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Badlands – Badlands [1989]

When Jake E. Lee’s turn babysitting Ozzy Osbourne’s career came to an unceremonious end, he was free from his indentured servitude to the evil Sharon Osbourne and her bumbling stooge of a husband. Jake turned around and formed Badlands — one of the great, unsung bands in all of eighties hard rock.

Jake joined forces with a star-in-the making named Ray Gillen. As a vocalist, Gillen had been floating around the rock scene for a few years but hadn’t landed a steady gig. He had short stints with Black Sabbath and Blue Murder but never made it onto their actual records. Scoring Gillen as a singer for his new band was a real coupe for Lee. Ray Gillen had one of the purest rock voices in the history of all things. His voice was a perfect match for the high-octane, 150-proof hard rock that Badlands had in store.

Badlands features the kind of white-hot metallic blues that lesser artists would sell their soul to the devil for. Like that guy at the crossroads. The timeless quality of these tracks separates Badlands from the sea of hair bands with which they were lumped.

Side one of this album, also known as “East Side”, is damn near perfection. The album opens with a furious metallic riff from Jake E. Lee, and the sparks continue to fly throughout the lead cut High Wire. Dreams In The Dark and Winter’s Call are flawless as well — two of my all-time favorites!

Side two, also known as “West Side” is no slouch either. Granted, Rumblin’ Train is kind of a formulaic heavy blues song, but it gives Gillen a chance to show off his voice, and Lee a chance to blow his pentatonic load with his extended soloing. The only track on the album I don’t love is probably Devil’s Stomp, which starts off promising but never gets off the ground. The original LP closes with the mellow genius of Seasons (which calls to mind Zep’s In The Light). The cassette and CD adds another track, Ball And Chain, which is just an average tune. The album should have ended with Seasons.

Despite the electric chemistry Badlands seemed to possess on this record, the guys actually didn’t get along very well. Badlands wasn’t the major commercial success it deserved to be. Badlands recorded another album called Voodoo Highway (1991) before Gillen left the band. Ray Gillen died in 1993 (R.I.P.).

All told, Badlands is a great record from a sneaky year — 1989. Just one of many commercial rock/metal albums from that forgotten year that I absolutely love — most of which were not big hits. This might be the king. Light a cigarette, sip on some moonshine, and let Badlands punch you square in the face with its stone-cold awesomeness!

Band Members
Eric Singer – Drums, Percussion
Greg Chaisson – Bass
Jake E. Lee – Guitars, Keyboards, Mandolin, Sitar, Dobro, Organ
Ray Gillen – Vocals, Blues Harp

Tracks
01. High Wire (3:43)
02. Dreams In The Dark (3:36)
03. Jade’s Song (1:20)
04. Winter’s Call (5:32)
05. Dancing On The Edge (3:26)
06. Streets Cry Freedom (5:30)
07. Hard Driver (4:50)
08. Rumblin’ Train (5:45)
09. Devil’s Stomp (4:53)
10. Seasons (6:20)
11. Ball & Chain (4:07)

Jeff from “Pay it Loud”

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