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Badlands - 1989 Badlands



ARTIST: Badlands
ALBUM: Badlands
LABEL: Atlantic
SERIAL: 81966-1
YEAR: 1989
CD REISSUE: 2010, Rock Candy Records (UK), CANDY071
SPONSOR: Rock Candy Records

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

LINEUP: Ray Gillen - vocals * Jake E lee - guitars, keyboards * Greg Chaisson - bass * Eric Singer - drums, percussion

TRACK LISTING: 01 High Wire * 02 Dreams In The Dark * 03 Jades Song * 04 Winters Call * 05 Dancing On The Edge * 06 Streets Cry Freedom * 07 Hard Driver 128 * 08 Rumblin' Train * 09 Devils Stomp * 10 Seasons * 11 Ball And Chain


Background
Here was a band that was literally put together in the badlands of rock n roll. A solid lineup of players who were befuddled by management, record labels and themselves it would seem. As history would show, Badlands could've been one of the best bands on the planet during their brief run, but the musical climate was changing too fast for them to hold onto anything substantial. Caught up in the hubbaloo of the Guns N Roses phenomenon, every label was trying to emulate that sleaze, glam, southern rock and blues sound, along with all the tattoos that went with it. The liaison of Ray Gillen and Jake E Lee seemed like a match made in heaven, but it was clear that the duo and their rhythm section of Greg Chaisson and Eric Singer had teething problems from Day One. Agreeing on a style that could make for a harmonious working environment eventually became their achilles heel. Management didn't help either, with Paul O'Neill taking over like a bossy schoolmaster and to make matters worse he ended up producing their debut album. For the Badlands quartet, that wasn't in the script! O'Neill even suggested that Jake be fired and another guitar slinger bought in. How bad is that! Also, Badlands took nearly two years from inception, through auditions, through management to an eventual record, so things were not in good shape by the time the LP was released in the Northern Hemisphere spring of 1989.


The Songs
The record is by no means an 80's affair, the band were very keen on slicing and dicing up the early 70's hard rock scene. For sure, 'Badlands' is the hellspawn of acts such as Cream, Led Zeppelin, and a few other acts no doubt too. The opening pair of 'Highwire' and 'Dreams In The Dark' certainly go some way to cementing that comparison. The latter song spent some time in the public consciousness via MTV and radio. The pairing of 'Jades Song' (an instrumental) and the follow-on 'Winters Call' hark back to Led Zep's early 70's era, whereas 'Dancing On The Edge' is dragged unmercifully into 80's - kicking and screaming like an obstinate child. The 'epic' on the album comes in the shape of 'Streets Cry Freedom', maybe a touch of Guns N Roses in the storytelling department with a Tesla like delivery. 'Hard Driver' lives up to its songtitle, a rampant rocker with some unusual guitar lines from Jake and gritty vocals from Ray. The band go slightly 'cowpoke' for the strutty blues/southern rocker 'Rumblin' Train', but on this one Jake dominates with some fiery and feisty lead guitar work, this track sounds as if a bottle of Jack Daniels would make for a trusty companion! A mixture of acoustic passages, southern attitude and Jake's ability to cut up rough with some sizzling six-string antics makes 'Devils Stomp' a must-hear. Let's not forget Gillen's attempt at outdoing Robert Plant! 'Seasons' is the slow burner on the album, a track written by Jake and apparently demoed to Ozzy Osbourne.. it's the longest at 6 mins 19 secs and deals with the subject of getting old (lol!). The bonus track on the Rock Candy reissue is 'Ball & Chain', I think this one appeared previously during the 'Voodoo Highway' era, though I stand to be corrected.


In Summary
Badlands commencing touring not long after this, and even did a stint in Japan. According to sources, the album sold in the 400,000 units region, not bad for a debut in an era where hair metal, AOR and guitar oriented heavy rock were on the way out. The band reconvened for 'Voodoo Highway', but lost drummer Eric Singer along the way (he signed on to join KISS). He was replaced by Racer X member Jeff Martin. Perhaps the East Coast (Gillen, Singer) meets West Coast (Lee, Chaisson) connection wasn't the best, as there were certainly some ideological differences and communication issues between the two parties. You can read the very revealing liner notes on the 'Badlands' CD reissue from Rock Candy Records, thanks to Derek and RC for the opportunity.


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Comments
#1 | super80boy on January 01 1970 01:00:00
Badlands debut is a refreshing take on the heavy guitar driven blues tinged 70's hard rock
#2 | sabace on September 10 2010 13:26:00
the ball and chain track was also a bonus track on original cd! this is an excellent blues rock lp althought
I think the production is a bit stiff! jake e lee's guitar playing is superb!
#3 | tompa on February 07 2012 00:57:07
I'd say it doesn't get any better than this. Not only great vocals and guitar but some fantastic bassplaying and drumming. And those songs... this album has it all.
#4 | Carlos Ramirez on September 04 2014 01:11:49
Ray Gillen's performances on this album is the stuff legends are made of. It's too bad their next album didn't have as strong material as its predecessor.
 
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