All Access Rating: B+
|Night Ranger - High Road 2014|
Then, when the song took flight, it soared on wings of big guitars and a shining chorus of cautious hope. Along with it rose Night Ranger's career arc, scaling heights that may have seemed impossible at one time to Jack Blades and company. But, there was a catch.
Increasingly seen as somewhat soft and their All-American image squeaky clean, as Night Ranger's appeal grew among those of more conservative and family-friendly tastes, the memory of hot-blooded hard-rock anthems like "Don't Tell Me You Love Me" began to fade for some. That's the "deal with the devil" bands like Night Ranger made in the '80s, as fans wanting something edgier and darker gradually drifted away.
Of course, diehard followers knew better. Still, ever since then, it seems these good ol' boys of arena-rock bombast have walked a fine line between trying to restore their reputation as a full-throttle, fiery rock band with a signature double-barreled, fiery guitar attack and pleasing those who melt for earnest, heartfelt pop balladry. On their latest record, High Road, they're still to make everybody happy.
And they should be overjoyed at what the Frontiers Records release High Road has in store for them, as crunchy, pulse-pounding, melodic rockers such as "X Generation," "I'm Coming Home" and "Hang On" slam forward with confidence born of past successes and a sense that they damn well know what they're doing, planting a bevy of brilliant hooks in the furrows of each track and the combination of guitarists Brad Gillis and Joel Hoekstra firing off sizzling, screaming leads at will.
And they've penned the ultimate summer driving anthem of 2014 with an exuberant, sunny title track that tastes freedom as Night Ranger hauls ass to the desert to get away from it all, the song a heady, infectious anthem that worships the sun and is an almost perfect pop-rock concoction. Aside from these examples, there's a sense in listening to High Road that Night Ranger hasn't really progressed or improved its formula, as the soul-baring "Don't Live Here Anymore," while sincere and open, seems trite and the somber "Only For You Only" follows the same well-worn trajectory and song structure of "Sister Christian."
Nevertheless, High Road is, at heart, a good, rollicking rock 'n' roll record, one meant to be played loud as the road underneath you rolls by. Get in the car, and take off on Night Ranger's High Road, leaving your cares behind. It'll feel like the '80s never went away.
– Peter Lindblad