Albums of the ’80s: Night Ranger – Midnight Madness

Hi Everybody, Robert is back to share another album with us. While Dawn Patrol, Night Ranger’s 1982 debut album, is outstanding, Midnight Madness is the band’s big breakthrough album. Most children of the ’80s know about 3 or 4 songs from this album. But, this album is great from top to bottom. As with our other albums and Top 40 Countdowns, you can click on the song title to hear the song and/or watch the video.
And after reading this, if you want to download the album, you can go ahead and buy it at Amazon.
OK Robert, now I need a touch, I need a touch of madness…

Night Ranger – Midnight Madness

 There are so many great rock albums that came out of the ‘80s that it  is difficult to choose which are my favorites. Many of these albums  have been reviewed right here on Return to the ‘80s, but there are  many others that deserve attention. I have recently been absorbed in my revisiting the supergroup Damn Yankees and learning the songs from the new supergroup Revolution Saints – and I realized that both of these bands have a member in common: bass player and vocalist Jack Blades. Now I have it. I know what band I have to write about – one of my all time favorites – Night Ranger. I no longer even try to break the 5 way tie I have for favorite band. The are (in no order because I just can’t) REO Speedwagon, Bon Jovi, Journey, Survivor, and Night Ranger.

Night Ranger has plenty of albums to choose from, but I am going to go with their breakthrough classic Midnight Madness.

Midnight Madness, released in 1983, is Night Ranger’s second studio album following their debut effort Dawn Patrol. This album still ranks as their most successful one selling over 1 million copies and peaking at #15 on Billboard’s album charts. This album features Night Ranger’s signature hard rocking style- great guitar work with irresistible hooks and choruses.

Recently, the band’s line up has undergone a few changes, but Midnight Madness features the original line up: Jack Blades on bass and vocals, Kelly Keagy on drums and vocals, Brad Gillis and Jeff Watson on guitars (yes, two guitarists – and they are amazing), and Alan Fitzgerald on keyboards. Enough background- let’s get to the fantastic rock music!

(You Can Still) Rock in America

From the opening guitar licks this song captures what it is like to be young, wild, and free – and a teenager growing up with the rock n’ roll blasting. The lyrics feature two such teens- one male and one female – each doing whatever it takes to experience the thrill of a live show:

Little sister makes a move for the door

The door squeaks she’s on the second floor

Her daddy wakes, ‘Is everything OK?’

Not a sound as she makes her getaway

Little brother’s got it ready to roll

Tires burning as they head for the show

Light it up and turn the music up loud

And rock it, rock it, rock it

Add to this fantastic dueling guitar solos and you have the perfect rock anthem. The video is from a live performance of this song. This makes is possible to hear how truly powerful this band is. Quick side note: the last time I saw Night Ranger, they opened with this song and oh my!!!

 

Rumours in the Air

Cool opening keyboards (actually throughout the song) and a topic that many of us are familiar with – love gone bad. Relationships do not always end with the fairy tale ‘together forever’, sometimes things end poorly – and sometimes they end so poorly that the one who is left behind feels it is necessary to make up stories about the other person. This song tells that story, “Rumors in the air like a thief in the night / Taking more than their share / Taking more than their right.” Great song with another solid guitar solo (yes, this is going to get repetitive).

Why Does Love Have to Change

I absolutely love the intro to this song- the guitar riff grabs the listener right away. This song features the unfortunate situation of a love that may have lasted too long, “Through the eyes things look different than before / Spark and the flame it will never be the same.” . . . and – wait for it – another great solo.

Sister Christian

This is Night Ranger’s biggest hit and by far their most famous song – and what is not to like about it? It is a near perfect rock ballad that drummer/lead vocalist Kelly Keagy wrote about his younger sister who was getting ready to strike out on her own. I love how the video begins with the ticking clock – time stands still for no one- which segues into the piano. The song itself begins with a quiet, pensive tone before Keagy’s drums kick in and the well known chorus arrives: (all sing along) “Your motoring, what’s your price for flight / In finding Mister Right / You’ll be alright tonight.” As good as Gillis’s solo is in this song, it pales by comparison to some of his other guitar work. As much as I love all of the piano and guitars, my favorite part of this song is how the drums take center stage; they add an intensely dramatic feel to the song and the lyrical pleading that is taking place: please slow down and do not try to grow up too fast.

Touch of Madness

This song opens with a jack-in-the-box playing and slowing down THEN the guitars kick in and imitate the jingle. Great opening to an extremely catchy song in which the rhythm guitars establish a great groove. Oh, and yes, another slick dual guitar solo.

Passion Play

This song has my favorite opening lyrics, “In a backstreet bar on the south side of town / Where the music never stops and the sun never hangs around.” Great song with yet another excellent guitar solo. I know I have mentioned the solos a few times, but each one adds so much to the song and never becomes redundant or predictable.

 

When You Close Your Eyes

It is impossible to hear the opening guitar and be able to turn this song off. This song features the power of having two excellent vocalists as Blades and Keagy take turns asking that painfully irresistible question: after a breakup, does that girl still have me on her mind? This is the first Night Ranger song that really grabbed my attention. I loved Sister Christian, but this song has a bit more to it. Despite it’s upbeat tempo, the pain in the lyrics is obvious, “No good for an old memory to mean so much today.” What a great line!

Check out the video- does the actress look familiar? (you need to watch the video for Sister Christian, too)

Chippin’ Away

This song opens with a hammer sound clanging it’s way into a hand clapping drum beat, then, you guessed it, the guitars show up. Jack Blades shines on this song as a vocalist; his phrasing is excellent and he brings a clear energy to his performance. Yes, there is a guitar solo here. Yes, it rocks.

 

Let Him Run

The video is another live version- Jeff Watson’s acoustic guitar is too good not to include it. If you like unplugged versions of songs, check out the live album 24 Strings and a Drummer. This song is a fine example of an acoustic driven ballad. It does not quite have the strength of a Sister Christian, but brings the album to a great close, leaving the listener wanting just a bit more.


While achieving plenty of success, Night Ranger has never been on the top of the rock heap. Today, most of their songs that are played on the radio (the most recognizable ones) come from this album. Night Ranger’s music makes (audio) appearances in Sixteen Candles, Rock of Ages, Rock Band 3, and Guitar Hero. I own all of their albums including the most recent High Road released in 2014. They have no bad songs and rock as much as any band that I regularly listen to. If you have not yet had the pleasure of experiencing Night Ranger’s great sound, now it is the time. Start with Midnight Madness, but do yourself a favor and do not stop – keep going! I promise you will find dozens of songs that will make you sing out loud and believe that yes, you can still rock in America.

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5 thoughts on “Albums of the ’80s: Night Ranger – Midnight Madness”

    1. I totally agree with you! Night Ranger is very underrated. Most people just think of “Sister Christian”, but they are so much more than that. I love “Goodbye” too. They have some great ballads. I love that one and “Hearts Away”. And now I have 2 new favorite songs by them. I don’t know if you have the Somewhere in California album that came out in 2011, but I love “No Time to Lose” and “Time of Our Lives”. Every song is great on that album, but those are my favorites.

  1. Was never a big fan of “Sister Christian,” but I do like the story behind it. I really like “When You Close Your Eyes, though.”

    Another great write-up, Robert! Keep ’em coming.

    1. Thanks for the comment on the writing and I plan to keep doing this. My love for the music is too great to stop. If I am honest, I like “When You Close Your Eyes” more than “Sister Christian” too. I cannot get over the subtle brilliance of that one line, “No good for an old memory to mean to much today” – one of my all time favorite lyrics.

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