BY JAY ROBERTS (SPECIAL TO LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE)
The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s that I have acquired through Purchase Street Records in New Bedford, MA.
The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from the I 1980’s through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums.
These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.
NIGHT RANGER – MAN IN MOTION (1988)
I have to admit that while I was a big fan of Night Ranger during the two album stint where they hit the platinum sales level (Midnight Madness and 7 Wishes), my interest lapsed as the decade of the 80’s hit its latter stages. I didn’t really pay much attention to the gold selling Big Life beyond the soundtrack hit “Secret Of My Success” and by the time 1988’s Man In Motion album came out, it is safe to say that I was not much of a fan. In fact, the only thing I remember during this period was reading in the newspaper that keyboardist Alan Fitzgerald had left the band before the recording of the album. How about that, music news being reported in the newspaper!
In the case of this particular album, I probably should’ve been paying more attention. While the album isn’t a masterpiece of melodic hard rock, there are some rather decent gems here. The album is less laden with the keyboard sound that made the band famous. Instead, it is a more aggressively guitar oriented album.
The title track leads off the album and wastes no time showing off the change in musical direction. It has an edgier lead vocal take and there is a killer solo. “Right On You” also had an edgier vocal run through.
There are a couple of ballads on the album but one of them, “Restless Kind,” is really good and the most recognizable song of the eleven cuts. The other featured ballad, the mid-tempo “I Did It For Love” inspired nothing but a shrug of the shoulders on my part.
“Reason To Be” started off like it was going to be another slow declaration of some intended feeling but the middle section was more of an exhilaratingly paced rocker before it slowed back down at the fade out.
I found that the album did in fact shine best when the band’s sound cut loose and amped up the six string sound. Songs like “Love Shot Me Down,” “Halfway To The Sun” and the rather less than subtly titled “Kiss Me Where It Hurts” all feature fantastic guitar work with the latter song having a solo that I just loved.
In researching the album online for writing this article, it was interesting to note that it reached just #81 on the album chart. The album proved to be a bit of a breaking point for the band, at least for a while. Besides the departure of keyboardist Fitzgerald (who still had a co-writing credit on “Don’t Start Thinking (I’m Alone Tonight)”), singer/bassist Jack Blades left the band after the touring cycle for the album. It was at this point he went on to form Damn Yankees with Ted Nugent and Tommy Shaw.
Man in Motion was the last album for the band until 1995. It was largely ignored by fans but upon taking a look back nearly 30 years later, it is a surprisingly good record. It may lack the big commercial hit that the band likely (and the record company definitely) would have wanted but it shows more of a rocking edge and is an early look at the band’s sound as it is now.
I’ve really gotten into the band over the last three or four years. I saw them live in concert for the first time back in 2014 and their High Road album is mostly fantastic. Their latest album was released this year and is called Don’t Let Up.
NOTES OF INTEREST: Pop singer Michael Bolton co-wrote “Here She Comes Again.” While the band hired Jesse Bradman as their keyboardist for the tour, he was not one of the four keysman to have a credit on the Man In Motion album. Meanwhile, Alan Fitzgerald returned to the band’s lineup, recording the albums Neverland and Seven, but he left the group again in 2003.