Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Night Ranger - Midnight Madness

Following up on their debut album Dawn Patrol from 1982 (click here for that review), Night Ranger returned to the charts in 1983 with Midnight Madness. This one hit pay dirt for the band, peaking at number 15 on the US Billboard Album chart.

Side one begins with “(You Can Still) Rock in America”. Released as the first single, it hit number 51 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 15 on the US Mainstream Rock charts. I love the raging, high energy guitars from Jeff Watson and Brad Gillis at the start of this one; it gets me right into it. Drummer Kelly Keagy keeps the beat going on this anthem too. Glenn Hughes, formerly of Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, sings backing vocals on the track.

The mid-tempo “Rumors in the Air”, a song about speculations, is next. Alan Fitzgerald’s keyboards are spotlighted on this track.

The B-side to the third single was “Why Does Love Have to Change”. The production de-emphasized the guitars on this track in favor of the keyboards; I wonder if that was a good call.

“Sister Christian”, the second single, helped break the band globally. Keagy wrote the song for his then-teenaged sister Christy who he felt had grown up so fast. Besides reaching number 5 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 2 on the Mainstream Rock chart, this ballad went to number 99 in Australia, number 67 in Germany and number 1 in Canada. The song eventually was ranked at number 32 on VH-1’s 100 Greatest Songs of the 1980’s. I happen to really like this song, always finding myself singing right along with it. The piano melody it opens with is simply beautiful.

Side two opens with “Touch of Madness”, a chaotic rocker that starts with a music box breaking down. This is a powerful deep track, with thundering drums and blazing guitars, that really showcases the band’s chops.

“Passion Play” builds from a very low and slow intro to a steady middle of the road rhythm. The lyrics are a bit lackluster for my tastes though. After five strong songs before it, I was likely due to hit one that was a little weaker.

The third single “When You Close Your Eyes” went to number 41 in Canada and number 14 on the US Billboard Hot 100. I can remember this one getting a lot of airplay back in the late spring and early summer of 1984. It reminds me a lot of Rick Springfield’s early 80’s music, which I think is a good thing.

“Chippin’ Away”, the B-side to the second single, sort of does that for me with this album’s momentum. While not the worst song on the record, for me, it does seem like it had some potential that could have been further exploited.

“Let Him Run”, the final track, was the B-side to the first single. This one really pares the instruments down to an almost acoustic level, dipping into a melodic progressive rock saunter. After such powerful openings on both sides, it sort of ends things up on a very mellow note.

Rolling Stone magazine ranked Midnight Madness at number 36 on its year-end-of-1984 chart. That was definitely fueled by three mega-hit singles and a couple of the deeper cuts. For me, I knew the singles but not the rest. There are definitely a couple here I need to add to my music library, just so I have a solid representation from the record.

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