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Badlands - 1991 Voodoo Highway

ARTIST: Badlands
ALBUM: Voodoo Highway
LABEL: Atlantic
SERIAL: 82251-2
YEAR: 1991
CD REISSUE: 2010, Rock Candy Records (UK), CANDY072
SPONSOR: Rock Candy Records


LINEUP: Ray Gillen - vocals, blues harp * Jake E Lee - guitars, keyboards, percussion, moog bass, dobro * Greg Chaisson - bass * Jeff Martin - drums, percussion, blues harp, backing vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 The Last Time * 02 Show Me The Way * 03 Shine On * 04 Whiskey Dust * 05 Joe's Blues * 06 Soul Stealer * 07 3 Day Funk * 08 Silver Horses * 09 Love Don't Mean A Thing * 10 Voodoo Highway * 11 Fire And Rain * 12 Heaven's Train * 13 In A Dream

1989 was the year in which new band Badlands presented themselves to the rock world. If you look back through that year's releases, 1989 was a helluva year for melodic rock and AOR. For me, their debut sort of slipped through the cracks as I was focusing on other bands at the time. By February 1990, Badlands had come off the road and were looking for a break - and literally, that's what happened. First to get jettisoned was drummer Eric Singer, who by now had earned the wrath of Ray Gillen and Jake E Lee. Second to exit through the 'out-door' was manager Paul O'Neill, whose dictatorial approach weighed the band down like two tons of bricks. Joining the band on drums was Jeff Martin, who earned his stripes in outfits such as Surgical Steel and of course metal technicians Racer X alongside guitar wizards Paul Gilbert and Bruce Bouillet. However, despite the changes and with a clear road of progress ahead of them, things would conspire to put more roadblocks in the way. The band, despite lengthy touring through 1989 - were broke. Gillen was not very happy with the material being planned for the next album, and as it proved, he ended up being one gigantic headache for the rest of his band mates and the record label. Badlands would take all of 1990 to eventually bring out 'Voodoo Highway' the following year, a much maligned album, but ultimately, it was played in the style the band originally wanted, and with Jake E Lee producing too, something that was part of the original blueprint before other individuals got in the way.

The Songs
'The Last Time' is a stinging opener, with Gillen's sensational vocals paving the way for the rest of the album. 'Show Me The Way' touches on a acoustic/electric cowpoke style, kinda like Guns n Roses in places. It's on the heavier stuff where Badlands come into their own, 'Shine On' is a perfect example, 70's in attitude, but with 90's musical firepower. The same too for 'Whiskey Dust', a sassy rocker which ends up being a fun time romp with a little Credence Clearwater Revival in the mix. 'Joes Blues' is a brief Jake E Lee acoustic interlude which surges into 'Soul Stealer', a mean sounding rocker with a load of grunt and groan. As the name suggests, '3 Day Funk' does indeed dip its toes into that mid 70's funk era, Badlands creates their own version of it with good results. 'Love Don't Mean A Thing' also dips into funk territory, it's certainly intriguing to see where Lee and Gillen were going with this material, perhaps indicative of that early 90's era which was pockmarked with many funk rock bands working in similar territory. 'Silver Horses' takes awhile to get going, Lee holding up everything with his near on a minute guitar intro, but when it opens up, this one gallops along at a good clip. The band goof around in the studio for the acoustic title track 'Voodoo Highway' with a load of slide guitar from Jake. 'Fire And Rain' is an enjoyable romp, commercial rock with that (by now) all too familiar blues streak soaking in. Jake switches back to hard rock for 'Heavens Train', dragging along the rest of the band for the train-ride, the riffs familiar if you are a U.F.O fan, particularly 'Rock Bottom'. Ray Gillen grabs the kudos for the finale, an acoustic ballad with a vocal emphasis, 'In A Dream' has a gospel, delta blues vibe.

In Summary
As mentioned, Badlands appeared doomed from the time of 'Voodoo Highway''s release. Gillen was given the boot, a new singer, a woman no less - Canadian Debby Holiday signed on, gigs in the UK/Europe were booked, however Holiday quit due to a conflict with appearance money, Gillen was reluctantly bought back at short notice, but in hindsight this proved to be a bad move as he and Lee did not get on, and this culminated in an onstage breakdown at London's Astoria Theatre while on tour. Things would not be the same again. Gillen was tossed onto the scrap heap once again, this time, the replacement John West, a more than capable vocalist came onboard for the remainder of Badland's tenure, but by Spring 1992 it was all over. Badlands did record a series of demos during the Spring of 1991, these were released in 1998 as the album 'Dusk' on Japan's Pony Canyon Records. Gillen's health was a major concern all during Badland's time together, and this all came to a head at the end of 1993 when he passed away due to AIDS related complications. An interesting band for sure, such a pity that politics played a large part while they were together. These days, Lee is holding the boards for Enuff Znuff and appears on their 2010 album 'Dissonance', Martin is involved with Racer X still plus Huntington Beach metal faves Leatherwolf, while Chaisson moved back to his native Arizona and played with bands such as Red Sea and the Blindside Blues Band. If there is any consolation for Badlands, at least their story is told and their two albums have been given rightful credit as remastered reissues thanks to Rock Candy Records.

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#1 | sabace on June 26 2010 14:16:35
this is an excellent lp, probably a bit better than debut
this has a better drum sound and sounds alot looser!

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