SANDY ” When the members of the San Franciso-based hard rock quintet Night Ranger went into the studio to write and record their latest album, they weren’t sure what direction it would take.
“When you go into record, you never know,” drummer Kelly Keagy told the Deseret News in a recent interview. “It was kind of a go with the flow thing. We did want to go back to some basic riffs, chord changes and melodies. We didn’t think we were going to write like our first three albums.”
But that’s exactly what the band ended up with.
Night Ranger’s latest album, Somewhere in California, is a throwback to the band’s first three albums. In other words, it’s the best album the band has released since making their mark on the rock world in the 1980’s.
“Somewhere in California” finds the band singing about what they know bestgrowing up in California. And even though Keagy talks about “basic” guitar riffs, there is nothing basic about the blazing guitar work laid down by Brad Gillis and Joel Hoekstra (who has been moonlighting with “Rock of Ages” since it began its successful Broadway run). With Keagy and Jack Blades on vocals, the album is filled with classic Night Ranger melodic choruses and crunching guitar work.
Keagy said as opposed to past albums, when the band got together to write what would become Somewhere in California, everyone came with an clean slate.
“We got in a room together and had no finished ideas,” he said. “With this, we started from scratch. We got in a room and just jammed out. We had no preconceived ideas. We started with a guitar riff or a cool chorus, vocal idea. It just rolled and we kept with it.”
Thursday, Night Ranger will be at Rio Tinto Stadium where the triple classic rock bill of Journey, Foreigner and Night Ranger will launch their summer American tour. The three groups combined bring a large catalog of some of the biggest arena rock songs of the ’70s and ’80s. “Don’t Stop Believin,” “Anyway You Want It,” “Double Vision,” and “Cold as Ice” to name a small few.
Night Ranger has their own archive of anthems in “(You Can Still) Rock in America,” “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me” and “Sister Christian,” one of the biggest power ballads of the ’80s. What Night Ranger will bring to the tour that the other bands don’t is not one, but two, original lead singers still with the band.
Next year marks the 30th anniversary of the Night Ranger’s debut album, Dawn Patrol. Keagy remembers it as a busy but exciting time for the young band who essentially wrote Dawn Patrol and their follow up album, Midnight Madness (which was released the following year), at the same time. Followed by Seven Wishes in 1985, Night Ranger released three albums in their first four years.
“I just remember the first two albums kind of ran together. In one year we made two records and did a bunch of touring,” Keagy said. “When we made the first album, we made the second album as well.”
Keagy said back then, the band rented a studio that was adjacent to offices on either side of the walls.
“We had to wait until after 6 to record any loud volume and guitars and drums,” he said. “People would be banging on the door saying, ‘You’re making too much noise.’ Cops were showing up at 1 a.m. saying, ‘What’s that horrible noise?'”
One of the songs written during that time was “Sister Christian,” a song that was written in time for the first album, but the band decided to hold off until the second album to release it. Keagy wrote the song about his sister, Christy. The song was about her growing up and Keagy’s way of telling her she’d be just fine in the world.
The band, however, couldn’t understand what he was singing. They initially thought Keagy was singing Christian, and Sister Christy became Sister Christian.
“We said, ‘Yeah, that works better.’ (My sister) loved it right away. She thought about changing her name to Christian,” Keagy said.
The Journey Eclipse Tour, with Foreigner and Night Ranger, starts at 7 p.m. Thursday.