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Night Ranger - 1998 Seven



ARTIST: Night Ranger
ALBUM: Seven
LABEL: CMC
SERIAL: 06076 86257-2
YEAR: 1998

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

LINEUP: Jack Blades - lead vocals, bass * Kelly Keagy - lead vocals, drums * Brad Gillis - guitar * Jeff Watson - guitar * Alan Fitzgerald - keyboards

TRACK LISTING: 01 Sign Of The Times * 02 Jane's Interlude * 03 Panic In Jane * 04 Don't Ask Me Why * 05 Kong * 06 Mother Mayhem * 07 Soul Survivor * 08 Sea Of Love * 09 Crazy World * 10 Peace Sign * 11 When I Call On You * 12 Revelation

WEBLINKS: www.nightranger.com


Background
Night Ranger brought some excitement to the AOR world in 1997 with their 'Neverland' album. It was a nice comeback for the quintet, with a mixture of their classic 80's sound combined with a more mature and contemporary sound. Albums like that can be tricky, especially when the musical climate has changed as much as it did between 1988 and 1997. Night Ranger was never destined to come back with a multi-platinum album with a couple or three huge singles. Sales and airplay were not the main objective. True fans welcomed them back, and the band was energized enough to quickly return to the studio for a new album that was released a scant twelve months after 'Neverland'. Since this would be the seventh proper album (not counting 1995's 'Feeding Off The Mojo'), calling it 'Seven' makes perfect sense.


The Songs
While 'Neverland' contained some surprises, the songs on it were unmistakingly Night Ranger. With 'Seven', it is not at all obvious upon first listen that this is the same band. Blades had been busy the past several years with two Damn Yankees albums and a more organic album in 1995 with Tommy Shaw. Those influences are apparent throughout these songs. 'Sign Of The Times' starts off innocently enough, with guitars that don't sound too different than what we're accustomed to. But then Blades starts singing, more like a spoken / singing thing. Now that's different. His voice, like on the prior album, sounds more worn than in the previous decade. He starts more normal singing soon enough, but to me the song has more of a 60's vibe, both musically and lyrically. This was the first of two singles, but it made no impact. Next up is a short instrumental, a guitar-based intro that leads directly to 'Panic In Jane' (sung by Blades). I must say that I absolutely love this song. Yeah, it is another one that doesn't take me back ten years, but it is a catchy and quirky and energetic ode to a neurotic chick prone to anxiety attacks. While the overall sound of the album is taking a different direction, no one can say that the guitars were left behind. This one features a scathing solo. If some unknown band had recorded this song, it could have been a hit single for sure.

'Don't Ask Me Why' (Blades) is the first time I can really pick out keyboards. In fact, you won't find the trademark guitar / keyboard interplay anywhere on this album. This song is a nice mid-tempo tune that gets more interesting throughout. It would be at home on a Damn Yankees album. 'Kong' (Keagy) sounds like it was stolen from David Lee Roth, as it would have been perfect for one of his solo albums. Another example of a song that, while good, sounds out of place on a Night Ranger album. It was the second single, again with no impact on the charts. 'Mother Mayhem' (Blades), on the other hand, would have been a good fit on that Blades/Shaw album. It starts out like Van Halen's (Van Hagar's?) 'Finish What Ya Started' and stays in that vein throughout. Another one that surprised me, but it's pretty catchy. 'Soul Survivor' (Keagy) has a great message and is one of the better songs on here. 'Sea Of Love' starts with a great hard guitar song, then Blades starts with that speaking / singing thing for a couple of lines before delivering a strong performance. 'Peace Sign' (Blades) is another tune with quirky lyrics (like 'She never shaved / Her legs looked kind of guy-like'). 'When I Call On You' (Blades) starts with solo acoustic guitar and vocals, in 3/4-time, light keys joining eventually, before turning into an all-out power ballad about two minutes in. The album ends with a solid and enjoyable rocker in 'Revelation' (Keagy).


In Summary
In some ways, this sounds not as much like a Night Ranger album but rather 'an album by a band comprised of members of Night Ranger'. It is definitely a different beast from any of their previous material. But the vast majority of bands we love who were active in the late 70's sounded far different by the mid 80's. So it is no surprise that the end of the next decade would bring changes to the sound of the 80's. What was startling to me is that this seemed so different from 'Neverland' which had been released exactly one year prior. I'm as guilty as anyone of being disappointed when an artist has a winning formula and changes it in a manner that I don't find to be an improvement. But to their credit, they tried something new. It may have alienated some fans, but apparently many others really loved it. For me, it took several listens and an open mind to get into it. Honestly, this is a case where I have to isolate this album from all other Night Ranger albums. When I'm creating a Night Ranger playlist, the only song from this one that makes it is 'Panic In Jane'. But I can play the album on its own and thoroughly enjoy it.


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Comments
#1 | jeffrey343 on January 08 2014 19:57:51
I also have to add that this review ended up more positive than I had originally expected. The worst thing I could find to say about it is that "they don't sound like they used to".
#2 | gdazegod on January 08 2014 20:02:52
I've never heard this CD actually, nor 'Neverland'. Looks like I might have to.
#3 | dangerzone on January 08 2014 20:26:29
I bought this in 98 when it came out and was left cold. It was a total departure from what I felt the band should sound like and I'll be honest I haven't bothered with it since. I feel 'Feeding off the Mojo' was better than anything the reunited lineup put out to this day.
#4 | jeffrey343 on January 08 2014 22:17:50
I like to check out the reviews on Amazon, as I think they're usually representative of the "common people", and usually by folks not as sophisticated as us. It's a small sample size for this album (27 ratings), but the opinions on there are much more positive than I expected. Nine 5s, twelve 4s, one 3, and five 1s. So fewer than 20% gave it below a 2. That did surprise me. I think I would have initially given it a 3 when I bought it, but I'd go with a 4 now. There's nothing I really dislike about it other than it is different. BTW, the Amazon ratings for "Neverland" are quite a bit higher.
#5 | AOR Lee on January 09 2014 04:52:33
You make some good points in this review Jeff. Like Alun, I also bought it when it came out and was horrified, especially since I though they got the '80's band in the 90's' balance perfect on Neverland. Also, the reviews at the time were very positive but quite misleading. I guess I'll check it out again now that your review has taken a look from a different angle.

Also, I have a feeling that when you write about bands changing a winning formula, you may be referring to 38 Special's change of sound after Strength In Numbers as a case in point ? Just a thought.
#6 | Nick C on January 09 2014 17:25:24
I thought this was rather good right from the outset a bit different but not too much. I got the Jap copy which has the track Revelation on (along with a version of Let Him Run), which is a top song....nowt to do with Revelation 4am on HItS.
 
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