Thursday, June 14, 2007

Night Ranger

Time for one of our favorite bands here at The Big 80s.

Don’t Tell Me You Love Me

You Can Still Rock In America

Night Ranger, is a U.S. rock band formed in San Francisco, California. The quintet are most known for the power ballad "Sister Christian", which peaked at #5 in early 1984.

The group's nucleus formed in Rubicon, a pop group led by Jerry Martini of Sly and the Family Stone fame. After Rubicon's demise in 1979, bassist Jack Blades (b. 1955) formed a hard rock trio with drummer Kelly Keagy (b. 1952) and guitarist Brad Gillis (b. 1957). Performing under the name Stereo, the threesome later added keyboardist Alan Fitzgerald (b. 1949), a former member of Montrose and the offstage keyboard player for Van Halen 1991-1995 & 2004, Gamma, and the Sammy Hagar group. Fitz soon recommended enlisting a second virtuoso guitarist, Jeff Watson (b. 1956), who led his own band in Northern California. The seeds were sown for a new melodic hard rock band, initially called simply Ranger.

In 1982, the band subsequently changed its name to Night Ranger after a country band, The Rangers, claimed a trademark infringement. By this point, they had recorded Dawn Patrol for Boardwalk Records, opening for ZZ Top and Ozzy Osbourne; the latter performer employed Brad Gillis as an alternate guitarist for the recently deceased Randy Rhoads. When Boardwalk folded under, producer Bruce Bird secured Night Ranger a deal with MCA Camel in 1983.
The band's modest hit single and above video "Don't Tell Me You Love Me," received a boost through its MTV video airplay and managed to peak at #40 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Jack Blades' puppy-dog appeal seemed to win over female fans, while Gillis and Watson's dueling guitars pleased the same male audience that guitar-driven bands such as Van Halen had already begun to cultivate. Their first albums struck a balance between hard rockers laden with sexual innuendo, and accessible pop ballads to guarantee airplay.

Night Ranger's hold solidified with their second album, "Midnight Madness," which featured the ballads "When You Close Your Eyes" and "Sister Christian," written and sung by Kelly Keagy for his own sister. It became a cautionary anthem for teenage girls across a conservative America, warning them not to "give it up before their time is due." The album's success pushed the band from opening act to headliner status by the summer of 1984.

With the above video "(You Can Still) Rock In America," Night Ranger also appealed to the patriotic themes pushed forward by both Ted Nugent and Sammy Hagar. It also paid off for the band, who netted two Top Twenty singles and a Top Five hit with "Sister Christian," the song which would later prove the band's milestone.

In 1985, Night Ranger continued headlining their own tours in support of "Seven Wishes," which followed a very loose concept of the band flying across the ocean in a B-25 Mitchell bomber. The "Sentimental Street" video even placed them in an Amelia Earhart scenario, reporting the entire band lost at sea. Night Ranger was blessed with hit singles once again: "Sentimental Street" (#8; sung by Kelly Keagy), the mid-tempo "Four In The Morning" (#19), and the acoustic-flavored "Goodbye" (#17), as the band went in a more obviously commercial direction. In 1986, they also branched out into soundtracks, recording or contributing songs to several teenage films, such as the Anthony Michael Hall vehicles "Out of Bounds" and "Sixteen Candles."

In 1987, they co-wrote the title theme to the Michael J. Fox film The Secret of My Success, which served as the lead single from Big Life. Unfortunately, Night Ranger faced stiff competition from glam bands such as Bon Jovi and Poison, while overall tastes had begun to shift toward "bad boy" groups, such as Guns N' Roses. Despite a collection of fairly mature songs, including the nuanced "Rain Comes Crashing Down," none of the chosen singles from Big Life hit the top 40. Night Ranger openly quarreled with their label over choosing "Hearts Away" in lieu of one of the heavier songs. The label expected another Top 10 ballad, but the song failed to catch on during Night Ranger's 1987 tour — a vigorous series of dates across North America and the Caribbean.

In 1988, Man In Motion promised a return to earlier form, with more hard rock to anchor the group's sagging fortunes. However, Alan Fitzgerald left during the recording, requiring a touring keyboardist to be hired. Furthermore, none of the singles were distinguished enough to gain radio airplay, and MCA once more chose ballads over rockers. As a result, "Man in Motion" became the first Night Ranger album not to achieve gold or platinum status. After a mediocre tour, Jack Blades left Night Ranger to form the popular super group Damn Yankees with Ted Nugent and Tommy Shaw of Styx.

Meanwhile, Kelly Keagy and Brad Gillis enlisted Gary Moon to replace Jack Blades as bassist, returning to trio format after Jeff Watson left to renew his solo career. The "unofficial" Night Ranger recorded one album, "Feeding Off The Mojo," which did not improve the band's profile despite a rigorous tour schedule in the early 1990s. In 1996, Jack Blades returned to Night Ranger, which reformed with all five original members for two studio albums on CMC Records, who engineered a similar comeback for Styx. While Neverland and Seven have not recouped the band's heyday, they have demonstrated that Night Ranger still had some longevity and new ideas. The band tours sporadically in between solo albums and projects. Jack Blades also serves as chief counselor for the Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp.

Night Ranger continues to play the summer festival circuit. In 1999 they joined other 1980s band in the second installment of the Rock Never Stops Tour.

In 2004, Alan Fitzgerald was replaced by Michael Lardie. Fitz handled offstage keyboards once again for Van Halen.

In 2007, Jeff Watson left the band, while on tour. His replacement for the remainder of the tour is Winger/Whitesnake guitarist Reb Beach.

1982 - Dawn Patrol #38 US
1983 - Midnight Madness #15 US
1985 - Seven Wishes #10 US
1987 - Big Life #28 US
1988 - Man In Motion #81 US
1989 - Greatest Hits
1990 - Live In Japan
1996 - Feeding Off the Mojo
1997 - Rock In Japan '97
1997 - Neverland
1997 - Rock Masterpiece Collection
1998 - Seven
2000 - The Millenium Collection
2005 - Hits, Acoustic & Rarities (re-recorded hits)
2006 - Best Of Live
2007 - Hole In the Sun

"Don't Tell Me You Love Me"
"Sing Me Away"
"(You Can Still) Rock In America"
"Sister Christian"
"When You Close Your Eyes"
"Sentimental Street"
"Four In The Morning (I Can't Take Anymore)"
"The Secret Of My Success"
"Hearts Away"
"I Did It For Love"

External link
Official Website

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