I haven’t done one of these in awhile so I figured it was time to do another. I have been listening to a lot of Night Ranger lately so why not do one on them. Night Ranger have released 12 studio albums and numerous Live and Collection albums and they have been together off and on since 1979. They have had quite a long career.
The have released three albums since 2011 and their latest release is why I have gone back and listened to everything as I hadn’t done that in a very long time. In doing so, I remembered what albums I really loved, which ones were so-so and which ones I do not like. I might as well tackle the daunting task of ranking the albums from Worst to First. Without any further delay, lets get to it.
12- “The Worst!!” – HOLE IN THE SUN (2007):
The band was finally back after an almost 10 years absence from releasing records. It was the bands ninth studio release and after such a long gap between records, I had some pretty high hopes. The entire band wasn’t back sadly as Alan Fitzgerald, the keyboardist, was no longer in the band. He was replaced by Michael Lardie who had been with Great White. Another interesting not is that this is the last album with original member Jeff Watson. The album was released internationally on April 23, 2007; however, it did not get released in the states until July 1st, 2008 an entire year + later.
Why is this the worst? The vocals for me were the biggest problems. I felt Kelly’s vocals were not the strongest. He is usually top notch, but something was missing. The songs were weak and there was no real passion or energy in the music. 10 years after its release and I can’t name one song other than the title song. That tells me everything I need to know about this album.
#11 – Seven (1998):
The album is called ‘Seven’ and is their 8th studio album. Hmmm? Why is that? Well, simple. They completely ignore their 5th studio album ‘Feeding off the Mojo’ which only consisted of only two original band members, Kelly Keagy and Brad Gillis. Because of that, they somehow believe that this is their true 7th studio album. The album contains all five original members and even has a guest appearance by Jack Russell from Great White (lots of Great White connections so far).
The good news is that there are really no bad albums from this point on. The next couple are just so-so, but do have some great songs. This one is a mixed bag for me. It is hit or miss with the songs. There are hints of the old band, some Shaw/Blades sounding songs, and some new sounding stuff. I do like “Panic in Jane”, “Sign of the Times” and “Don’t Ask Me Why”. “Kong” is fun and co-written by Tommy Shaw. I would say half the album is pretty good and the other half is average at best.
#10 – High Road (2014):
This is a really great album, but if falls in between two of the bands top notch releases and falls just a little behind those. The band has been killing since the release of Somewhere in California and I can’t believe I have this album so low on the list which means the rest must be really good…I think so. The band is the same line up as Somewhere in California which is Jack, Kelly and Brad, plus Joel Hoekstra on guitar and Eric Levy on keyboards.
The guitar work on the album is sensational and why not with Joel and Brad assaulting us with their mastery. When comparing this set of three albums, this one had more that fell flat for me compared to the other albums, but at times it does shine with songs such as “High Road”, “Knock Knock Never Stop” and “X Generation”. It is a fun, rocking romp and continues this new found energy the band has rediscovered.
#9 – Big Life (1987):
The last album the band had to go gold, but it came out in 1987 when I was distracted with Def Leppard, Whitesnake and Guns & Roses. The album was more pop for me and had a big hit with “Secret of My Success” from the Michael J. Fox movie. The band was still together, but for me I was growing tired of them at this point. I might catch some slack for having them this far down on the list.
The album had some great guitar work with Brad and Jeff on “Colour of Your Smile” and “Big Life”. They even had a more epic sounding song that I really loved called “Rain Comes Crashing Down”. It was a little darker and would have been a nice turn for the band rather than hashing out the same sound.
#8 – Neverland (1997):
Jack Blades was back with the band after departing the band in 1989. Actually, the entire band was back as this was the first album all five original members had recorded in 10 years. Wow! And what a great return it was for me. I loved how the sounded, the songs were great and they brought a little new to the table while still keeping their old sound.
Since Jack had been working with Tommy Shaw with Shaw Blades, you can here that style “My Elusive Mind”. They had the rockers like “Neverland” and “New York Times”. Oh, don’t forget the ballads. Night Ranger delivered my favorite ballad behind “Sister Christian” with “Forever All Over Again” (which was a strange choice to open the album with but it works). There is just so much to enjoy on this album you won’t be disappointed.
#7 – Don’t Let Up (2017):
The band’s latest release and damn, do they kill it with this album. They have continued a run of sensational albums and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight…thankfully. Brad Gillis has a new partner in crime in their dueling guitars with Keri Kelli (who hasn’t this guy played with). Keri is the only change in the band this go round.
It is another hard hitting, jam packed, rock album. This last trio of albums have been some of the heaviest the band has done and amen to that!! I love the harder edge and these are some great driving songs. With “Day and Night”, “Somehow, Someway” and “Running Out of Time”, the band is alive and rejuvenated like never before. It is great seeing a band that has been around for so long, just killin’ it!!
#6 – Feeding off the Mojo (1995):
The album the band no longer admits to being a Night Ranger album. Well, it really wasn’t despite the name of the band on the album. The band had three members and two of which were original Night Ranger members – Brad Gillis and Kelly Keagy. The new member was Gary Moon.
Gary brought a complete different dynamic to the band. They had a rawer, rougher sound with his vocals and since we were in the 90’s, the old Night Ranger sound really was absent. This to me was a good thing. Gary seemed to carry the load on the vocals and delivered some outstanding song such as “Mojo”, “Music Box”, “Last Chance” and the ballad “Tell Me I’m Wrong”. Kelly still sang, but the highlight really was Gary on this album which is why they probably don’t recognize it as an album anymore kind of like Motley Crue does with a couple of theirs.
#5 – Somewhere in California (2011):
Night Ranger was back with a sound and an energy that they hadn’t had in years, hell since the last century. Joel Hoekstra was now on guitar with Brad Gillis and that duo brought this album to a new level. The album takes the band back to their California roots and made the rediscover who they were as a band. It quickly became one of my favorite Night Ranger albums. Oh yeah, this needs to be said…Brad Gillis is completely underrated as lead guitarist. What a monster at times on every album they do.
The album opens with a full out rock song celebrating California with “Growing Up in California”. The next track “Lay It On Me” even takes it up a notch. You know you are in for something special with this album. They even have power ballads that take you back to their heyday such as “Time of Our Live” and “Live for Today”. The bonus track version is a cover of AC/DC’s “Dirty Deed Done Dirt Cheap” which was a nice touch to finish up the album. It is a high packed, rock album that was so needed and brought a band back to life and better than ever.
#4 – Seven Wishes (1985):
Back when Night Ranger could do no wrong. Seven Wishes is packed full of hits and one of only two albums to go Platinum. The band’s songs were a little more dark and edgier with “Seven Wishes” and “Faces” opening the album. The rock anthem “This Boy Needs to Rock”, “I Need a Woman” “Interstate Love Affair” and “Night Machine” were all fantastic rock songs and kept up their rock cred despite the ballads.
The ballads on this album were big hits thanks to the success of “Sister Christian”. They had “Goodbye”, “Sentimental Street” and my favorite song on the album “Four in the Morning” (which Jack said was actually written at 4 in the morning). After the spectacular release, ‘Midnight Madness’, Night Ranger came back and showed they were a legitimate band and had more to offer.
#3 – Midnight Madness (1983):
The band’s biggest album was “Midnight Madness”. After the stellar debut album “Dawn Patrol”, Night Ranger delivered an album that made them a household name at the time. The brought the rock and they brought the love. The album opens with one of the great rock anthems of all time “(You Can Still) Rock in America”. Who didn’t love that song back in the day. For me, I loved “Touch of Madness” which had the creepy girl voice from the movie ‘Poltergeist’ which was freaky.
Now one of my favorite Night Ranger songs is on this one called “Romours in the Air”. It was slower and more ballady, but it could rock out as well. Two of the band’s other biggest hits from this album were “When You Close Your Eyes” and a song you might have heard called “Sister Christian”. The one song that always ends up on any 80’s compilation of ballad compilation. Hell it was even in the movies “Boogie Nights” and “Rock of Ages”. It is an iconic 80’s song.
#2 – Man In Motion (1988):
For me, the most underrated Night Ranger album ever. The album was mostly ignored by the radio and basically everyone. Keyboardist, Alan Fitzgerald, had left the band to be replaced by Jesse Bradman and the band’s popularity had waned significantly. This would also be the last studio album by the band until the mid-90’s. The band’s dynamics were changing and things might not have been going to so well as Jack Blades would leave the band the following year.
That didn’t stop them from putting together their most solid, consistent album since their debut. Their sound matured and the songwriting was at it’s best. I really think these were some of the best songs they had ever written. There was a cohesiveness in style and in sonics to the album that the others lacked in my opinion. There were so many highlights I don’t know where to begin. You had “Man in Motion”, “Reason to Be”, “Halfway to the Sun”, “Here She Comes Again”, “Restless Kind” and “Don’t Start Thinking (I’m Alone Tonight” to name just a few.
#1 – Dawn Patrol (1980):
Was there really any doubt that this would not be number one?? I don’t think so. From the opening barrage of “Don’t Tell Me You Love” to the song with the band’s name “Night Ranger”, the album is nothing short of amazing. The power ballad wasn’t king on this album…thank God…but it still had them with “Sing Me Away” and “Young Girl in Love”.
What was so special? Well, everything. “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me” was a great opening track and felt like a train was coming out of the speakers. The sound and pacing of the song was like a train building up speed and barreling down the tracks. One of the darkest songs they have ever done was “Eddie’s Comin’ Out Tonight” and might be my favorite Night Ranger song. You had rockers like “Can’t Find Me a Thrill”, “Call My Name” and “At Night She Sleeps” that jumped out of the speakers and grabbed you. As I mentioned with Man In Motion, there is a cohesive feel to the whole album. The songs were meant to be played in that order and doing so made this album work on so many levels that most of their other albums wish they could capture that magic. One of the best debut albums by a band. I hope I expressed how much I love this album.
There you have it. My Ranking of the Night Ranger Albums. Let me know if you agree, disagree or have no opinion. I hope you enjoyed the breakdown. If you want to pick up one of the albums on iTunes, just click below…