As a kid in high school in the ’80s (early ’80s!), Jake E. Lee was on my list of favorite guitarists – another one of the seemingly endless supply of amazing, cool-looking axemen coming out of LA. I wondered how Ozzy found these guys: Were they lined up on street corners? Hanging out under palm trees?
After two albums with Ozzy, Jake took a break – then came back with Badlands, a GREAT blues-rock band fronted by NJ’s own Ray Gillen (yes, I saw them in Jersey!). Ray’s death played a role in the breakup of the band, which released two albums (Bandlands and Voodoo Highway) before they broke up, and one after (Dusk). All three are great.
About the title of this post: Do you think Jake’s tone is woody? Though I still admire him as a player, I never have dug his tone. Just wasn’t “wide” enough (in an early EVH or Back in Black-era Angus way) nor distinctive enough for me personally, though his style definitely was distinctive.
I looked into his Badlands-era gear, and though there doesn’t seem to be anything particularly solid for the first album (point me to it if you have a reference), here’s what he told Guitar World magazine in 1991 about recording Voodoo Highway:
> Guitar – His white “Charvel,” actually a repainted mid-’70s Fender Strat (not sure if alder or ash) with a maple neck/rosewood board, and a Seymour Duncan Allan Holdsworth prototype pickup in the bridge (nearly identical to the Duncan JB) and two DiMarzio SDS-1 single coils.
> Effects – “I run into a Boss Overdrive [OD-1], but the drive is always on zero because I don’t use it for the distortion. I use it for the bass cut – it tightens up the bottom end.” But he also said, “The overdrive…in the studio, it varied between 12 o’clock and 8 o’clock, depending on how much distortion I wanted.”
> Amps – “I used three different Marshalls on the album. I had two 100 watts – a ’69 or a ’70 with the metal face, which got a grungier sound, and a ’68 plexi-face one which is a little smoother-sounding. I also used an old 45-watt with the plexiglass logo, which is like a combination of the other two: dirty but smooth.”
> Cabs – 4×12 Marshall cabs with Electro-Voice EVM-12L speakers. “I like my EV speakers because they’re nice and clean when I play soft, but they get woofy when I turn it up. So whenever I play loud I hit the Boss and it cuts out some of the real low end and tightens it up.” [These are the same speakers Joe Bonamassa uses.]
To me, the combination of the Holdsworth/JB – a very high-output pickup – and the Boss OD-1 knocks his tone down a few pegs on the woody scale. Too compressed, too much bzzzzzzzzzzzzz in there. But my opinion hardly counts: Jake was awesome.
Is he still awesome? Lots of rumors, possibly more than rumors, on the ‘net about drug use. All I can say to that is, I sure hope not.
Here’s some cool footage of Jake and the band.
High Wire, rehearsal
> Not the greatest vid quality, but you can hear Jake loud and clear.
> Search for “Badlands rehearsal” on YouTube for many more.
Devil’s Stomp, studio?
> Short clip, but great close-up stuff.
> Can you tell what pedals Jake is using? Let me know!
Devil’s Stomp, live
Jake Jamming in the Studio