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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Night Ranger – ’24 Strings and a Drummer.’ DVD / CD review

Night Ranger – ’24 Strings and a Drummer.’ DVD / CD review
Released on: Frontiers records.
Yes, I'm still around folks!
Well, this is another that should’ve been posted a long time ago, but with so much going on, again it got pushed back, but it is no less valid in fact, it’s bloody great and it’s a keeper if you ask me!
 Night Ranger's '24 Strings and a Drummer' with Joel Hoekstra playing 12 string a lot, Brad Gillis 6 string, Jack Blades 6 string mostly and drummer Kelly Keagy, it's a nice album.
Don't forget though, keyboard player Eric Levy is there too!
Regular readers know how much I already love this band, which is another reason why it pains me to have taken so long to get to this write up. These guys are so, so overlooked and I just hope that anyone that caught them out on the road this past summer or last year with Journey and Foreigner will have come to appreciate them a little more.
They just ooze class, they play so well and have so much fun too, that it just makes for a great concert experience.
So this was recorded in TRI Studios, San Rafael, California, so close to home for most of the guys.
Set in a small studio with an audience of very special guests, they walk out with acoustic  guitars, while drummer Kelly Keagy holds some hot rod sticks and they’re ready to rock ‘n’ roll, unplugged style!
 Unplugged is certainly different for Night Ranger, from their usually onstage and rockin’ performances, they’ve also re-arranged the songs structures to make it work with the acoustic angle and it’s great stuff.
 ‘This Boy Needs To Rock,’ opens events and at the start, I didn’t identify the track until Jack starts singing!
Nicely done guys!
It’s great to see these guys live in any situation, electric or unplugged, as they always come across as having fun at all times, but never to the point where they’re out of it as the music is always, ALWAYS, just so tight!
I’m fortunate to have met the guys on a few occasions, both before and after shows and that is just how they are, relaxed, fun loving guys, but always 100% on their game with the music.
Next up is ‘When You Close Your Eyes’ and again I wouldn’t have guessed it right away, as it almost comes across a little like the Eagles ‘Take It Easy’ as they start the song.
The band is truly blessed, I’m telling you with such talent in both their playing and their singing and all the harmonies are just great.
The nice thing about this gig is it really is like a ‘VH1 Storytellers’ gig and both Jack Blades and Kelly go into how they came to write ‘Sing Me Away.’ 
They come over so well, funny guys both of them.
It’s such a great song where it shows off nicely, the great combined talents of Brad Gillis and Joel Hoekstra’s class guitar playing, some nice harmony work indeed.
Then they introduce ‘Growing Up In California’ and Jack tells the story of how they grew up there, well with the exception of Joel and keyboard player Eric Levy. Jack rips on Joel that he’s from Chicago, but Jack says, ‘It’s OK, it’s OK if you weren’t raised here just make sure you pay your taxes if you do now!’ Funny guy!
Brad starts the song and it sounds great, even acoustically and when it comes to Brad’s solo, it’s something to see!
Again some great harmonizing stuff between the two players, really nice guys!
It’s kind of speech / PR work time next as Jack explains how they have to keep writing and making music as it’s so much a part of them and if they didn’t do it, they’d die inside.
He goes on to add that Night Ranger will continue to write and record new music and that we can expect to see a new Night Ranger album next year.
Kelly introduces the next song, ‘So let’s play an old song!’ Cue ‘Secret of my Success’ and yes, it sounds as good as ever!
Jack keeps up the main chat role, as he explains how they came to write the next song and it’s a real ‘Storytellers’ touch … I don’t want to tell you too much, but it’s all good stuff.
He rips on Kelly some about how we came to write this ballad and how they figure since it’s a ballad, we let Kelly sing them all!
Kelly responds by saying, ‘Thank you very much! I don’t mind, I’ll sing ‘em all day,’ which draws much laughter from both band members and the audience!
Then Jack goes ‘So this is a song about the avenues …’ Then he stops himself as he realizes he needs to introduce Eric Levy on keys, since he’s starting it!
He then starts talking about Eric’s introduction the band and how when you look at how he dresses, he may make you nervous with how he looks with the black ski hat, unshaven and that. So when they were on the road with Journey and Foreigner last year, no one would talk to him, ‘I mean look at him?!’
Loads of laughs, ‘and then when you do talk to him he’s got this quiet little friendly voice, then everyone loves him!
Eric Levy!'
He plays a great piano intro it really is very cool and a great song too!
Then Jack calls up Will Evankovich to join on bass and explains how Will also plays with Jack in a little combo with Tommy Shaw (Styx) called Shaw / Blades.
They play ‘Four In the Morning,’ which is another great track from their ‘Seven Wishes’ album.
Killer acoustic solo work from Joel once again.
After the song is done, Jack starts to tell the story behind the cheesy video they made and how people were criticizing them about how badly made it was and the band were all saying, that was how we were trying to make it!
Funny story, again, one you need to watch.
‘Let Him Run’ is introduced by Jack ‘as the very first song we all ever wrote together,’ as Kelly takes the centre stage stool to sing it with a couple of shakers in hand to keep time. Love the song, sounds great!
Kelly stays centre stage to then sing another power ballad in ‘Goodbye’ and once again, fine guitar work from both Joel and Brad and Brad provides an excellent acoustic solo.
Next track is certainly a track that has been hugely overlooked and has always been an absolute winner with me, ever since I first heard it on the ‘Neverland’ album.
‘Forever All Over Again’ got a lot of attention in Japan, but was sadly overlooked here and I still believe it deserved to be a huge hit, if only the band could’ve got some push at the time.
It’s a killer song and Joel plays the solo nicely.
Now you get the feeling we’re getting close to the end, with the next track ‘Don’t Tell Me You Love Me.’
I’ve heard this done acoustically before and these guys are just such pro’s, everything sounds great!
Brad starts to introduce how they did the video for the song and then Jack takes over telling the story, including a funny part with Kelly … You have to watch this folks.
Brad and Joel’s soloing is just killer!
Loads of applause at the end of the song, as the audience is thinking it’s the end of the set, but Jack says, ’Wait, there’s more!’
 ‘Sister Christian’ next and this …, you just really have to see!
Joel Hoekstra puts on a southern back country hillbilly accent and starts to tell the story of how Kelly Keagy came to write the song … BUT, it’s the way he does it, it is so funny, all this with the other guys keeping up a back beat.
Then other band members chip with funny voices too, it gets hilarious, it really does.
Then Joel introduces Eric Levy to start the song properly. It sounds great!
They joke around some more after the song finishes, making fun of Joel some for his accented narration!

So to the final song on the DVD and Jack starts to explain how when they first went on tour with Kiss, everyone at the time was saying that rock is dead or dying but that everywhere they went, the crowds were big, supportive and stronger than ever! 'So we decided to write that you can still rock here in America' and that was the song that ended up on second album ‘Midnight Madness.’
‘You Can Still Rock In America’ done acoustically, can this work? The answer, silly question of course it can!
Really love the harmony guitar part between Joel and Brad, it sounds great.
Night Ranger do most certainly ‘Still Rock In America’ electrically or acoustically!

This really is a great package with the DVD performance with great behind the scenes footage with interviews and more, but the CD that’s in the package too, includes a nice cover of Don Henley’s ‘Boys of Summer’ track.
 Go and get this folks, great music and a great band having at the same time too.
Keep on rockin’ in America AND the rest of the world too guys, you do a fine job!

Rating: 4.75 out of 5
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