Jack Blades - lead vocals, bass; Kelly Keagy - drums, lead vocals; Jeff Watson - lead guitar; Brad Gillis - guitar; Alan Fitzgerald - keyboards
This recording of Night Ranger was captured for the King Biscuit Flower Hour at the University of Northern Michigan on August, 8th 1984. This concert finds the band at an exciting time in their career, as they had just released their million-plus selling smash-hit LP, Midnight Madness, and the listener can feel the excitement of the fans and swagger of a young band at the height of its powers.
After a short introduction, the quintet blasts straight into the pentatonic stomp of "Touch of Madness." While they were predominantly known for their power ballad "Sister Christian," they quickly show off their legitimate hard rock chops. The opener, like many of the group's upbeat songs, is led by the cocksure snarl of vocalist/bassist Jack Blades and the guitar pyrotechnics of the shred-happy Jeff Watson, who is known for his bombastic eight-finger tapping.
From there, they head into the moody, undeniably catchy "Rumors in the Air." For the first time, keyboardist Alan Fitzgerald gets into the act, showing that he can hang with Watson. The group really hits its stride with the anthemic "When You Close Your Eyes." The song was a big hit for group, and it is easy to see why, as it features Blades' soaring vocals, a powerful lead line from Watson, and a catchy chorus melody. Another highlight is drummer Kelly Keagy's furious solo at the end of "Night Ranger."
The group dedicates its most famous song, "Sister Christian," to "all the sisters in the crowd," and under the poignant piano melody, the listener can hear the kind of rabid "tween" screaming usually saved for New Kids on the Block. Keagy takes over on lead vocals, and he is just as confident and powerful as Blades. Though the song undoubtedly helped the group be heard by a large smattering of people, it's a shame that some have written them off as a one-hit wonder, because, as you can hear on this recording, they have legitimate rock chops and wrote many great songs. Though some will only remember Night Ranger for a five-minute cut on their Power Ballads album, those who took the time to listen to the rest of their material know that they wrote legitimate rock songs. This recording is a testament to that ability and is a treasure for both die-hard and new fans.
Night Ranger formed in San Francisco in 1982 and enjoyed widespread popularity in the 1980s. Over their 20-plus year career, they have sold over 10 million albums and sold out countless concerts throughout the world. The group formed out of the ashes of the funk group Rubicon. Once the group split up in 1979, three of its members—Jack Blades (vocals, bass), Kelly Keagy (drums), and Brad Gillis (guitar)—formed a melodic hard rock band called Stereo. Soon, the trio added lead guitarist Jeff Watson and keyboard player Alan Fitzgerald and changed their name to Night Ranger.
Their first album, 1982's Dawn Patrol, was a moderate success and features the group's first Top 100 hit "Don't Tell Me You Love Me." Their follow-up, Midnight Madness, would be the group's finest hour. The album was released in 1983, a time when radio-friendly heavy metal was tearing up the charts, and Night Ranger's slick sound, strong melodies, and hard rock edge helped the quintet gain some steam. The record features their biggest hit, the classic power ballad "Sister Christian." The song was penned by drummer Kelly Keagy about a visit he made to his sister where he was stunned by how fast she had grown up since he had seen her last. Though they are known for this ballad, the group shows their ability to play slick hard rock, notably on favorites like "(You Can Still) Rock in America" and "Touch of Madness."
Though they went on to make more well-received albums, they never quite reached the popularity of Midnight Madness. Blades left the group in 1989 and formed Damn Yankees with Tommy Shaw of Styx and Ted Nugent. The group released two popular albums, but by 1994, Damn Yankees were no more. Blades returned to the fold in 1996, and since then, the group has released three more albums, including 2008's Hole in the Sky. Though the three records obviously didn't touch their previous successes, the band remains fairly popular, especially in Asia (where they are extremely popular), and they continue to play shows all over the world.