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Jack Blades – Rock ‘N Roll Ride (Album Review)

Jack Blades – Rock ‘N Roll Ride
(2012, Frontiers Records)

1. Back In The Game … 4:21
2. Rock ‘N Roll Ride … 4:18
3. Hardest Word To Say … 4:37
4. Anything For You … 4:06
5. Love Life … 4:28
6. West Hollywood … 4:11
7. Born For This … 4:32
8. Don’t Give Up … 3:08
9. Say You Will … 4:26
10. Rise And Shine … 3:43
11. Hey Now … 4:39

Musicians:
Jack Blades – Lead/Backing Vocals, Bass, Guitar
Joel Hoekstra – Guitar
Will Evankovich – Guitar, Mandolin, Sitar, Backing Vocals
Kelly Keagy – Drums
Brian Tichy – Drums
Eric Levy – Keyboards
Christian Matthew Cullen – Keyboards

After enjoying Night Ranger’s Somewhere In California so much, I figured it was a pretty safe bet I would enjoy Jack Blades’ latest solo effort Rock ‘N Roll Ride. I wasn’t wrong and Jack didn’t let me down! The album rocks a bit harder than Night Ranger, isn’t quite as polished or keyboard-heavy as Night Ranger can but Rock ‘N Roll Ride still fits under the same melodic hard rock category.

Much like Somewhere In California, this is great album to listen to during the summer. The whole album brings to mind to the beach, blue skies, bright sun shining down, road trips, friends and pure fun. “Love Life” and “Born For This” say it all. Great positive inspirational anthems that are perfect to enjoy under the warm sun.

“West Hollywood” is a song that I almost swore was a cover, it sounded so familiar, until I read in the press kit that it was inspired by The Beatles and was co-written with Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander. There’s that same vibe familiarity with “Don’t Give Up”. That tune reminds me of Tom Petty. “Anything For You” also reminds me of The Beatles.

The ballad “Hardest Word To Say” is another fave but it sounds like something you’d hear on country radio these days (since country has basically become rock/pop). I can imagine Rascal Flatts doing this song. Maybe Jack should pursue a solo career as a country music artist? I’m serious, I would push that to country radio and see what happens. Back to the high energy stuff, “Back In The Game” and “Rock ‘N Roll Ride” are the hardest rocking numbers of the bunch and a good way to kick off the album. “Say You Will” is another fired up rocker.

Blades has developed a reputation as a great songwriter in the industry. He’s written and collaborated successfully with many artists and I’m glad he’s taken the time to develop songs for himself this time. Rock ‘N Roll Ride should be picked up by Night Ranger fans (after all, four-fifths of the band play on the album!) and any fan of melodic hard rock. Fun, uplifting rock album.

Highlights: “Rock ‘N Roll Ride”, “Hard Word To Say”, “Love Life”, “Born For This”, “Don’t Give Up”, “Say You Will”

http://www.jackblades.net/
http://www.facebook.com/JackBlades

Buy the album at Amazon.com

Night Ranger – Somewhere In California

Night Ranger – Somewhere In California (2011, Frontiers Records)

1. “Growin’ Up In California”
2. “Lay It On Me”
3. “Bye Bye Baby (Not Tonight)”
4. “Follow Your Heart”
5. “Time Of Our Lives”
6. “No Time To Lose Ya”
7. “Live For Today”
8. “It’s Not Over”
9. “End Of The Day”
10. “Rock N’ Roll Tonite”
11. “Say It With Love”

Band:
Jack Blades – Lead Vocals, Bass, Backing Vocals
Brad Gillis – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Joel Hoekstra – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Kelly Keagy – Drums, Percussion, Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals
Eric Levy – Keyboards, Piano, Backing Vocals

Producer: Night Ranger

Since in the last year or two I’ve heard a startling number of melodic rock albums that I’ve actually ended up enjoying, I decided to give the new Night Ranger a chance despite never really being a fan of the band other than a few songs (and I HATE “Sister Christian”). Deep at the core of Night Ranger I’ve always felt there was a really good HARD rock band there. When the band isn’t writing slick commercial melodic rock numbers, they can really go balls to the wall and they do this a number of times throughout Somewhere In California.

Pointing out the album’s highlights:

  • “Growin’ Up in California” is a high-energy opener that name checks a few California locales and instantly brings to mind a song like “(You Can Still) Rock In America” as it somehow finds a perfect balance between the melodic rock & actual rock ‘n’ roll, keyboards & guitars.
  • “Lay It On Me” is a great heavy number that precisely shows that the band can get down and dirty when they want to. Guitars!
  • “Time Of Our Lives” follows in the great tradition of Night Ranger writing excellent ballads (“Sister Christian” is the exception to this excellence!) and is well-sung by Kelly Keagy.
  • “No Time To Lose Ya” is extremely catchy and features a great chorus, one of the album’s best and most inspired tracks.
  • “End Of The Day” is another excellent guitar-driven song, a bit dark sounding other than the chorus and yet somehow reminds me of Rick Springfield.
  • “Rock N’ Roll Tonite” features a great chorus and is yet another guitar-centric number, classic Night Ranger hard rock. Tailor-made for a live setting and would’ve been a great way to close this album.
  • “Say It With Love” is the album’s actual closer though and is absolutely infectious melodic rocker and ends the album on a high note.

Though Hole In The Sun was a step towards a more modern sound that proved to be controversial/disappointing for some longtime Night Ranger fans, Somewhere In California has the band delivering what you would expect a Night Ranger album to sound like. In other words, this is “classic” Night Ranger. Having only casual knowledge of the band, if you would have told me this album was one of their releases from the 1980s for the most part I would have believed you.

It sounds like Night Ranger: hooks, melodies, harmonies, great vocals from Jack Blades, great backing vocals, Gillis continues to prove himself as an unsung guitar demi-god (Joel Hoekstra is no slouch either!) and the keyboards are expertly woven into the tracks and don’t become overbearing. Somewhere In California is a really enjoyable album and should be a big hit in the melodic rock world and, most importantly, with Night Ranger fans. It was certainly a big hit with me since I consider 7 of the 11 tracks to be “highlights”!

Highlights: “Growin’ Up in California”, “Lay It On Me”, “Time Of Our Lives”, “No Time To Lose Ya”, “End Of The Day”, “Rock N’ Roll Tonite”, “Say It With Love”

http://www.NightRanger.com
http://www.facebook.com/nightranger

Buy ‘Somewhere in California’ at Amazon.com!

NIGHT RANGER – The Best of Night Ranger

Night Ranger – 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection: The Best of Night Ranger (2000, MCA Records)

1. “Sister Christian” … 5:03
2. “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me” … 4:22
3. “Sing Me Away” … 4:13
4. “Eddie’s Comin’ Out Tonight” … 4:30
5. “(You Can Still) Rock in America” … 4:16
6. “When You Close Your Eyes” … 4:16
7. “Sentimental Street” … 4:13
8. “Four In The Morning (I Can’t Take Anymore)” … 3:54
9. “Goodbye” … 4:21
10. “The Secret of My Success” … 4:30
11. “I Did It for Love” … 4:48

I guess the official title is the one I typed out above, but whatever, that’s ridiculous. Tons of artists falling under the umbrella of the Universal Music Group were getting the 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection treatment around this time.

I’ve documented my love/hate relationship with AOR and melodic rock in the past so that’s why this is my one and only Night Ranger purchase. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to try any of their albums so I started simple with a collection built for the casual listener. Casual I shall remain. It’s not that this album is bad, there’s nothing wrong with it but Night Ranger strays too far on the wimpy side of rock too often to prove interesting enough to warrant a further look into their catalog.

Slick rock like this is good, but in small doses, and it just doesn’t hook me enough to feel like I need to own a studio album. Basically, every song here sounds like it was written for a motion picture soundtrack. In fact, “The Secret of My Success” was written for a movie — the Michael J. Fox film of the same name.

The band could come up with some fun rockers when they wanted to though. “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me”  and “(You Can Still) Rock in America” are especially enjoyable. Most people know this band for “Sister Christian” but I’ve always hated that song. If they band was going to have a hit power ballad, it should’ve been the relaxing “Goodbye”.

Highlights: “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me”, “(You Can Still) Rock in America”, “When You Close Your Eyes”, “Sentimental Street”, “Four In The Morning (I Can’t Take Anymore)”, “Goodbye”

www.nightranger.com
www.myspace.com/nightranger

DAMN YANKEES – Damn Yankees

Damn Yankees – Damn Yankees (1990, Warner Bros. Records)

Track Listing:
1. “Coming of Age” … (4:21)
2. “Bad Reputation” … (4:29)
3. “Runaway” … (4:02)
4. “High Enough” … (4:43)
5. “Damn Yankees” … (4:37)
6. “Come Again” … (5:38)
7. “Mystified” … (4:14)
8. “Rock City” … (4:28)
9. “Tell Me How You Want It” … (4:32)
10. “Piledriver” … (4:18)

Band:
Tommy Shaw – Guitar, Vocals
Ted Nugent – Guitar, Vocals
Jack Blades – Bass, Vocals
Michael Cartellone – Drums

Produced by: Ron Nevison

Who doesn’t know “High Enough”? This soaring song was all over radio back in the day and is still the high point of this album for me. As for the rest? Well, you’ve got Ted Nugent, Night Ranger’s Jack Blades and Styx’s Tommy Shaw, so the resulting music is a great piece of melodic hard rock.

It’s actually very interesting to think of Ted in a group like this, so far away from his own solo works (except on “Piledriver”), because Damn Yankees are more in line with the then popular pop metal sound. A harder rocking Night Ranger are essentially what Damn Yankees were.

It’s a shame the band only made one more album together after this, because they were a great band.

Highlights: “Coming of Age”, “Bad Reputation”, “Runaway”, “Damn Yankees”, “Come Again”, “Tell Me How You Want It”

GREAT WHITE – Can’t Get There From Here

Great White – Can’t Get There From Here (1999, Portrait Records/Sony Music Entertainment)

Track Listing:
1. “Rollin’ Stoned” – 4:09
2. “Ain’t No Shame” – 4:19
3. “Silent Night” – 4:50
4. “Saint Lorraine” – 4:05
5. “In the Tradition” – 2:59
6. “Freedom Song” – 4:36
7. “Gone to the Dogs” – 2:42
8. “Wooden Jesus” – 4:24
9. “Sister Mary” – 4:55
10. “Loveless Age” – 5:23
11. “Psychedelic Hurricane” – 4:15
12. “Hey Mister” – 5:08

Band:
Jack Russell – Vocals
Mark Kendall – Guitar
Michael Lardie – Guitar
Sean McNabb – Bass
Audie Desbrow – Drums

Additional Backing Vocals: Jack Blades

Produced by: Jack Blades, Don Dokken (co-producing “Psychedelic Hurricane” only)

Great White is one of the more underrated bands from the hair era and this album proves it. Great White is a band that should’ve been bigger than they were during their commercial peak and they got a second crack at being that when John Kalodner was given a label by Columbia/Sony and signed them up along with Ratt. Kalodner (and Great White, I’m sure!) were looking to repeat Kalodner’s success with Aerosmith from the 80s, but despite a really strong record, it just didn’t work commercially. I do remember “Rollin’ Stoned” getting airplay on the local radio station though and to my surprise, I recently read it even went to #8 on the Billboard Rock charts at the time.

The album is a bit mellow and laidback with most of the album being mid-tempo. The sound is a bit more, dare I say, “mature”, and the band only really lets loose on “Gone to the Dogs”, but the whole album is still just good ol’ rock & roll. “Loveless Age” is classic Great White.

The album cover is one of my absolute favorites. It’s reminds me of Lisa Frank!

Highlights: “Rollin’ Stoned”, “Ain’t No Shame”, “Silent Night”, “In the Tradition”, “Loveless Age”

http://www.mistabone.com/
http://www.myspace.com/officialgreatwhite

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