Red Dragon Cartel
Frontiers Records – 2014
The rhythm guitar in the first track “Deceived” announces the unmistakable return of former Ozzy/Badlands guitarist Jake E. Lee. If you listen to the frenetic energy of this rhythm, there’s little doubt that he was the man behind the Ozzy song “Bark at the Moon.” I mean think about it, can Ozzy Osbourne actually sit down with the patience and discipline to even write a song? Lee brings soulfulness to the solo section and D.J. Smith’s vocals remind me a lot of David Lee Roth.
The start & stop nature of Lee’s guitar in “Shout It Out”, opens up the audio space for Ronnie Mancuso’s bass and Jonas Fairley’s drums. This song has a vocal approach that would be great for the audience to join in and sing along to. As usual, Jake E. Lee nails his lead work.
Love the way Jake leads us into “Feeder.” Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander is featured on vocals giving this song a distinct sound. Jake E. Lee plays a cool slide guitar and some super cool guitar ebellishment. I do think the chorus has a big hook as well.
“Fall From The Sky” is grounded with a salt of the earth feel. Jake let’s his guitar roam free as he starts out in almost a slow folk-like way and lets it build up to so much more.
The Riffs in “Wasted” are heavy and nasty matching the vocals by former Iron Maiden front man Paul Di’Anno. Fairley kicks a heavier drum beat, which really gives this song power.
D.J. Smith’s voice definitely sounds like David Lee Roth’s in “Slave.” Jake E Lee plays a wicked fast guitar pattern in this sixth tune.
Maria Brink (In This Moment) sings the lead vocals in the prodding “Big Mouth.” The way she vocalizes this song is reminiscent of original Snake River Conspiracy singer Tobey Torres.
“War Machine” has an early Black Sabbath feel. D.J. Smith even inflicts a little Ozzy in his tonality. Jake throws out some classic big, hard rock riffs. Ronnie Mancuso’s bass is definitely felt throughout this tune.
I couldn’t help but thinking of Tina Turner, while listening to Sass Jordan’s voice in “Redeem Me.” The timber of Jordan’s voice contains similar course texture, which does gel with the colorful classic rock instrumentation. I really like how Lee presents the slow picked rhythm guitar. It’s definitely unique.
The last track is a tender instrumental piece done on piano, which showcases Jake E. Lee’s musical dexterity. Lee has composed beautiful pieces before like “Jade’s Song” on the first Badlands album.
I have never understood why Jake E. Lee hasn’t been more celebrated like his fellow Ozzy guitarists. His guitar work on Ozzy records Bark at the Moon and The Ultimate Sin are amazing. The man stepped into Randy Rhodes shoes and cranked out one of the catchiest riffs of all-time in “Rock-n-Roll Rebel” and the widely known “Bark at the Moon.”
But how about his underrated contributions to; “Centre of Eternity”, “Slow Down” and his wicked axe-work in “Waiting For Darkness.” Then there’s The Ultimate Sin, which I consider the least appreciated Ozzy album ever made. Spin that 1986 album again and hear the massive riffs of the title track. The brilliant harmonic twinges of “Secret Loser.” How about Jake’s chunky power of “Never Know Why?” Or the incredibly dynamic hook of Lee’s licks in “Lightning Strikes’ and “Fool Like You.” I rarely hear players create anything close to the memorable prose that Jake E. Lee displayed on that album.
Then if you add the first Badlands album, which shot out of a blues-based hard rock cannon, it just doesn’t make any sense that Jake E. Lee has not given his proper due. It’s probably the reason he left the music business for so long.
Welcome the axe-master back with open arms with Red Dragon Cartel. I don’t think the album is perfect (I would have loved to hear more of his heavy metal side) but I’m more than happy that such an amazing musician is making music again.