Night Ranger - 1995 Feeding Off The Mojo

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ARTIST: Night Ranger
ALBUM: Feeding Off The Mojo
LABEL: Drive Entertainment
SERIAL: DE2-46001
YEAR: 1995

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: image

LINEUP: Gary Moon - lead vocals, bass * Kelly Keagy - lead vocals, drums * Brad Gillis - guitars

Additional Musicians: David Zajicek - guitars, keyboards

TRACK LISTING: 01 Mojo * 02 Last Chance * 03 Try (For Good Reason) * 04 Precious Time * 05 The Night Has A Way * 06 Do You Feel Like I Do-Tomorrow Never Knows * 07 Music Box * 08 Longest Days * 09 Tell Me I'm Wrong * 10 So Far Gone

WEBLINKS: Site Link

Background

Night Ranger had experienced a lot of success in the 80's, with five albums and several hit songs. But the well had begun to run dry for them with their 1988 release 'Man In Motion'.

Shortly after the tour supporting that album, Jack Blades left the band to help start up Damn Yankees, and Jeff Watson left for a solo career. Alan Fitzgerald had left before 'Man In Motion' was recorded, so Night Ranger was suddenly down to just Keagy and Gillis.

Believing they had more left in the tank, they recruited Gary Moon, who had spent a couple of years with Three Dog Night. In spite of being two-fifths of the original band, or one-half of the latest version, they kept the Night Ranger name.

The musical landscape had changed dramatically in the past few years, so a major label deal was not to be found.

The Songs

With no official keyboardist in the band anymore, you'd be correct in assuming that this would be a more guitar-driven sound. And you could also correctly assume that the big-budget production might be gone. But if you assumed they'd change their sound to match the other alternative rock bands out there, you'd be in for a welcome surprise.

'Mojo' starts the album off on a strong note, but it's obvious the Night Ranger sound has changed (or evolved). Moon's vocals are not quite the same as those of Blades or Keagy, but they fit pretty well. And the production is a bit rougher. But overall they pull it off well. This was the first single, but getting airplay in 1995 would not happen for a band like Night Ranger no matter how much flannel they could wear.

'Last Chance' features Moon again. It's another strong song that is less a traditional Night Ranger tune than a good hard rock song. It does fade out too quickly - another ten seconds would have been nice.

'Try (For Good Reason)' is the third straight Moon vocal. I would have thought they'd stagger them a little more. If this song were polished up and sung by Blades or Keagy, it would have fit on their earlier albums. I do admit that it can sometimes be hard to differentiate Moon and Keagy when Moon is singing in the lower register. He is more distinctive when he hits the higher notes. But I'm glad I have a 'cheat sheet' in front of me as I'm listing who's singing what.

'Precious Time' is the first tune sung by Keagy. It sounds like a 'Man In Motion' song, starting with some acoustic guitar before venturing into power-ballad territory. It was the second single, although it probably should have been the first one they floated to radio (not that it would have really mattered). Gillis tosses in an excellent melodic solo.

When I listened to the album for the first time, 'The Night Has A Way' is the song that most stood out to me. It too is a Keagy tune. True to the title, this is a perfect late night song. I would have expected this to be a single back in the day.

'Do You Feel Like I Do-Tomorrow Never Knows' is a medley of two well-known songs by Peter Frampton and The Beatles, featuring a strong Keagy vocal along with a scorching solo by Gillis.

'Music Box' starts off quietly with some keyboard and electric guitar effects leading to some nice acoustic guitar before kicking it in at the two-minute mark. This is a good hard rock song that sounds like a lot of the material from the early 90's. If I had heard it on the radio back then, I'd have liked it, but I'd have never ever thought it was Night Ranger. This is the first tune where Moon sounds like he's trying to be himself more than trying to be another Blades. This is most likely because he wrote the song before joining the group. Like 'Last Chance', though, it fades out a little too quickly - it could have used a longer outro.

'Longest Days', oddly enough, sounds a lot like a Damn Yankees tune from the 'Don't Tread' album. Moon isn't quite as smooth as Tommy Shaw, but he really cuts loose and delivers a great performance. Gillis is also all over this one.

'Tell Me I'm Wrong' features both Moon and Keagy on a slower yet powerful tune.

'So Far Gone' also features both vocalists. It starts slowly before turning into another fast-tempo hard rocker.

In Summary

Those who got this in 1995 expecting a return to the 80's might not have believed their ears upon the initial listen.

Fortunately, the sound, while different, is one that should have appealed to those who were missing rock the way we used to know it.

It may or may not be a stretch for Keagy and Gillis to have used the Night Ranger name for this album. It guaranteed that they'd get noticed. And the sound is still hard rock.

Maybe not like they did a decade before, but they did deliver an album that did not pander to the folks driving the current style that had displaced their type.

This incarnation of the band was short-lived, as the whole gang was enticed by the chance to record a new major label release in 1997.

For me, this is the only Night Ranger album I didn't get as soon as it came out; I finally got it four years ago.

Thinking back to where I was musically in 1995, I probably would not have played this much at the time. I was listening to a lot of country, and that by nature is very slick and polished.

But listening to it now with a more open mind, it is a good album. Not quite up there with their 80's albums which will always be special to me, and not up there with 'Neverland' and (to a lesser extent) 'Seven', but still an enjoyable spin every now and then.


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