May 25, 1987 12:00 PM

Night Ranger

Pop music has gotten so distressingly homogenized that you can’t tell the players without an album sleeve. Just as an experiment, put this album on and close your eyes. On songs like Better Let It Go and The Secret of My Success (from the movie of the same name) can you really tell if it’s Night Ranger? Or Chicago? Or REO Speedwagon, Toto or 10 other groups? Which is a shame because on their three previous records, this San Francisco quintet proved to be a likable rock band. But producers Kevin Elson and David Foster have equipped Big Life with a keyboard-driven sound. The guitars of Brad Gillis and Jeff Watson, which had been the heart of the band, are trotted out only as window dressing. The melodically dull songs that make up this record go in one ear and hardly have the energy to make it out the other. The only mystery is why, on the title track, the band chose gratuitously to rework Bob Dylan’s Tangled Up in Blue. The Ranger variation reads: “Late on one day/ As the sun went down/ I was just about to do the same…/ Couple girls walked in/ Said, ‘Baby, don’t we know your name?’ ” There is one other mystery. Why would Night Ranger decide to travel down this path to pop anonymity? (Camel/MCA)

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