The musical equivalent of Bigfoot or Loch Ness Monster being spotted, ended when Jake E Lee came out of the shadows a while back. His much lamented time in exile ended with a cameo in a Beggars & Thieves video and then another cameo on That Metal Show. After those two visual appearances he has finally done some audio. Red Dragon Cartel is his new band and their debut release has a lot of expectations to meet.
Jake did a great job in assembling a terrific band. Ronnie Mancuso, the guitar player for the previously mentioned Beggars & Theives, is on bass. Jonas Fairley is the erstwhile drummer and the group is rounded out with Darren James Smith on vocals. Smith, or DJ as he is referred to, has a nice flexible voice. On the opener “Deceived” there is a bit of a Graham Bonnet sound in there. Then on “War Machine” a hint of Ozzy to go with the very Sabbath-y riff. The rest of the time he has more of a raspy voice that works well on the ballad “Fall From The Sky” as well as the rocker “Slave”.
The member that everyone is curious about is the man himself, Jake E Lee. He sounds as great as ever and reminds you why he is so revered. Plus, with the many guest vocalist he adapts his playing to their strong suit. Robin Zander and the catchy pop with “Feeder”. In This Moment’s Maria Brink and the heavy yet slinky sounding “Big Mouth”. Sass Jordan sings on “Redeem Me” and its’ echoing of the great Badlands. The most surprising appearance is Paul Dianno on the rockin’ “Wasted”.
With all that being said, the most shocking song is “Exquisite Tenderness” a solo piano instrumental played by Jake’s.
It’s been close to two decades since Jake E Lee has released an album of original material. There was a high possibility for Red Dragon Cartel to be either an offering of safe, dated material or a misguided attempt to be modern. Thankfully it is neither, it is a terrific testament to the musical ability of Jake E Lee. He has created a slab of terrific and timeless hard rock/metal that is a declaration of of what veteran acts can do. I know it’s early but this is a clear leader for Album Of The Year.
Final rating, I’d be happy paying…
$14.99-Regularly Priced CD
$9.99-Download from iTunes or Amazon
$5.00-wait for Amazon to have it on sale
$1.00-finding at a flea market, car wash, or pawn shop
$0-Not worth the drive space