Night Ranger - 1998 Seven

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ARTIST: Night Ranger
ALBUM: Seven
LABEL: CMC
SERIAL: 06076 86257-2
YEAR: 1998

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: image

LINEUP: Jack Blades - lead vocals, bass * Kelly Keagy - lead vocals, drums * Brad Gillis - guitar * Jeff Watson - guitar * Alan Fitzgerald - keyboards

TRACK LISTING: 01 Sign Of The Times * 02 Jane's Interlude * 03 Panic In Jane * 04 Don't Ask Me Why * 05 Kong * 06 Mother Mayhem * 07 Soul Survivor * 08 Sea Of Love * 09 Crazy World * 10 Peace Sign * 11 When I Call On You * 12 Revelation

WEBLINKS: Site Link

Background

Night Ranger brought some excitement to the AOR world in 1997 with their 'Neverland' album. It was a nice comeback for the quintet, with a mixture of their classic 80's sound combined with a more mature and contemporary sound.

Albums like that can be tricky, especially when the musical climate has changed as much as it did between 1988 and 1997.

Night Ranger was never destined to come back with a multi-platinum album with a couple or three huge singles. Sales and airplay were not the main objective.

True fans welcomed them back, and the band was energized enough to quickly return to the studio for a new album that was released a scant twelve months after 'Neverland'.

Since this would be the seventh proper album (not counting 1995's 'Feeding Off The Mojo'), calling it 'Seven' makes perfect sense.

The Songs

While 'Neverland' contained some surprises, the songs on it were unmistakingly Night Ranger. With 'Seven', it is not at all obvious upon first listen that this is the same band.

Blades had been busy the past several years with two Damn Yankees albums and a more organic album in 1995 with Tommy Shaw. Those influences are apparent throughout these songs.

'Sign Of The Times' starts off innocently enough, with guitars that don't sound too different than what we're accustomed to. But then Blades starts singing, more like a spoken-singing thing. Now that's different.

His voice, like on the prior album, sounds more worn than in the previous decade. He starts more normal singing soon enough, but to me the song has more of a 60's vibe, both musically and lyrically. This was the first of two singles, but it made no impact.

Next up is a short instrumental, a guitar-based intro that leads directly to 'Panic In Jane' (sung by Blades). I must say that I absolutely love this song. Yeah, it is another one that doesn't take me back ten years, but it is a catchy and quirky and energetic ode to a neurotic chick prone to anxiety attacks. While the overall sound of the album is taking a different direction, no one can say that the guitars were left behind. This one features a scathing solo. If some unknown band had recorded this song, it could have been a hit single for sure.

'Don't Ask Me Why' (Blades) is the first time I can really pick out keyboards. In fact, you won't find the trademark guitar-keyboard interplay anywhere on this album. This song is a nice mid-tempo tune that gets more interesting throughout. It would be at home on a Damn Yankees album.

'Kong' (Keagy) sounds like it was stolen from David Lee Roth, as it would have been perfect for one of his solo albums. Another example of a song that, while good, sounds out of place on a Night Ranger album. It was the second single, again with no impact on the charts.

'Mother Mayhem' (Blades), on the other hand, would have been a good fit on that Blades-Shaw album. It starts out like Van Halen's (Van Hagar's?) 'Finish What Ya Started' and stays in that vein throughout. Another one that surprised me, but it's pretty catchy.

'Soul Survivor' (Keagy) has a great message and is one of the better songs on here.

'Sea Of Love' starts with a great hard guitar song, then Blades starts with that speaking-singing thing for a couple of lines before delivering a strong performance.

'Peace Sign' (Blades) is another tune with quirky lyrics (like 'She never shaved, Her legs looked kind of guy-like').

'When I Call On You' (Blades) starts with solo acoustic guitar and vocals, in 3-4-time, light keys joining eventually, before turning into an all-out power ballad about two minutes in.

The album ends with a solid and enjoyable rocker in 'Revelation' (Keagy).

In Summary

In some ways, this sounds not so much like a Night Ranger album but rather 'an album by a band comprised of members of Night Ranger'.

It is definitely a different beast from any of their previous material. But the vast majority of bands we love who were active in the late 70's sounded far different by the mid 80's.

So it is no surprise that the end of the next decade would bring changes to the sound of the 80's. What was startling to me is that this seemed so different from 'Neverland' which had been released exactly one year prior.

I'm as guilty as anyone of being disappointed when an artist has a winning formula and changes it in a manner that I don't find to be an improvement. But to their credit, they tried something new here.

It may have alienated some fans, but apparently many others really loved it. For me, it took several listens and an open mind to get into it. Honestly, this is a case where I have to isolate this album from all other Night Ranger albums.

When I'm creating a Night Ranger playlist, the only song from this one that makes it is 'Panic In Jane'. But I can play the album on its own and thoroughly enjoy it.


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