEWHERE IN CALIFORNIA is another successful album with a bunch of catchy Rock songs that are well-written, have excellent vocals and great guitars. I’ll bet a lot of people forget that Night Ranger at it’s core is a twin lead guitar band and the highlight on SOMEWHERE IN CALIFORNIA is the attention paid to getting the guitars of Brad Gillis and Joel Hoekstra in your face! SOMEWHERE IN CALIFORNIA is one of the better Night Ranger albums since the ’80s and it would have been the natural follow-up to SEVEN (1998). There have only been two new studio albums since the ’90s and I hope that the energy and quality of this album keeps the band in that creative mindset for years to come…..Night Ranger makes great records, bottom line. This album is highly recommended.
‘Grownin’ Up In California’, ‘Bye Bye Baby (Not Tonight)’, ‘Time Of Our Lives’, ‘No Time To Lose’, ‘End Of The Day’