NIGHT RANGER – Big Life (1987 MCA)
This CD was a gift from Tim Durling, and this review is simply a conversation with Tim Durling!
Tim: Big Life might sound dated to you, it is very 1987 and possibly one of their mellowest albums. Of course I have a soft spot for it, but then I like the band.
Me: That’s the one I’m popping in now actually.
Tim: Your Big Life is a fancy 2009 remaster that I’d never seen before. The original was my very first CD back in 1990.
Me: Oh jeez, it’s the album with “Secret Of My Success!” Now I have two copies of that song…The booklet is nice, full lyrics.
Tim: You can file that under guilty pleasure for me, I know it’s cheesy but “worlds collide, and hearts will be broken” damn it’s so catchy.
Me: Wow, Blades’ name is on every single songwriting credit.
Tim: Fun fact: there are two different covers, and I didn’t know that till I had Josh from Fans in Motion on my show. Same band shot, but some copies have less stuff in the background. I love learning stuff like that.
Me: Interesting. So somebody said “We need to add a spotlight and a wall” to some versions.
Me: Wow this opening track is very…Umm…Faux-macho. Sorry, not liking “Big Life” the track. It’s like when Warrant tried to act tough on “We Will Rock You”.
Tim: Doesn’t bode well, but I did say it will sound dated to you. If you’re looking for a more typical catchy Night Ranger tune, I’d recommend “Carry On”, maybe my favourite on this album.
Me: I’m gonna give it a fair shake. This guitar solo is great. Gillis?
Tim: Not always sure who does which solos, all I know is that if you hear crazy whammy bar, that’s Brad.
Me: “Color of Your Smile” is better. I like this one. Very youthful lyric.
Tim: Wow, I figured you’d hate it.
Me: No, there’s something here that reminds me of youthful summers. Fuck, this is good. Didn’t see this dual solo coming. OK, so we have a winner here on track 2, good tune. If I had this as a kid, it would have been the song I played for girls to get them to like me.
Me: “Love Is Standing Near” – starting well.
Tim: That’s encouraging.
Me: It’s the guitar that sets this band apart for me. Puts them a level up.
Tim: Definitely one of their calling cards.
Me: Now I’m on the David Foster produced song (“Secret Of My Success”) that we already know my opinion of. I really hate it.
Tim: I will accept that, frowning. But I get it if you didn’t grow up with it.
Me: It’s like they’re using the ZZ Top Afterburner book of samples
Tim: With you there, way overboard on the bells and whistles.
Me: “Carry On” is a little corny, but might grow on me. Actually…love it…Very Bon Jovi to my ears, but better vocally.
Tim: Probably why I like it, never made that connection.
Me: “Better Let It Go” – I like the acoustic, don’t like the drum loops.
Tim: “Better Let it Go” is a great faux-ballad, sabotaged by Fitz’s unfortunate decision to use the “French horn” patch similar to Don Henley’s “Sunset Grill”.
Me: It was a thing. I never liked that kind of thing, but it was a thing.
Tim: Get ready for the French horn patch.
Me: Oh it’s like House of Lords French horn. “Under Blue Skies”. Yup, I hear it.
Tim: Down at the sunset grill.
Me: Marillion have some like this too.
Tim: I have to say I was most apprehensive about your thoughts on this album, so not bad.
Me: Well, I mean context is important, 1987 was peak synth.
Me: Things got toned down in ’88, ’89, ’90 and then of course ’91 killed synth! …This guitar solo is great. Why are Gillis and Watson named more frequently on lists individually, rather than as a duo? Just strikes me, these guys are absolutely up there with the great duos.
Me: “I Know Tonight” is a little overwrought.
Tim: Man, I can’t predict shit.
Me: OK, now it’s kicking in.
Tim: I thought you’d dig it.
Me: Now it’s like “Turn On the Night” by Kiss.
Tim: It is! Good comparison.
Me: Yeah see this would have been kicking it in my stereo in 1987-88, IF ONLY MUCHMUSIC PLAYED THESE GUYS ON THE POWER HOUR. I never heard this music
Me: Please tell me they’re not ending this album on a ballad.
Tim: They’re ending this album on a ballad.
Me: Ah damn.