Reunions are a fickle beast. Sometimes they work, sometimes they are a callous attempt to make some money and sometimes they are initially a response to a rose tinted view of the past but turn out to be better than before. Europe, Journey and Accept are three names that have released ‘come back’ albums in the last few years and arguably sound better than ever! Night Ranger have funnily enough never really have a “comeback” album; they split up for three years (which is about the same amount of time it took Guns N’ Roses to release their second proper album). The closest would have been 2007’s Hole in The Sun which was the first album of new material in 8 or so years.
Back in the early 80’s Night Ranger were part of the hair metal/AOR crossover group of bands that took hold. Catchy hooks, ballads flashy guitar work were name of the game back then. Some 30 odd years later nothing has changed for Night Ranger.
High Road is their new release and apart from the production being even more polished it’s still as good as ever. Ok the title track is a little too poppy for me for this album, it sounds like it should have been for a band 20 years younger (and it would have made a ton of money its a quality pop song.) ‘Knock Knock never stop’ is supremely catchy but its still not quite Night Ranger, thats left up to the next track ‘Rollin On’ which is getting even closer to the familiar ripping guitar work of Brad Gillis add to that Jack Blades voice settling down and warming up High Road is starting to get going!! ‘Don’t Live Here Anymore’ and ‘Im Coming Home’ are pure 80’s in the best way possible. ‘X Generation’ is a little cliched lyrically but to be honest its worth it for the guitar solo and played loud who is really going to care!! No AOR album would be complete with a power love ballad and High Road’s ‘Only For You Only’ is right up there in its “more than words” appeal to those who like to indulge! “St Bartholomews” sounds like an old Ozzy/Deep Purple track that Brad Gillis may have had sneaking around for a little while and is the stand out track for me on this album, it is really a chance for the band to let loose.
Most AOR/ Hair metal albums for me have the same complaint and that there is too much of an rollercoaster effect with them, once you start really getting to grips with it they stick in a ballad and it takes a few more songs to get going again only for another ballad to finish the album High Road is exactly the same. When its good its superb and when the ballads hit it is still a good album just a bit too slow. I’d say get the album stick all the high tempo stuff together then pick a ballad to finish the album. If you enjoy 80’s cheese even ironically or as a guilty pleasure you can’t really go wrong with Night Ranger’s ‘High Road’
Verdict: Song wise superb, one ballad too many for me but that’s personal preference.
Stand out tracks; Rollin On and St Bartholomews