After guitarist Jake E. Lee was fired from Ozzy Osbourne’s band by Ozzy’s wife/manager Sharon, he got to work looking for a frontman to form a band with. The vocalist he eventually settled on was Ray Gillen, who’d recently come off a stint with Ozzy’s old bandmates, Black Sabbath. Together with bassist Greg Chaisson and ex Sabbath drummer Eric Singer, the newly formed Badlands quickly made a name for themselves with their roof-raising live shows and stripped-back approach to hard rock. Their time as glam rock’s hottest new talents didn’t last long, and within just two albums, inside tensions between the bandmates had torn the group apart. In 1993, Gillen passed away, effectively putting an end to fans’ hopes of a reunion. But while their career might have been short-lived, it was great while it latest. Here’s our pick of the 10 best Badlands songs of all time.
10. Fire and Rain
Covering a perennial soft rock favorite like Fire and Rain might seem an odd choice for a heavy metal band, but somehow, it works. Badlands’ version might have as much in common with the James Taylor original as chalk has to cheese, but the group’s soul-driven variety of hard rock results in a gloriously rhythmic, bluesy interpretation of the classic that should be considered essential listening for both Taylor fans and Badlands devotees alike.
Dusk, Badland’s third and final album, consists of a batch of demos recorded in 1991 and 1992, a time when tensions were already running high in the band. Initially circulated as bootlegs, the songs finally made it to an official release in 1998. It’s a raw, unpolished collection, and certainly not an ideal starting point for listeners new to the band. But for all its faults, there are plenty of gems buried among the tracklist. Among the most memorable is Healer, a foreboding, moody rocker that opens the album in style.
8. Sun Red Sun
Dusk might lack the finesse of Badlands’ two previous albums, but listeners with the patience to trawl through the raw, unfinished quality of much of its tracklist will occasionally find themselves stumbling on a rare gem. Case in point – Sun Red Sun, an Eastern-flavored treat with enough nods to the grunge scene to have gone down a storm in the charts in 1992 – it was just a pity neither the song nor the album got an official release until 1998, by which time grunge was dead and Badlands career had officially ended.
Badlands’ self-titled debut album clearly takes its dues from the ’70s, and in particular Led Zeppelin. Nowhere is that more obvious than on Seasons, a barnstorming rocker that could easily have worked its way onto a Zeppelin setlist. But forget any idea of Badlands being a cheap Zep tribute act. Ray Gillen might have had Robert Plant’s howls down to a tee, but he had the individuality and the chops to set him apart from the imitators. Here, he delivers a faultless performance, expertly accompanied by Jake E. Lee’s always impressive guitar work.
6. Rumblin’ Train
Badlands could rock harder than most of their contemporaries combined, but they could also pull out a blues jam when they wanted to. On Rumbin’ Train, they show off their soulful side with a stupendous piece of blues rock that proves that no matter how many times they get slapped with the glam metal label, there’s far more to their music than any label, and in particular that one, could hope to describe.
5. In a Dream
As Song Facts points outs, In a Dream reached a new audience in 2005 when American Idol star Bo Bice wowed the nation with his a cappella rendition of Badlands’ In a Dream. Catch the original in all its glory on the band’s second album, Voodoo Highway.
4. Dancing on the Edge
From the explosive opener High Wire to the Led Zeppelin-esque closer Seasons, Badlands’ debut album doesn’t lay off the intensity for a single moment. The high-energy romp Dancing on the Edge finds the group in particularly good form, with both Gillen and Lee delivering a spirited performance that shows just how mind-blowing the band could be when they were firing on all cylinders.
3. High Wire
As All Music says, life after Ozzy is no easy task, as the inglorious end to Badlands time together eventually proved. But there’s no sign of the internal tensions that would soon rip the band apart on their debut, an electrifying affair that jumps from one killer track to the next. As you’d expect of a band formed by a maestro like Jake E. Lee, the riffs are next level, but on the explosive album opener, High Wire, it’s New York singer Ray Gillen’s spine-tingling, Robert Plant-esque howls that take center stage.
2. Winter’s Call
Badlands may have faltered not long out of the gates, but on their debut, they perfected the stripped-down blues metal sound that would become their legacy. It was a far cry from the polished, overproduced pop-metal candy filling the charts at the time, but the band’s visceral intensity and retro take on glam rock came as a welcome breath of fresh air. The melodic rocker Winter’s Call didn’t get released as a single, but it quickly became a firm fan favorite after picking up extensive airplay on MTV.
1. Dreams In the Dark
In at number one on our list of the ten best Badlands songs of all time is Dreams In The Dark. As intense as anything else on their debut album, but with a deeply melodic quality that demonstrates why Badlands have such an enduring appeal, the song became a regular fixture on MTV in the early 1990s and endures as one of the group’s most popular songs to this day.