Thursday, December 07, 2006

Night Ranger's secret U.P. CD

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If you want to collect all of Night Ranger's compact discs, you'll have to search for a hard-to-find Japanese recording which actually originated right here in the Upper Peninsula.

Night Ranger, of course, is the prolific San Francisco rock group, most famous for "Sister Christian," which dominated the mid-eighties music scene with a catalog of power ballads and pop-metal hits.

In the middle of that chart domination, as the band was moving from opener to headliner, they played a concert at Northern Michigan University in Marquette.

Ten songs from that August 1984, show were captured on tape, including "When you Close Your Eyes" and "Don't Tell Me You Love Me," but how those performances ended up on an imported compact disc remains a mystery.

The Marquette recordings were paired with some live tracks from a Jan. 10, 1983 Cincinnati show in a double disc package called "Find Me A Thrill." Subtitled "The Lost Live Album," the set also contains two studio outtakes, "Wild & Innocent Youth" and "Girls All Like It."

Appearing on the Boardwalk Records label, the discs are not available commercially in the United States, giving suspicion to their legality. That's because copyright laws in other countries are often less strict than those in the U. S., and grey market CDs can surface.

While Boardwalk did release Night Ranger's debut album, "Dawn Patrol," in 1982, company founder Neil Bogart died that same year. The firm slipped into a downward spiral just as these live recordings were being made, prompting Night Ranger to move to the MCA/Camel label.

On tour, Night Ranger opened for ZZ Top and Ozzy Osbourne. The band, comprised of bassist Jack Blades, drummer Kelly Keagy, keyboardist Alan Fitzgerald, and guitar player Jeff Watson, even stole another guitarist, Brad Gillis, from Ozzy's band.

Night Ranger's success grew with "Midnight Madness," their second album. While Night Ranger records were filled with risque innuendo and hard rocking guitars, the band also had a conservative side. Keagy wrote and sang "Sister Christian," for his own sibling, urging girls across America to be cautious. The group also promoted patriotic themes with "(You Can Still) Rock in America," an anthem similar to tracks by the likes of Sammy Hagar and Ted Nugent, two acts not afraid to espouse moderate principles.

Both "Sister Christian" and "Rock In America" were played at the Marquette show 22 years ago. Those and the rest of the U. P. recordings on "Find Me A Thrill" are offered in soundboard quality indicating they were obtained after being processed through the band's mixing console.

Listening to the disc reveals a more obvious clue about the origin of the recordings when an announcer credits the concert to an FM radio broadcast of the "King Biscuit Flour Hour," a program spotlighting live rock music. The album is not listed on Night Ranger's discography on the group's official website, giving further evidence about its legal status.

If you're looking for legitimate concert recordings, Night Ranger does have two officially released live discs readily available, "Live in Japan" from 1990 and "Rock in Japan '97." Both have budget pricetags, and carry similar track listings. The band has also cut a deal with Sony/BMG to release a third live album from shows performed in Japan during 2003.

While I didn't go to Night Ranger's 1984 Marquette show, I can listen to that CD now whenever I want.

The group's Escanaba appearance during the "Big Life Tour" three year later, meanwhile, is seared into my memory, although I didn't go to that performance, either.

You see, as Night Ranger was playing at top volume during an evening show at the Upper Peninsula State Fair on Friday, Aug. 21, 1987, some unsavory types attempted to use the noisy cover and deserted streets to break into my store. The culprits used their pick-up truck to ram the double doors at the rear of the building, which were fortified on the inside by a hefty steel bar.

Fortunately, an upstairs tenant heard some commotion, called public safety and confronted the would-be burglars who drove away before authorities arrived.

Perhaps going to concerts is overrated. After all, I know what went on during two Night Ranger concerts in the U. P., and I stayed home both times.

1 comment:

marcy said...

hi Steve that is very cool!!Marcy