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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

MONSTERS OF ROCK

Various Artists – Monsters of Rock (1998, Razor & Tie)

Track Listing:
1. “Cum on Feel the Noize” – Quiet Riot … 4:51
2. “Once Bitten Twice Shy” – Great White … 5:22
3. “Poison” – Alice Cooper … 4:30
4. “The Final Countdown” – Europe … 5:11
5. “Round and Round” – Ratt … 4:24
6. “Cherry Pie” – Warrant … 3:20
7. “Here I Go Again” – Whitesnake … 4:35
8. “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” – Poison … 4:20
9. “Seventeen” – Winger … 4:05
10. “Cult of Personality” – Living Colour … 4:54
11. “We’re Not Gonna Take It” – Twisted Sister … 3:39
12. “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” – Judas Priest … 5:08
13. “Nobody’s Fool” – Cinderella … 4:48
14. “Hold on Loosely” – .38 Special … 4:37
15. “Turn up the Radio” – Autograph … 4:34
16. “Sister Christian” – Night Ranger … 4:56

Ahh… The hair metal compilation that gave rise to all the rest of the imitators and countless sequels from Razor & Tie.

Razor & Tie initially pushed many of their compilations (love songs, country, 80s, etc.) through their 800 number. I remember many of these ads over on cable stations like TBS and WGN. I *think* there was even a 2-disc version of Monsters of Rock that was only available by ordering over the phone.

Anyway, tons of classics here, though I would argue the inclusion of .38 Special, Autograph, Night Ranger and Living Colour (I really hate “Cult of Personality” anyway). You can’t go wrong with these songs. Though I would eventually own all the albums that these songs were taken from, this was a great introduction for me to the genre when, up to that point, I had really only gotten heavy in GNR, Poison and Bon Jovi.

My fondest memory is playing this one constantly when my family moved from Virginia to Florida in June 1998. I had no friends and nowhere to go and this album received CONSTANT play in my room that summer. Also, Monsters of Rock gave me a great “I REMEMBER THAT SONG!” moment with Alice Cooper’s “Poison”. I had totally forgotten about that massive comeback hit for The Coop.

This album pretty much set the standard for pop metal comps and usually knockoff CDs basically just took this tracklisting and hit ‘shuffle’.

VH1: The Big 80’s Power Ballads

VH1: The Big 80’s Power Ballads (1999, Rhino Records)

Track Listing:
1. “Fly to the Angels” – Slaughter … (5:08)
2. “Something to Believe In”  – Poison … (5:30)
3. “Amanda”  – Boston … (4:17)
4. “I Want to Know What Love Is” – Foreigner 5:01
5. “Alone Again”  – Dokken … (4:22)
6. “House of Pain”  – Faster Pussycat … (5:47)
7. “The Search Is Over” – Survivor … (4:13)
8. “Is This Love” – Whitesnake … (4:43)
9. “We Belong” – Pat Benatar … (3:39)
10. “Don’t Close Your Eyes”  – Kix … (4:19)
11. “What Does It Take”  – Honeymoon Suite … (4:16)
12. “Missing You” – John Waite … (4:29)
13. “Miles Away” – Winger … (4:12)
14. “When the Children Cry” – White Lion … (4:07)
15. “Goodbye” – Night Ranger … (4:21)
16. “Fly High Michelle” – Enuff Z’nuff … (4:17)

The late 1990s and early 2000s were a time of 80s nostalgia. Clothes, movies, music. One of the biggest flagwavers of 80s retro was VH1, who scored with the popular Behind The Music show, Pop Up Videos, and tons of 1980s-centric specials.

Not surprisingly, they also released their own compilations of 80’s tunes in a series called The Big 80’s. The Monster series of hair metal compilations from Razor & Tie Records proved popular and one of their most popular entries was Monster Ballads, so it only made sense for VH1 to release their own CD of hair ballads and tie it all in with the Big 80’s series.

There are TONS of other power ballad comps out there on the market, but this one and Monster Ballads are the absolute best and the bonus is that the people at Rhino & VH1 must’ve been paying attention because there’s only three songs that appear on both compilations (“Something to Believe In”, “Is This Love” and “Don’t Close Your Eyes”).

Essentially, this *is* a hair ballad CD, though a few artists like Boston, Honeymoon Suite, Foreigner, Pat Benatar, Survivor and John Waite slip in, but the songs fit right in with the mood. Even if those artist aren’t hair metal acts, they certainly did produce hair metal ballads.
Power ballads are what got me into the hair scene in the first place (every hair metal act should have 2 or 3 great ones in their catalog), so this is right up there as one of my favorite albums. And yes, being the sap that I am, I would crank this during troubled relationship times when I was younger.

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”

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