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 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 – BIG LIFE (1987)
For the third and presumably final spotlight feature on a Night Ranger album, it is time to check out the Big Life album. It is 30 years on from its initial release and aside from the inclusion of the soundtrack title cut for the Michael J. Fox comedy film The Secret of My Success, this is a mostly disappointing album.
The first side of the album has just four songs and after checking them out I asked myself two questions. The first was how did this album ever go gold? The second question was why would anyone want to listen to these four songs ever again?
Despite featuring the requisite melodic hooks you’d likely come to expect from the band, the songwriting felt so flat and uninspired that the biggest point of interest came from the song “Rain Comes Crashing Down” and that is because the title conjures up an image in my mind that the song didn’t really match. There’s a bit of an attempt at giving the musical soundtrack to the song a cinematic vibe but it just doesn’t come fully together.
The second side comes off a little better. It opens with the “The Secret Of My Success” from the movie I mentioned above. The song was co-written by David Foster (one of three people to garner a production credit on the album along with the band themselves) and it has all the hallmarks of an 80’s movie soundtrack hit. It’s got a heavy keyboard influence running throughout the song while a rocking guitar line competes for your attention. The vocals are very up in your face during the chorus as well.
The song “Carry On” is a pretty kicking rocker with a simply outstanding guitar cut powering the song. I thought “I Know Tonight” was an understated gem of a rocker though I think that is mostly due to enjoying another standout guitar line, but it also had a smartly crafted lyrical performance as well.
The other two songs on side two are mediocre at best and did nothing to fire the musical imagination for me at all.
The band’s commercial fortunes were definitely on the wane with this album and I can certainly understand why. You have to wade through an astonishingly large amount of filler to find the diamonds in need of a polish. It is certainly to the band’s credit that their songwriting feels so much stronger these days than here on Big Life.
Note of Interest: Vocalist Kevin Chalfant is credited with providing backing vocals on the album. He fronted the bands 707 and The Storm and was once targeted to be Steve Perry’s replacement in Journey though it never came to fruition.