"Voodoo Highway" (Atlantic; 1991)

Reviewed by Jeff Rogers

This follow-up to Badlands' self-titled CD would result in a fall out with singer Ray Gillen and Jake E. Lee. Too bad, because there was nothing like this stuff at the time and probably never will be again. 

The songs here are just as good as their debut with just a little more fire in Gillen's voice. Jake's guitar is about as raw as you can get -- he didn't want to go commercial if he could help it. One thing Badlands had was energy and, of course, great rhythm guitar. The solos here are unmatched and not just because I say so. Just listen to this release if you haven't heard it in awhile. Jake's pinches alone have been copied more times than an office memo.

The band covers James Taylor's "Fire And Rain" here and do a fine job. And, although a song will sometimes start with speed and then slow down, it always still holds its ground. "Voodoo Highway" richly deserves the three guitarsaw rating for the oomph it offers.

The best tracks here are, "Show Me The Way," "Shine On," "Soul Stealer," and the aforementioned "Fire And Rain."

Some left-over tracks were gathered up and later released as "Dusk." 

Badlands: Jake E. Lee - guitars; Ray Gillen - vocals; Greg Chaisson - bass; Jeff Martin (Racer X) - drums.

"Badlands" (Koch Records; 1989)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

This self-titled CD by Badlands didn't make a huge splash when it was originally released in 1989, but it did all right. What's interesting, however, is that its impact has been felt consistently in the twelve years that have since passed and its popularity continues to grow. Hence, this re-release on Koch records.

Sometimes, a band is formed that just clicks and, in the case of Badlands, that was exactly what happened. With Jake E. Lee on guitars and keyboards, Eric Singer on drums, Greg Chaisson on bass and the late Ray Gillen on vocals and blues harp, Badlands recorded an album that was blessed with an instinctive understanding of the relation between blues and hard rock and featured outstanding performances from all. 

Although Gillen passed away in 1994, his unique vocal style left an impact on the genre that is still felt today. On this CD, his work truly shines, showing streaks of one-of-a-kind brilliance as well as the influence of other great rock singers including Ian Gillan, David Coverdale and, of course, Ozzy Osbourne.

Speaking of Osbourne, Ozzy had given guitarist Jake E. Lee his first big break with "Bark at the Moon" and "The Ultimate Sin" albums. Lee's fretwork wizardry is apparent throughout the "Badlands" CD, soaring from heavy metal riff chunks to acoustic artistry.

The drum work of Eric Singer, who has beat the skins for nearly every major heavy metal veteran (including Alice Cooper, KISS and Black Sabbath), is just short of breathtaking. Singer, even twelve years later, remains one of hard rock's best drummers. His timekeeping here is signature Singer - hard, heavy and exquisitely sharp. 

Finally, there's Greg Chaisson on bass. Although it's always difficult to recognize the nuances of a bassplayer, Chaisson's contribution here is apparent. The songs of Badlands are fuller and richer because of Chaisson's presence.

Of course, all that great performance would almost be wasted if the songwriting weren't up to par. It is. The songs on "Badland," many of which you still hear often on real rock radio, are the best kind of radio friendly hard rock. The songs are loaded with irresistible hooks and head-banging rhythms, but still maintain enough of their rough edge so that they don't journey anywhere near pop rock territory.

Badlands were only to record two albums, this self-titled debut and its follow-up, "Voodoo Highway." Too bad. It would have been interesting to see where this outstanding band would have taken us.

BADLANDS is: Jake E. Lee - guitars and keyboards; Eric Singer - drums; Greg Chaisson - bass; Ray Gillen - vocals and blues harp. 

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.


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Copyright 2006 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 25 Feb 2019 21:42:45 -0500 .