Night Ranger - 1988 Man In Motion

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ARTIST: Night Ranger
ALBUM: Man In Motion
LABEL: MCA/Camel
SERIAL: MCAD-6238
YEAR: 1988

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: image

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

Additional Musicians: Jesse Bradman - keyboards

TRACK LISTING: 01 Man In Motion * 02 Reason To Be * 03 Don't Start Thinking (I'm Alone Tonight) * 04 Love Shot Me Down * 05 Restless Kind * 06 Halfway To The Sun * 07 Here She Comes Again * 08 Right On You * 09 Kiss Me Where It Hurts * 10 I Did It For Love * 11 Woman In Love

WEBLINKS: Site Link

Background

Night Ranger had enjoyed three successful albums (the latter two going platinum) and a string of Top 40 hits before the lackluster sales and airplay from their 'Big Life' release in 1987.

I personally really enjoyed 'Big Life' and was surprised it didn't further their place at the top of the melodic rock scene. But the music scene was changing to more of a focus on image rather than musicianship, and a lot of bands that had experienced major success just a few years earlier were no longer guaranteed the same level of popularity.

Their Top 40 hits had generally been among the lighter songs from those albums, with 'Sister Christian' and 'Sentimental Street' being the songs most recognized by the casual fan.

The label (MCA) obviously wanted another hit single in that vein. But 'Hearts Away' from 'Big Life' had not nearly reached those heights, stalling at 90 in the Top 100 (I loved it, though).

Some fans and critics believed that the band was becoming too formulamatic and selling out due to a few songs making it to movie soundtracks.

The band decided to alter their approach on album number five, returning to a more guitar-driven sound. Keith Olsen was brought in as producer (with Brian Foraker producing two songs).

Keyboardist Alan Fitzgerald left during the recording of the album due to his feeling that his role in the band was becoming diminished. Could they reclaim some of the luster they had lost in the past couple of years?

The Songs

I bought this album the first time I saw it in the music store, and this was over a month after it was released. Usually I'd hear a song on the radio or see a video on MTV when a new album came out, but that was not the case here.

So I had not heard anything from this album when I spun it the first time. I had noticed that Fitzgerald was not listed on the CD cover.

And upon listening to the album, I noticed that the songs were missing something. The band had brought in a keyboardist for the album, but the usual magic was not apparent.

Opener and title track 'Man In Motion' is a good-enough song, but it didn't open the album as strongly as any of the opening songs from their previous albums.

'Reason To Be' starts out with acoustic guitar, which had rarely been used previously, before kicking in.

'Don't Start Thinking (I'm Alone Tonight)' starts with some nice keyboard touches, and it starts to sound similar to some of their earlier commercial fare. It does have a more stripped-down sound though - could've used more keyboards. It was released as the second single (and was a good choice), but didn't dent the charts.

'Love Shot Me Down' starts off a little harder - I liked it when I got the CD - but doesn't quite elevate past 'decent' status.

'Restless Kind' has more of the typical Night Ranger sound and could have been a good choice for a single. This was one of the songs produced by Foraker.

'Halfway To The Sun' was another song that stood out to me when I first listened to the album. One likely reason is that it is very similar to their song 'Seven Wishes' - is it plagiarizing when you recycle your own song? It is a highlight for me.

'Here She Comes Again', 'Right On You', and 'Kiss Me Where It Hurts' are all good songs, similar to the strong album cuts found on the previous albums. But again, they're missing something to make them special. No racy keyboards, nor guitar pyrotechnics, just solid rock songs and nothing more.

After making it through nine tracks of material that is definitely enjoyable but not as special as you'd expect from Night Ranger, we finally get to something that is close to being truly special.

'I Did It For Love' is a tune penned by Russ Ballard, and it is the other Foraker-produced song (he did get the two that sounded most like the previous albums). It was the lead single, but made it only to 75 (although it did do OK on the U.S. rock charts).

Finally, we have some keyboards worth mentioning, with some nice subdued guitar work. Not really a power ballad per se, but a nice mid-tempo tune. This one really stood out to me. Why did I say only 'close to being truly special'? The lyrics have always bothered me somewhat.

Yeah, Night Ranger has always had some lyrics that caused me to scratch my head (like I just wasn't clever enough to 'get' them, but I'm a lot older now and just find them odd at times), but that's not the case here.

This is more a case of lyrics that just don't come together to tell a cohesive story - you know, good sayings and expressions that don't fit. 'I loved you, things went wrong, I wasn't strong enough, I walked away, I did it for love' - it just doesn't fit as well as I wish it did, because otherwise this is a song as good as any they've done. Oh well.

'Woman In Love' ends the album - like too many songs before it, good but hardly special.

In Summary

This marked the end of an era (at least until their late 90's comeback). Very limited airplay on radio and MTV (I never heard anything from this album on either) meant that the writing was clearly on the wall.

I'm not sure how much Fitzgerald would have added if he had stuck it out, but I can't help but think he would have improved the quality of the album. But probably not the success.

This was the first Night Ranger album to fall short of Gold status. Blades left shortly after to join Damn Yankees, Watson left for a solo career, and this version of the band would not reconvene until 1997.

For me, this album will always be linked with Survivor's 'Too Hot To Sleep', as I got that one about two weeks after this one in late 1988, right before graduation from college.

The covers were quite similar, and both bands tried a harder approach.

The difference is that Survivor produced an album that is one of my all-time favourites, whereas this effort from Night Ranger is nothing more than a pretty decent album.


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