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Review: Night Ranger – ‘Don’t Let Up’

‘Don’t Let Up’ is the 12th studio album from American multi-platinum rockers Night Ranger. 35 years down the line, and still refusing to grow old gracefully… mind you bassist/vocalist Jack Blades (damn, is that not the coolest name, ever?) is the Peter Pan of classic rock. Whatever he’s eating/smoking/drinking, stick me down for a metric tonne of. Maybe it’s just San Francisco in general that provides the golden elixir of vitality, but Blades and his cohorts certainly put many a younger dude to shame with their lust for life. They come flying out of the traps on album opener ‘Somehow Someway’, a shot of adrenaline that reminds me of ‘Only The Young’ from fellow Bay area legends, Journey. That same instant jolt to the system, the vocal harmonies are spot on, and the driving guitar sound motors the track along full steam. Lyrically, there is even a tip of the hat to Journey with the words “Left it in the city by the bay”. If that’s not a wink towards the Journey classic ‘Lights’ then I will hang up my AOR wings. As Kelly Keagy shares the vocal duties with Blades, his drum work is often overlooked. He sounds like he is having fun on this one, as his playing is sublime, battering the living hell out of his kit. This is his song for sure.

One of the finest bands at balancing the lighter, melodic side of rock alongside the out and out rockers, Night Ranger mix it up aplenty. ‘Running Out Of Time’ is a perfect example, gargantuan riffs from the twin guitars of Brad Gillis and Keri Kelli are mixed with some lush vocal harmonies and the perfect chorus. The only other band that I feel accomplishes this feat with such precision is Cheap Trick… oh, and anything that Ginger Wildheart puts his name to. Night Ranger have nothing left to prove, so they can allow themselves some fun in the studio, and it shows. Five guys letting rip, none more so than Keagy, who again shines on ‘Day And Night’. It sounds like it was recorded right there in one take, with everyone going for it. The ascending guitar solo mid song is a beauty, and it leads into a monstrous jam where Night Ranger get their groove on for a few minutes of ballsy freestyle rock n’ roll.

The title track is perfect melodic pop rock, whereas ‘(Won’t Be Your) Fool Again’ has a sassy, sleazy groove to it, backed up by some honky tonk piano and a little bit of slide guitar. A British classic rock vibe in places… The Stones mixed with a bit of Bad Company and The Small Faces. ‘We Can Work It Out’ might not be a cover of The Beatles classic, but the song has more than a healthy dose of Lennon/McCartney influences. Softer, with a gorgeous acoustic guitar solo mid song, it wears it’s influences firmly on the sleeve, gentle and very hummable (if such a word exists?). ‘Comfort Me’ see’s Keagy putting in a fair old shift again. Kudos on the production, as it’s fantastic to hear drums so prominent in the mix. Eric Levy on the keyboards also gets a chance to shine throughout a very light few moments. Penultimate track ‘Jamie’ is a glorious mash up of vocal harmonies, killer guitar licks, and one hell of a hook. The lyrics don’t really sit well with me mind you…”I need a lover, a stone cold lover, I need a lover, a suicide lover”…bit of a strange one that. Suicide lover? All is forgiven with closing track, ‘Nothing Left Of Yesterday’, a beauty that builds and builds with towering vocals and delicious lead breaks from Gillis and Kelli. I can just see this closing the main set live, before ‘Sister Christian’ and ‘(You Can Still) Rock In America’ send the crowd home buzzing.    

Great to see a band still knocking it out of the park decades later.

‘Don’t Let Up’ is available now through Frontiers Music.

Review: Dave Stott

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