RSS Feed

High Road

Frontiers (2014)
Rating: 8.5/10

Considering just how prolific San Francisco hard rockers Night Ranger have been over the years, in my opinion they’ve always remained an underrated band.

Since their formation in the late 70s, the band has released 11 studio albums (including High Road), seven live albums and five greatest hits packages. Couple this with numerous hit single releases and even more promotional videos, and we have a band who wouldn’t mind being called season veterans.

Night Ranger’s latest offering features the same line-up that recorded the band’s last studio outing – 2011’s Somewhere In California – namely the ever present Brad Gillis (guitar; ex-Ozzy Osbourne) and Kelly Keagy (vocals / drums), co-founder Jack Blades (vocals / bass; Damn Yankees), Joel Hoekstra (guitar; Trans-Siberian Orchestra) and Eric Levy (keyboards).

That last particular opus boasted a number of upbeat, positive rockers which have been the staple diet for Night Ranger fans over the years, and thankfully it’s no different this time round as the band treat us to 11 summery tunes (12 if you pick-up the deluxe edition) that are instantly infectious.

The title track opens the record and we’re already rolling through the countryside with the roof down. It’s the sort of breezy track that would have been mocked in the mid-90s as grunge killed such “hair metal” episodes, but now, like all great music, Night Ranger are back to their sprightful best.

Driving guitars, lush arrangements and a poppy chorus are the perfect ingredients for a Night Ranger song. The lyrics are opulent; still aimed at that teen market from yesteryear and yet forever meaningful to the older fans among us. “I’m on the high road, after midnight and I don’t think I’ll ever go home”, Jack Blades warns. It evokes images of school years and summer skies, and Blades confirms this as he joyously states, “See the sun come up, it’s a beautiful day to be dreaming. But you don’t need us, what you need is a mind of your own”. But it sure does help to have Night Ranger blasting through the speakers as another humid night draws in.

‘Knock, Knock, Never Stop’ features a killer guitar lick as it strides in with confidence. It’s a sturdy number featuring pomp and fire at once, and the lyrics are sugary sweet, “So you think you’re gonna be a big pop star; everybody’s gonna know who you are” delivered with the same effortless strut as, say, Enuff Z’Nuff mixed with that flamboyant and playful swagger of Aerosmith. And boy do the potential chart toppers keep on coming. ‘Rollin’ On’, ‘X Generation’, ‘Hang On’ and the bass-lead ‘St Bartholomew’ all offer hard edged kick-ass rock, while the cool twang of ‘Brothers’ is just as moving as the wistful ‘Only For You Only’, which features some truly evocative lyrics.

Production-wise the band has done a fantastic job, but hey, what else did we expect? This is Night Ranger back rockin’ hard and keeping the melodic rock flag burning. And by the time the instrumental track ‘L.A. No Name’ trickles to a close I’m guessing that the genuine rock fans among you will be heralding High Road as one of the year’s best albums, and rightly so because this smokes to high heaven.

Neil Arnold

<< Back to Album & EP Reviews

Related Posts via Categories