CD Review of Hole in the Sun by Night Ranger

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Hole in the Sun
starstarstarstarno star Label: Frontiers
Released: 2007
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Hole in the Sun is the first Night Ranger album in nine years. The boys from Ranger have kept busy: Jack Blades recording and writing with Tommy Shaw, Kelly Keagy releasing records in Europe, and Brad Gillis producing and creating music for video games and ESPN. Add in the little nugget that longtime guitarist Jeff Watson apparently acrimoniously split from the band after Hole was completed and shredder extraordinaire Reb Beach (Winger, Whitesnake) will be handling touring duties, and Night Ranger has crammed in a heck of a lot in the last several months after not recording anything for such a long time.

The boys apparently decided to crank this up to eleven with blazing guitars and releasing a very heavy record. This is a guitar record with the keyboards turned way down because Ranger wants to and succeeds in totally “RAAAWKING.” The first four tracks, “Tell Your Vision,” “Drama Queen,” “You’re Gonna Hear From Me,” and “Whatever Happened,” tear up the stereo with glorious guitar shredding and layered vocal choruses. Keagy slows it down with a ballad about hope and love in “There Is Life,” which is a little bit “Sister Christian” and reminiscent of “The Magic,” a cut he sang on the one-off European supergroup self-titled disc, the Mob (which consisted of Reb Beach, Doug Pinnick of King’s X and keyboardist Timothy Drury). “Life” begins with Keagy’s voice accompanied by piano before builds to those wonderful harmonies and a restrained but effective guitar solo. It might be familiar and not original but it is incredibly well done.

“White Knuckle Ride,” “Hole in the Sun,” and “Wrap It Up” also pound home the point that after nine years, Night Ranger woke up heavy and in a very riff-happy mode. These songs are good, old-fashioned, well-produced riff-o-licious tracks. There are a just a couple of missteps on the record, like the balladry of “Revelation 4AM” which doesn’t sound like it fits on this set, and the added bonus acoustic or unplugged version of “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me.” That song is a great ‘80s rock anthem and the unplugged version takes the sting out of it.

I hope they don’t wait another 9 years before putting out another record because Hole in the Sun is great “RAWKIN” fun. I think the album sounds energized by the side projects that all these guys are involved in. When you take a little bit of those individual experiences and mix it with their chemistry, you get a very good Night Ranger album that shows the band can evolve a bit while still retaining the sound that made them huge headliners years ago. “Whatever Happened” and “There is Life” is as good as anything they have committed to record. Bravo, boys… Bravo.

~R. David Smola