24 STRINGS & A DRUMMER: LIVE AND ACOUSTIC
Night Ranger and Loverboy were two bands that were, pretty much in my eyes, linked together back in the 80s. There was something about the two of them. They weren't quite metal bands at the time, and there was something that was catchy about both but never led you to think they were anything more than cookie cutter hard rock bands. Night Ranger was my favorite of the two, because they weren't all whiny and wrote better songs than Loverboy. I'm sure many of the chicks that were 15 or so during that era would probably disagree with that assessment, but so bet it. It's interesting how at this phase of their careers, both have re-recorded their hits right now for releases to appease the old guard. For Loverboy, their re-recordings was an abortion of epic proportions that pretty much proved they should retire. While Night Ranger is probably a few decades too late to be releasing an UNPLUGGED effort, I'd be lying if I said this wasn't fairly catchy and fun.
To be clear here, there's not a note on 24 STRINGS & A DRUMMER that's going to have anyone forgetting DAWN PATROL, MIDNIGHT MADNESS or 7 WISHES. 24 STRINGS & A DRUMMER is an acoustic set played in front of a small cabaret sized audience that seems like it was just done for the fun of doing it. This comes screaming through. If nothing else, it's very clear that the guys are having fun here messing around with reworked, probably fresh in their head, versions of their biggest hits of their now long career. Listening to them work through songs like "Don't Tell Me You Love Me" or "Four In The Morning" is fun. For old folks like me, it's a nice walk down memory lane.
Still, there are flaws here that aren't easily overlooked. First and foremost, vocalist Kelly Keagy doesn't sound very good. While in my eyes he was always the better singer in Night Ranger, the years have weakened his voice considerably. There are so many times throughout this effort where he sounds gravelly and weak vocally. Songs like "Sister Christian" and "Sing Me Away" just don't pack the "oomph" they used to. Especially on "Sing Me Away", Keagy sounds like he's really straining to get the notes out. By contrast, counter vocalist Jack Blades sounds every bit as strong as he did 30 years ago.
To be fair here, I'm probably being a little bit uber-critical here; almost certainly because I'm a fan of the band. So many of their songs are perfect for this unplugged setting, and they do work them out well. Songs like "Let Him Run" and "Goodbye" were made for this environment, and they shine brightest in the set. Additionally, a newer song called "Forever All Over Again" comes out of this set as the most impactful of the entire set. Full of emotion and clearly a song that fits perfectly for the acoustic setting, I can imagine divorcees crying in the audience hearing these touching words wishing for a rekindling of a relationship that has failed.
PITRIFF RATING - 71/100 - Always dug Night Ranger, and will probably always. 24 STRINGS & A DRUMMER is not likely to get a lot of plays in my collection, but it's a nice piece to have for that odd moment when I want something familiar without the heavier guitars mixed in. Like it, don't love it. But still worth having.