HardReviews 2
by Martin Popoff

Hole In The Sun (VH1 Classics)

First record in a decade for this band of expert songwriters and players, Hole In The Sun has been out in Japan and Europe for a while, but now sees proper North American issue. And man, what a clinic in being classy. Night Ranger is still about a couple or three things. One of those is studio texture, Hole In The Sun zested with all manner of modern percussive tips 'n' tricks, dirty guitars, clean guitars, harmonies, and of course, shared lead vocals from two very different voices, bassist Jack Blades and drummer Kelly Keagy (to compensate live, Night Ranger goes with a cool drummer at side-stage set-up). Twin guitars blast away exuberantly, although Brad Gillis' longtime dueler Jeff Watson has since been replaced sine the record was made. Another big thing in the Night Ranger sound is an almost humorous or self-deprecating sense of melody that weirdly makes the band sound mature, aware of their place or sumthin'. On the surface it's sorta Beatles/Cheap Trick, but there's this vibe of entertaining with a chuckle. You gotta compare a band like this with Def Leppard and Bon Jovi, but Night Ranger beats that juvenile underwriting couple hands-down, deserving to be more so in a Tesla camp, and in a way Deep Purple and Styx as well, this pocket of bands comfortable with the idea that aging brings experience and knowledge. All four have found a way to write their best songs ever, without trying to recreate the past - it's like a true moving forward. So yeah, look for sizzle and energy and anthemic hard rock as well as balladry, but all of it quite complex of event and arrangement, and then nicely glossed over with this sense of joking about casually at a songwriting clinic populated by way too many top-flight songwriters, who frankly, could - and do - do a whole lot more with their prodigious talents than jes' being in Night Ranger.
Rating 8

The Glory Years (Eagle Vision)

One of the fiercest yet woefully under-rated bands of the grey end of the NWOBHM (!), Gillan are captured in '81, at the height of their powers, after their classic third album Glory Road, shortly before their varied fourth, Future Shock. More than adequate sound works in concert with a punchy set, the band on fire, the composite of their amusingly rag-tag personas making for a village of loveable dunces like a Deep Purple on speed and punk rock attitude. Not the best set, but we do get 'Mr. Universe' and 'Unchain Your Brain' so count me happy. Great fun in the bonus material, including a live promo vid for the sassy and classy 'Sleeping On The Job', 'Trouble' for TV (yeah, I know, a '50s cover, but look at these lugans make noise!), plus three more similarly lip-synched, and 'Vengeance' that looks played live (but maybe not), Gillan spitting and sputtering with potency. The abstract that falls out of this is a sense of Gillan's crazy band chemistry, McCoy and Torme unleashing the caterwauling white-knuckle noise, Towns like a circus pants Manzarek putting it all through a kaleidoscope. But man, as much as I love this band, they really didn't pick the songs I'd like to be hearing live, often throwing in the long jammy power ballady stuff, as well as 'Trouble' and 'Vengeance' when there are arguably, like 25 of the greatest 150 songs ever written all over their slammin' studio spreads. OK, back to earth - as DVDs go, this is average fare, even for an archival thing, but man, I'm still just crazy thankful this footage exists.
Rating 8.5

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