RATINGS: A = must own B = buy it C= average D = yawn F = puke

Red Dragon Cartel – Red Dragon Cartel (featuring Jake E. Lee)
Frontiers Records

http://www.frontiers.it/album/5184/

Rating: B

Jake E. Lee is most famous for being the guitarist on the album Bark at the Moon by Ozzy Osbourne, the first album of new music released after the death of Ozzy’s guitarist Randy Rhoads.  Jake went on to form the critically acclaimed bluesy/metal band Badlands in the late 1980’s and then, he disappeared.  When Frontiers Records heard that Lee was back in the studio, writing and recording new music, they jumped at the opportunity to bring the talented guitarist to their label.

Red Dragon Cartel began life as a Jake E. Lee solo project that was to feature a different guest singer on each track.  As they rehearsed, however, it became clear this was not a project, it was a band.  The finished product ended up featuring guest singers on some of the songs, which happen to be the best songs on the album, the best of which is, hands down, “Feeder” which features Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander.

Other standout songs with guest vocalists are “Wasted” which features original Iron Maiden singer Paul Di’Anno.  As one would guess, this tune is an in-yer-face; knock-yer-socks-off.  Jake also brings in a couple of sexy ladies to assist on the self-titled debut.  The best song sung by the fairer sex is “Big Mouth” featuring In This Moment’s Maria Brink.  The sexy Sass Jordan appears on the song “Redeem Me” and totally kicks the song’s ass.  

There are still some fine moments with the regular band line up of vocalist Darren James Smith, drummer Jonas Fairley and bassist Ronnie Mancuso, most notably the opening tune “Deceived.”  This song is reminiscent of Jake’s Ozzy past and shows he is still one of the best guitar slingers n the West.  That said, one can’t help fee that the band feel of the album would have been better served had they dropped the guest singers—other than Zander as “Feeder” is custom made for his vocals.

Vocals are a hot topic in the band, as singer Darren James Smith gave a horrible performance during the band’s live debut making one wonder if he is the right man for the job.  Only time will tell if Smith is the final piece of the puzzle, or if Jake would be better off holding auditions for a new throat player.   Even with drama in the vocal department it must be stated that musically, Jake E. Lee is the star of this show.  His playing—both rhythmic and solo-wise, is on fire.  He has a passion that oozes out of him and now, at least somewhat sober, Lee is picking up where he left off a couple of decades ago.

At the end of the day there are moments of greatness on this album, mostly coming from Lee’s fingertips.  His playing makes this a must-own for any fan of ‘80s heavy metal.  Lee plays with melody, but can also rip your face off with his dynamic speed and virtuosity.  The key to Red Dragon Cartel’s success will be Jake E. Lee surrounding himself with the right people and staying inspired and motivated to move his career forward. While Jake has greatness in him, we will have to wait and see if he has the correct cast of characters to support him over the long haul.

Jake E. Lee is back, and that’s good enough for this writer…at least for now.

Tracklisting:
Deceived
Shout It Out
Feeder (featuring Robin Zander)
Fall From The Sky (Seagull)
Wasted (featuring Paul Di’Anno)
Slave
Big Mouth (featuring Maria Brink)
War Machine
Redeem Me (featuring Sass Jordan)
Exquisite Tenderness.

By Jeb Wright

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