Review Summary: Should you ever find yourself behind the wheel of a ‘69 Charger, this might not be a bad soundtrack for the ride.
Jake E Lee had already accomplished more than most aspiring musicians can dream of after being asked by Ronnie James Dio to play guitar for him in 1982, and then Ozzy Osbourne just a year later. After two platinum albums with Ozzy (Bark at the Moon
, The Ultimate Sin
), Lee assumed he had a permanent gig with the prince of darkness; however, this illusion of security instantly disintegrated when Lee was unexpectedly fired via telegram while enjoying time-off at his home in Los Angeles. By now (1987), Lee was already a household name in guitar-playing and was credited as creator of some of the greatest riffs the 80’s had to offer; but rather than admitting he’d reached the pinnacle of the music industry and that his time was over, Jake E Lee decided he still had plenty of fuel in the tank for another run.
After aggressively pursuing the perfect front man for a new project, Lee selected Ray Gillen as the man, and the two created Badlands. By 1989 they released their self-titled debut album which soared with classic riffs, solos, and that good ol’ fashioned rock n’ roll spirit Americans came to love. Different than Ozzy, this new monster had more blues influence, less distortion on the guitar, and a style that was special to our nation‘s heritage. While Ozzy was busy reinventing his band with Zakk Wylde, Lee was going in the opposite direction- with a slightly softer sound, more reminiscent of classic rock bands like Zeppelin.
From start to finish, Badlands
is a refreshing record packed with riffs and memorable choruses. Hard driver, riding alone. ‘Cause I’m not lookin’ back and I’m never comin’ home!
Furthermore, the drum grooves are simple. The song structures are simple. The solos are respectable, but also usually simple in design. Frankly, it’s close to everything one could want from an album of its type.
The production is atypical for its era as well; the 80’s were often characterized by exaggerated, reverberating drums; Badlands
is just the opposite, again, sound more in line with an earlier time. This simplicity on the back-end was beneficial for Badlands’ sound though because it allowed for Lee’s guitar work and Gillen’s vocals to simultaneously take over and maintain the spotlight. Jake E. Lee is arguably as great as he was on Bark at the Moon
too as he presents us with a variety of different types of solos. Some are fast, like in “Dancing on the Edge” where he’s shredding pentatonic like he’s damn Vinnie Moore, and yet in others like “Streets Cry Freedom”, Lee is unconventional and uses his axe to produce eery, sustaining noises that were still pretty unique for the time. “Hard Driver” is yet another notable example of an excellent solo at the hands of Lee. The man truly had a knack for creating exceptional mainstream Rock solos.
is an example of well-done Rock ‘n Roll; while it can’t compare to the legends of the genre, many would offer that it is still a classic. There’s something special about a bare-bones rock n’ roll band who keep it simple but can still stand out from the pack. So, in the case that you don’t have a spare vintage muscle car sitting around, at least go post up in the garage with an ice cold beer and jam this one loud.