Monday, November 14, 2011

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

BADLANDS “Voodoo Highway” (1991)

After their underrated eponymous debut that was cheered by traditional hard rock fans, Badlands continued on the same path with "Voodoo Highway". But this time they recruited Jeff Martin from Racer X to fill in the drummer spot after Eric Singer left the band to join Kiss. At that time, only a few knew that Ray Gillen had a dispute with Jake E. Lee regarding the musical style - Gillen wanted them to be more commercial while Lee insisted they stick to their bluesy roots. Later we found out that "Voodoo" favored Lee's intention and Gillen was fired soon after.

If you like 70s-driven blues rock with an 80s wild-and-wacky jam flair, and influences such as Led Zeppelin, early Whitesnake, Aerosmith, and Bad Company, then you'll love this album for sure. Lee's guitar even sounds like vintage 70s. The album fires off with a straightforward burning hard rocker, "The Last Time". This is my favorite song along with other fantastic numbers such as "Soul Stealer" with a flaming intro, Zeppelin-esque riffings, and Gillen's signature scream, "Silver Horses" with an awesome guitar charge, an outstanding cover of James Taylor's "Fire And Rain", and "Heaven's Train", which features Lee's top-notch riffin' and Gillen's AeroTyler's rappin' style.

Probably you still remember Bo Bice from American Idol, who surprised the audience by picking a Badlands's song, "In A Dream". Now you can hear the original version with Gillen's magical voice here accessorized by Lee's lazy dobro pick. "Three Day Funk", "Whiskey Dust", and "Show Me The Way" are also well-composed songs worth checking out.

Since I'm not really a big fan of blues and they don't have anything commercial that fit onto a Billboard chart (which I think is still an important aspect), this record is something that I only enjoy occasionally as it depends heavily on my mood. Sadly, Gillen passed away too fast too soon. "Voodoo Highway" together with their debut, are essential early 90s records for fans of genuinely talented bands rooted deeply to the classic rock sound.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.