[Retro Record Rewind] Night Ranger's 'Dawn Patrol'

Dawn Patrol is the very first Night Ranger album, which was released in December of 1982. Night Ranger was originally on the Boardwalk label before MCA records bought Boardwalk out and printed more Dawn Patrol records on their label. “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me” attacked MTV and the radio waves that quickly made them an overnight sensation leading into 1983. Armed with two guitarists, two lead singers, and a wicked synth keyboardist, Night Ranger began to compete with the likes of Def Leppard and Van Halen. It is extremely unique to have not just two lead singers, but unique also that one is the bassist and one is the drummer! The synth/keys, awesome metal edge, and an emphasis on vocal harmonies make Night Ranger one of the most iconically 80’s bands.

“Don’t Tell Me You Love Me” opens with Brad Gillis on guitar only, and steadily builds with an undeniably heavy metal beat. Jack Blades sings and Alan "Fitz" Fitzgerald sneaks in some iconic keys between the lines. The band goes back and forth between rocking it out and Jack and Fitz’ haunting aura. The dichotomy the band has with a lot of their material is so melodic and juicy. Similar to when two guitarists switch back and forth for guitar solos, the one in this song is one of the most classic Eighties guitar solos. Once again leading out of the solo, the awesome synth is alone with Jack as he croons “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me”. Erupting with the rest of the best for a mini jam, the chorus repeats before fully letting loose! In their next hit “Sing Me Away”, the keys are so iconic, especially with that intense build-up to Kelly signaling 2 beats to start the song for the rest of the band. I remember when I first heard this song that I couldn’t guess how it would even sound next. Then they play this really nice, main melody of the song before Kelly Keagy works his awesome singing chops for “Sing Me Away”, I so admire singing that well and keeping the beat for the whole band. The keys are right there and really complement the sound of Kelly’s voice. My favorite part of the song instrumentally is the bridge leading up to the chorus and Kelly even lets his voice rip! “Sing Me Away” feels so natural to sing along to, especially the soft guitar bit right after the guitar solo.

“At Night She Sleeps” has such a funky, underlying tone from the keyboards that gives it such a unique sound. The drums march us through the song, and it’s another great one where Kelly doesn’t hold back vocally. I love how the song is set-up, it’s almost like two verses before you even hear the chorus. Highly admire a format not like most songs on the radio, or just predictable. Halfway through the song, the keyboards have such an ear-catching UFO-like sound while the guitars of Brad Gillis and Jeff Watson play a steady metal riff together before flaring into the guitar solo. The keys play that alien effect again to close the song, and the end here showcases my favorite parts of Night Ranger. After two measures, the guitars pic slightly different into an even heavier metal tone, then the vocal harmonies added to it just encapsulate the magic of Night Ranger to me.

“Call My Name” begins with Fitz’ soft piano-only intro while Jack sings with it. The drums kick in to lead the band in a steady groove before taking a step back again. I really love the bridge, it has such a pleasant tone and the vocal harmonies flow perfect with the plethora of melodies that are playing at once. “Eddie’s Comin’ Out Tonight” begins with a steady, soft keyboard sound that most sounds similar to the intro of “Livin’ on a Prayer”. The guitar breaks the silence with a metal riff the rest of the band joins in on. This song pays homage to a man named Eddie that would go see them play a lot when they would play out. The verses have the keys really cascading throughout it, Kelly’s drums are minimal, and the guitars really hammer it down with the drums. I really like the vocal chanting in a lot of the second half of the song too.

“Can’t Find Me A Thrill” is one of those songs where I genuinely could never understand how it wasn’t a hit song. Right when it starts, the guitar tone and riffage suck you in immediately. For a girl who really loves heavy metal bands like Saxon, songs like this song put Night Ranger in similar ranks. My favorite part where they go into that heavy metal edge is during the guitar solo. The whole band just gets so heavy and they go into a slight off-beat that is worthy of Judas Priest! They could’ve opened for them on the Defenders of the Faith tour easily. Jack Blades does such an awesome job singing this song too; it’s one of my favorites that he sings, period. “Young Girl in Love” has such a pleasant melody compared to the metal previously. Alan Fitzgerald’s keys have the best effects and little moments. There are parts he plays like the pre-chorus that really add to the intensity of this summer love song. This is a really feel-good song that always seems fun to listen to with the windows down on a warm day. Kelly sings it really passionately and it’s a fun break from Jack’s chops in the album.

“Play Rough” begins with a clean guitar until the synth cues the rest of the band to play this awesome melody. The guitar chunks along while the keys and Jack banter in the verses. I love how Jack ups the ante each time he sings the pre-chorus each with different verses. Especially the last “Or you can give it up to me!” The whole outro of the song goes back and forth between mini guitar solos and the band cranking the metal. “Penny” has a funky southern guitar groove, and it reminds me of a fun beach or summer song. I really like how the first words of the chorus are the same note across, it’s a fun change-up with the band behind it. There’s an epic guitar moment when it leads out of the chorus and the other guitar plays the initial intro. “Penny, I got your number” to my happiness repeats a few times.

The self-titled “Night Ranger” song has an awesome choppy guitar, whimsical synth keys, and a smooth drum beat. There’s a mini key solo Fitz has just before the chorus singing “Night Ranger” that I really love. This is one of the songs I hold onto as such a great song to show of underrated 80’s-nostalgic songs for those keyboard moments like those. Halfway through the song totally changes pace and Kelly comes marching through and the guitars shredding at a million miles an hour while the other one wails along. The guitar solo had the Gillis/Watson duo taking turns before chunking back into the chorus and then fading out with the most heavy metal part of the song, and the spookiest the keys have sounded so far.