Hard rock, pop metal, bubblegum metal, whatever you want to call it, in the ’80s Night Ranger did it as well as any band on the planet. Their first three albums (Dawn Patrol, Midnight Madness and 7 Wishes) topped charts, sold millions of copies, and spawned numerous singles. But as with most bands of this genre and era, they disappeared around the time grunge came along. And again, as with most of these bands, they’ve managed a comeback of sorts by playing decades-old hits sprinkled in with occasional new releases.
35 Years and a Night in Chicago is a double-length live album which does just that. The eighteen songs feature all the band’s big hits as well as two recent tracks – the excellent “High Road” from the 2014 album of the same name, and “Night & Day,” from an upcoming album, also a strong song. Those two songs aside, the other sixteen serve as greatest hits, and honestly these live versions just aren’t up to par with the originals.
For old-timers like myself who listened to Night Ranger faithfully throughout the ’80s, here’s the band’s current lineup: original members Jack Blades (bass, vocals), Kelly Keagy (drums, vocals), and Brad Gillis (guitar) are joined by Keri Kelly on guitar and Eric Levy on the keyboards. Jeff Watson and Alan Fitzgerald are definitely missed, as the chemistry doesn’t seem to be all there on the older songs.
I’ve reviewed three live albums in the last month or so here, and this is the poorest-sounding of the bunch, slightly muddy throughout with keyboards much further back in the mix than the original songs call for. It’s a shame, too, because Night Ranger’s music needs to be clean. The performances don’t really shine anywhere either, and the between-song banter is extremely awkward. Put it all together and this isn’t a live album that will be essential to Night Ranger fans. I haven’t seen the DVD, but it might be better; I hope so.
(released December 2, 2016 on Frontiers Records)