By Dr. Abner Mality

Mr. Jake E. Lee surfaces again with his Red Dragon Cartel project. Although best known as lead guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne following the death of Randy Rhodes, hard rock connoisseurs have always considered his band Badlands his greatest achievement. With Red Dragon Cartel, Jake is trying to reach the same heights he scaled with Badlands, but that’s an impossible task because the debut Badlands record was simply one of the greatest hard rock/commercial metal records ever recorded. Topping that legendary disk is a Herculean task.

But lovers of Badlands should definitely give RDC a shot.  Jake has surrounded himself with a good band here that includes drummer Phil Varone from Skid Row, former Lynch Mob bassist Anthony Esposito and Harem Scarem lead singer Darren James Smith. Pretty good line up! Jake lets the bluesier side of his repertoire flow here, especially on “Crooked Man”, which starts with a pitbull-mean guitar growl and then turns into a gritty stomper. “Speedbag” and “Punchclown” are on the heavier side of the ledger, but I really detect a strong whiff of 90’s grunge ala STP and Alice In Chains around tunes like “Bitter” and “Chasing Ghosts” . So if you are looking for a total 80’s redux, be aware this is not really that.

Darren Smith has a good smooth voice but misses a lot of the essential grit and spit that adds intensity to the music. Hate to say it, but when I imagine Ray Gillen on these tracks, they sound better. As for Jake’s guitar playing, you can’t deny the man’s talent and he really comes up with some unusual sounds and effects that liven things up, as on “The Luxury of Breathing” and “Punchclown”.

It’s a fine slab of US hard rock from one of the best players in the industry.