Night Ranger - 1997 Neverland

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ARTIST: Night Ranger
ALBUM: Neverland
LABEL: Sony/Legacy
SERIAL: 65072
YEAR: 1997
CD REISSUE: 1997, Xero Corporation (Japan), XRCN-1297

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 Forever All Over Again * 02 Neverland * 03 As Always I Remain * 04 Someday I Will * 05 My Elusive Mind * 06 New York Time * 07 Walk In The Future * 08 Slap Like Being Born * 09 Sunday Morning * 10 Anything For You * 11 I Don't Call This Love

WEBLINKS: Site Link

Background

Night Ranger had been one of the major bands in our genre in the 80's, with five albums and several hit singles. They had sold millions of albums and produced one of the songs that epitomizes 80's rock in 'Sister Christian'.

Their last album of the decade, 1988's Man In Motion, did not have the impact of their earlier work, and they packed it in shortly after that. Keagy and Gillis had tried to keep the brand alive with a 1995 album that incorporated Gary Moon.

'Moon Ranger' (as some called the reformulated group) put out 'Feeding Off The Mojo', a decent affair that however was not quite to their earlier standards. Damn Yankees had run its course, so Blades got back with his old buddies, and Watson & Fitzgerald came back into the fold.

This led to a new album, which sure excited those of us who missed this kind of music. I'm trying to remember how I heard about this new album, as I wasn't aware of web sites like this at that time. I'm pretty sure that it was big enough news to make the music page of USA Today, and I rushed out to Best Buy and found several copies of it there.

They did have enough clout to get on a major label, so that was a big plus for getting attention in a marketplace that was not exactly clamoring for a return of this type of music (aside from fans like us).

The Songs

All five previous albums (six if you count the Mojo album) start with a bang, so 'Forever All Over Again' is definitely a surprise start to this one. It is a nice laid-back tune that I really began to enjoy after several listens. Blades sings this one, and his voice does sound thinner than the last time we heard him (which for me was in Damn Yankees in 1992, although he and Tommy Shaw recorded an album in 1995). It has a nice (but not flashy) guitar solo typical of many of their earlier radio hits. This was the first single, it was nowhere near the pop charts but did have some success on Adult Contemporary stations.

'Neverland' is a tune that doesn't exactly remind you of the decade before. It picks up the pace quite a bit, but I think it tries too hard to sound modern. Blades sings on this one too. Lyrically, it's the oddest song they had recorded to this point by far. It's the most different musically as well. Not bad, but it never really grew on me.

'As Always I Remain' is the first song sung by Keagy, and it is a good one. It starts off slowly, with no drums kicking in until we're a minute into it. Very similar to much of the material on Man In Motion.

'Someday I Will' is another Blades tune, and it one of the highlights for me. It is in the power-ballad category, and it hits all the right notes for me.

Blades is on again for 'My Elusive Mind'. This could be the sequel to Billy Joel's 'You May Be Right'. Again, it is a different style than what we have heard before. Blades' voice still sounds thinner than the past, but it works well in this offbeat song.

Finally, six tracks in, we get to a tune that encapsulates everything we've loved about this band.

'New York Time' has it all - wall-of-sound guitars with trademark keyboard interplay, dual screaming over-the-top guitar solos, both guys on vocals (mainly Keagy), and some head-scratching lyrics (why on earth did they go with 'crime rave' rather than 'crime wave' - what does that even mean - even Google could not help me on that one). I would have led off the album with this one. It was a hit in Japan, and they did produce a video for it.

'Walk In The Future' slows it down some, with Keagy singing a mature song that's not at all far removed from their radio hits such as 'When You Close Your Eyes' and 'Four In The Morning'. In a better day, this could have been a hit at that level.

'Slap Like Being Born' is Blades again, a nice upbeat call to snap out of your dull and boring existence.

'Sunday Morning' is one of those self-loathing songs, sung by Blades, starting slowly and building to a quick tempo then dialing it back again and repeating that pattern. Another really good one that showcases the more mature side of the band.

'Anything For You' is another one that sounds like the harder tracks from Man In Motion, with plenty of guitars and a nice groove. Blades again sings this one. It also could have been a good choice to open the album if they had wanted to go that route.

'I Don't Call This Love' closes things out nicely, starting with a dual guitar riff that is bound to please those who have missed the harder side of the band. Blades is in good form singing this one.

In Summary

This album did not return the band to their previous place in the musical landscape, but it gave a lot of disenfranchised guys like me (and many of you) a reason to be excited in the dismal late 90's.

I bought precious few new rock albums past 1992, so this was a big deal to me. It has a more varied approach throughout the album than their past ones did. But it does contain something for everyone - all the elements of their previous releases plus a more mature look at life.

To me, it stands up quite well with their 80s material. I certainly enjoyed revisiting this album as I wrote this review. They must have enjoyed getting back together, as they put out another new album just a year later.


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