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RECORD RACK

Hard Rock & Treacle

April 05, 1987|DUNCAN STRAUSS

"THE BIG LIFE." Night Ranger. MCA. 3

With this edition of Record Rack, Calendar introduces its quick-reference, facial-expression rating symbols. Translation: 1 = "Great Balls 'o Fire" 2 = "Good Vibrations" 3 = "Maybe Baby" 4 = "Running on Empty"

On this album, Northern California's Night Ranger continues to exhibit symptoms of a split personality. Just when you've decided the quintet dispenses full-tilt hard rock, along comes a song like "Hearts Away," an oozing wave of treacle. While this collision of styles makes for a disjointed collection, it also makes sense: Since 1983, when Night Ranger scored a Top 5 hit with the power ballad "Sister Christian," the band has demonstrated a flair for turning its mushy metal into platinum.

By now, they've nearly perfected the formula. Over a cushy bed of keyboards, Brad Gillis and Jeff Watson engage in squealing guitar duels while singers Jack Blades and Kelly Keagy spin standard tales of romance. Once in a while, Night Ranger deviates from the formula. For instance, the group makes a bid for eloquence on the stately "Rain Comes Crashing Down," but is thwarted by the song's excessive sentimentality and clumsy meteorological metaphor.

But with such catchy, well-executed anthems as "Big Life" and the sound-track single "The Secret of My Success," this LP is virtually assured heavy chart action and air play. And that's obviously what both of Night Ranger's personalities are shooting for.

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