HardReviews 2
by Martin Popoff

NIGHT RANGER - Somewhere In California
(Frontiers)

Ten records in, Night Ranger shift slightly from the more thoughtful, equally cool Hole In The Sun sound back to their patented zesty life-affirming twist on hair metal. But that tag would be a form of dismissal, 'cos Night Ranger were somewhat of a proto-hair thing, like Loverboy or New England, as a result, forging a new sweet rockin' alloy all on their lonesome, which is so brilliantly pulled forward 30 years here. It's talent that makes Somewhere In California soar so gloriously, the talent of arrangement, of multiple lead vocalists hollerin' their hearts out, of gushed melody, of smoking yet memorable guitar solos when Gillis is so inclined to spice the already spiced. The abstract with these inspirers is always a sense of seething, face-flung energy, perhaps best personified by the personality of Jack Blades, and that's all over this record - particularly, see 'It's Not Over' and hopped-up opener 'Growin' Up In California'. Furthermore, Night Ranger are the kings of purpose to the parts, with breaks, pre-choruses and choruses always taking those in need of a pick-up, up. At the metal end, man, capability again, 'cos these guys always give you the impression that they want to rock out more than allowed, so when they do, they make it count (like each day of their dwindling years - yet another subconscious message), as with 'End Of The Day' and 'Lay It On Me', the latter a great snarler, yet still, convertible rock like the more ear-candied candies.
Rating 10

IRON CLAW - A Different Game
(Ripple Music)

Crazy story here, with Iron Claw being a Scottish hard rock act in existence from '69 to '74, yet lost until a Rockadrome issue of their archival material, 'cos there had never been an album. Flash forward, and the weathered Scots reconvene for new music, incorporating only a non-original vocalist, one Gordon Brown (not the unemployed pol from further south, I don't think), a perfect choice given his barrel-chested Nicky Moore roar. And a very cool album like Moore-era Samson results, steeped in bluesy, rootsy metal, no surprise given that some of these songs and song parts hail from the original era (suspiciously, none seem to be on the 16 track Rockadrome release). This is of course a negative as well, given that riffs by a band with no (unworthy of a?) deal back in the early '70s can't be expected to have songs that hold up or surpass after the imaginings of 250 retro/stoner rock bands slide-ruling old rock songs like this since 1995. But that infusion of authenticity wafts abstractly and one feels in the presence of history, history proudly presented through killer production, stellar almost-live chops 'n' groove, and again, a perfect singer for these old dogs. Trivia note: back in the day, the band (named for a reference in '21st Century Schizoid Man') had incorporated the entire first Sabbath album - and single! - into their hurly-burly live set.
Rating 7

Hard Reviews Page 3