It’s been 35 years since Night Ranger released their guitar-driven debut, Dawn Patrol. The album ushered in the band’s hook-laden, twin-guitar sound—a sound heard on songs like “Don’t Tell Me You Love” and “(You Can Still) Rock in America.”
The band also helped define the Eighties with songs like “When You Close Your Eyes,” “Sentimental Street” and, of course, “Sister Christian.”
Today (March 24), the band released a new album, Don’t Let Up, and it’s an obvious next step for a crew that’s been rocking for more than three decades. Songs like “Somehow Someway” and “Nothing Left of Yesterday” conjure that blistering, dual-guitar attack—now featuring trade-offs by Brad Gillis and new guitarist Keri Kelli—while “Comfort Me” and “Truth” offer hope in uncertain times.
In the end, Don’t Let Up reflects exactly what Night Ranger continues to be: a kick-ass American rock band. Night Ranger is Jack Blades (lead vocals/bass), Kelly Keagy (lead vocals/drums), Brad Gillis (guitar), Eric Levy (keyboards) and Keri Kelli (guitar).
I recently spoke with Blades and Gillis about Don’t Let Up, gear and a lot more.
This year marks the 35th anniversary of Dawn Patrol. What goes through your mind when you look back to that era?
BLADES: A sea of emotions. It’s interesting to think that it’s been 35 years because sometimes it feels like 35 days. When you start out, you figure you’re going to be in a rock band for a while and then hope for the best. Who would have thought we’d be here now, 35 years later, talking about a new Night Ranger album? We’re one of the survivors.
GILLIS: What goes through my mind was how exciting the Eighties were and the Cinderella story of how I got the gig with Ozzy Osbourne and toured the world. Then taking everything I learned from that experience and carrying it into Night Ranger. I think about how Ozzy’s Speak of the Devil and our Dawn Patrol were released on the same week in October 1982 and then jumping right into a major Night Ranger tour. It was a great era, and to still be doing it 35 years later is pretty amazing.
What’s it like having guitarist Keri Kelli in the band?
BLADES: Kerri’s great and is a perfect addition. He brings in a unique groove and Stones-ish feel to the band. He’s the guy who pulls everything all together and fits in perfectly with Brad. They get along great, and he and Eric Levy are very in tune to the history of Night Ranger and the music we’ve created. They bring ideas and an attitude that’s really worked out well.
What was the writing process like for Don’t Let Up?
GILLIS: Basically, we started out by going to Kelly’s home in Nashville with the nucleus of the band [which consists of myself, Jack and Kelly] and wrote about six songs in a few days. Then we came back to my place and wrote a few more, and then flew to Jack’s to do a few more. Then we brought in Keri and Eric to put the icing on the cake and round out the record. We stuck with our format of big choruses and the dual-guitar assault with different styles of soloing.
BLADES: The process was laid out like we’ve always done: Let’s get in there and jam. That’s exactly what we did.
Read the rest of my
Interview with Jack Blades and Brad Gillis Here!
While several Eighties rock bands have gone the “human jukebox” route — touring behind their catalog of hits without releasing new material — Night Ranger continue to buck the trend.
For the band’s new album, High Road, which will be released June 10, Night Ranger take us back to their roots — a time when inspired songwriting, huge guitar riffs and harmony solos and vocals ruled the airwaves. It’s a formula that never gets old.
High Road will be available in two formats — standard CD and a deluxe version, which includes a bonus instrumental track and a DVD featuring a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the album, plus video clips.
Night Ranger is Jack Blades (bass guitar, vocals), Kelly Keagy (drums, vocals), Brad Gillis (lead and rhythm guitars), Joel Hoekstra (lead and rhythm guitars) and Eric Levy (keyboards).
I recently spoke with Gillis about High Road, his early years and his biggest career highlight. I also got an update on his upcoming solo project.
GUITAR WORLD: How does a Night Ranger album project begin?
There are three factors we look for whenever we make a new record: big vocals, the sound/song structure and the harmony guitars and vocals. I think it’s great for a band to stick to their roots and what made them famous instead of always trying to delve off into too many new territories and confusing their core audience.
You can read the rest of my
Interview with Brad Gillis by Clicking Here!
Thirty years ago, Night Ranger were transformed from an opening act to a headliner with the release of their album Midnight Madness. The 1983 record became a smash hit within months of its October release, thanks to tracks like “Sister Christian,” “(You Can Still) Rock in America” and “When You Close Your Eyes.”
For Night Ranger guitarist and founding member Brad Gillis, the time between then and now seems like a lifetime. Over the years, in addition to recording and touring with Night Ranger, Gillis has released solo albums and written hundreds of songs for the ESPN network.
Although his greatest fame came with Night Ranger, Gillis is also remembered for replacing Randy Rhoads in Ozzy Osbourne’s band immediately after Rhoads’ death while on tour with Ozzy in 1982. At the time, Night Ranger were still unknowns, whereas Osbourne was a star. Eventually, Gillis would be forced to choose between staying with Ozzy or continuing with Night Ranger.
Guitar World recently caught up with Gillis to talk with him about Midnight Madness, his tenure with Ozzy and his and Night Ranger’s forthcoming albums.
Read my interview with Brad Gillis by Clicking Here!
I still remember the first time I ever heard Night Ranger. My neighbor Mike, who lived next door to me growing up, called me up one Friday night and asked me if I wanted to go to the Palmer Mall. Back in the early 1980’s, having your parents drive you to the mall was all the rage. I suppose it still sort of is today but not like it was back then.
On the drive over in his parents big blue station wagon Mike asked his Mom to put in this beat up white cassette tape that he had. Mike had copied the tape from someone else and it was old school music piracy at it’s finest. “Jim, Wait until you listen to this band” he said. And from the time the first sounds of “You Can Still Rock in America” started coming over the scratchy speakers I was hooked.
“Who is this?” I asked Mike. I had no idea who this group was but it was different from anything the two of us had ever heard before. We had always been more of a Cars, REO Speedwagon and Rod Stewart type of fan that never let anything “new” enter our musical world. But this was different…and exciting.
“They’re called Night Ranger and they are friggin awesome!” Mike responded and I couldn’t agree more. All the way from our homes on South Side to Palmer Township we listened to that bootlegged tape. Hearing “Sister Christian”, “When You Close Your Eyes” and “Rumors in the Air” for the first time was thirteen year old male audio euphoria.
Upon arriving to the mall our first stop was to the Listening Booth, the only place in town to buy records. That’s where Mike redeemed himself and purchased the full on copy of the vinyl “Midnight Madness” record for us to enjoy as we played video games in his basement.
A year or so later I made one of my own very first vinyl album purchases. A copy of “Seven Wishes”, which was the follow-up to “Midnight Madness”. I remember Mike and I wearing that album out as well. We were so hooked on this band and were fortunate enough to see them live in concert at Stabler Arena. One of the best shows ever.
So now fast forward a few decades. Adult life has taken over for me and I’ve become the one listening to my daughter’s music as I drive her to the mall. As for Night Ranger? Well, they are still touring on occasion and releasing albums every so often. Some of it really great music although sadly, nothing on par with the success of the ones I mentioned earlier. The music industry has changed so much they’re just not welcome in the mainstream any more.
In March of this year, I discovered they had released another new record and were coming to my hometown for the first time in twenty some odd years and knew I had to be a part of it.
Additionally, they were offering ticket packages that included an awesome seat and a meet and greet with the band. In 1985, I probably couldn’t get anywhere near these guys. And now, for a C-note, you could get up close and personal. Which was right up my alley.
Seeing Night Ranger perform this past Wednesday night in Allentown was surreal. Most people today would have no idea who these guys are. Unless you play them a few bars of “Sister Christian” which has become they’re trademark. I found myself being taken back in the 80’s watching them perform those songs. I thought about Mike and that Friday night drive. Listening to this music for the first time. We were young, and everything was new.
Suffice to say, I was ecstatic to be ushered back to meet the band. Even though they had no idea who the hell I was, it was an emotional experience to shake hands with the guys that were indirectly a part of my teenage years.
I still had my “Seven Wishes” album that I managed to dig up from an old box in the basement. The album had sat in silence for years collecting dust. But now it too has become new as the three original members who played on it autographed it for me. The album will now be framed and adorn my wall to always remind me of that night.
The meet and greet also included one photo opportunity with the band and it was at that point that I made an odd request. I didn’t want the photograph to just be a pic of me smiling with the guys in the band. That would be too typical. No, I wanted it to be different. Something to remind me of my childhood. So in the end I brought along an empty box of Count Chocula, my favorite cereal growing up.
The band was very receptive to having the box in the picture with us. In reality though, I suspect they probably thought I was crazy because everyone I’ve shown the picture to tells me so. But the more I think about it, it’s probably a good thing if they think that way.
Because somewhere down the road, someone is going to interview them about their long, stoic career and ask them what was the oddest experience they’ve ever had with fans. And I can just picture them laughing and saying to each other:
“Hey, do you remember that guy that wanted his picture taken with a box of Count Chocula?”.