Today marked the release of the long-awaited new album from Jake E. Lee’s band, “Red Dragon Cartel” an album brimming with lots of guest spots but also featuring Jake’s new band rounded out by bassist Ronnie Mancuso, drummer Jonas Fairley and vocalist Darren James Smith. I’ll start off by saying I’ve been known to enjoy writing record reviews about as often Axl Rose is known to release new music but I am a total Jake E. nerd and have been waiting to review this thing since the first track “Feeder” was released. Jake E. Lee, both with Badlands and of course Ozzy, became one of those guitar heroes from the MTV era (along with Vito Bratta and Vinnie Vincent) who left a blazing trail during the channel’s heyday before keeping an extremely low profile in more recent years.
Long story short; it’s been a long time since Badlands and a long time waiting to push play on a new record from Jake E. Lee so is it worth the wait?
I liked it on first listen and I like it more with each subsequent listen. I love the guest musician spots and tracks like the 90’s ish “Feeder” featuring Robin Zander (Cheap Trick) on lead vocals but I really like the vocals Smith lays down on this record just as much. Also,if it is notable that “Feeder” or “Big Mouth” (featuring In This Moment’s Maria Brink) feature some industrial or alternative modern moments then it’s also noteworthy that “Wasted” (featuring Paul Di’anno) and “Redeem Me” (featuring Sass Jordan) feel rooted in a much earlier era. There’s not one particular style here that’s hammered home and that makes for an interesting listen (for example, the album closes with a piano piece which is one of Jake’s earliest compositions).
I think most fans of Jake’s playing career will love this album but, that said, the only track here that really has a “Badlands” feel to it is “Redeem Me”. Most of the other tracks on “Red Dragon Cartel” either find Jake and company either playing modern music or revisiting his famous heavy metal past, or in some of the best instances, carving out ground somewhere in between such as in “Deceived” and “Slave”. Those two tracks and the Maria Brink track “Big Mouth” seem like the most logical “focus tracks” for radio but honestly there are probably a couple other standouts as well.
There are a couple moments on the album which tip the hat to either Sabbath or Ozzy based on a few sly riffs from Jake but it’s clear upon repeated listens that he hasn’t run out of ideas. It’s also obvious Jake took his time with this record as it doesn’t feel rushed or thrown together, although it’s safe to say that with touring and time this band could be even better. Still, this is a pretty solid step forward for both Jake and Frontiers Records so hopefully 2015 will bring another new platter from Red Dragon Cartel. Jake E. Lee fans need to know that Red Dragon Cartel is worth the wait, that the playing and soloing Jake displays here is, of course, top notch but thankfully so are the songs.
Order “Red Dragon Cartel” here
Watch the new video for “Deceived” below!