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Badlands - 'Voodoo Highway' http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/94/9b/28/552_BadlandsVoodooHighway_1284579584.jpg Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     September 15, 2010    
 
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This release really brings home just how far the band could have gone.

Hardly a match made in heaven, the journey that took ex Ozzy guitarist Jake E Lee and his incongruent bunch of personalities and egos known as Badlands to their self titled debut in 1989 was a somewhat fractious one. Obviously painful to all those involved, you would have thought that it would’ve served as an obvious blueprint of how not to make an album, but no, the road to sophomore effort ‘Voodoo Highway’ was littered with as many potholes, all of which they managed to hit along the way. Infighting, disagreements (both in private and in public) and general conflicts of interest had dogged their efforts from the get go, and despite the critical success of ‘Badlands’, these were never far from the surface.

After six tortuous months on the road promoting ‘Badlands’, they returned to LA and promptly fired drummer Eric Singer. Auditions for a replacement began, and in the end it became a straight choice between Pat Dixon (ex Icon) and Jeff Martin (then primarily known as the vocalist in Racer X) – in the end the band went with Martin. Along the way they dispensed with the services of manager Paul O’Neill (who had produced the debut), pissed off just about everybody at their label (Atlantic affiliate Titanium Records), and generally trashed any real shot they had at stardom. Yet despite the odds being stacked against them, when they got together to make music away from all the bullshit, the results were as good as ever.

Pieced together at Rumbo Recorders in the tranquil surroundings of the San Fernando Valley, ‘Voodoo Highway’ was in reality the album they’d all wanted to make first time round. With Lee at the production helm any vague attempt at commercial compromise went straight out the window, all external pressures neatly sidestepped as the four musicians involved strove to present their musical vision in exactly the way they wanted.
Kicking straight into top gear with the crunching bluesy swagger of opener ‘The Last Time’, Badlands felt they had something to prove with their sophomore release, and prove it they most certainly did. Tracks such as ‘Show Me The Way’, ‘Love Don’t Mean A Thing’, ‘Soul Stealer’ and ‘Whiskey Dust’ had a raw kinetic intensity barely hinted at first time around, just like the old masters they were trying to emulate. Both Lee and Gillen were on fine form once again, the increasing personal tensions between them serving here to give the songs that much more bite, yet at the same time keeping them focused and accessible to anyone with a penchant for bluesy hard rock.

In fairness, ‘Voodoo Highway’ might not have provided the band with same chance of a ‘hit’ single as the debut (particularly as the scene was on the cusp of grunge), but from a purely esoteric and artistic perspective, it matched it every step of the way – indeed, to many scholars (me included) it was even better! Dusted off and given a fresh lease of life thanks to the dedication of the team at Rock Candy, this release really brings home just how far the band (Gillen’s illness not withstanding) could have gone had they all been pulling in the same direction.

DAVE COCKETT

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