Wednesday, January 22, 2014

RECORD REVIEW: Red Dragon Cartel

Red Dragon Cartel

One of rock's all-time 
guitar greats returns 
with a new record that
burns from start to finish.

It was an era that oozed glorious aural goo. Yet despite the campiness and a decades-long saccharine aftertaste, the 1980s did produce a few truly authentic artists.

Clearly standing out from his countless contemporaries, Jake E. Lee first rose to international prominence as Ozzy Osbourne's sideman during the raucous arena rock movement. Lee's signature guitar work and songwriting contributions on such million-selling albums as Bark at the Moon and The Ultimate Sin helped further to cement Osbourne's cred during the mid 80s, while Lee, himself, soared into the stratosphere as rock's latest guitar hero. Following his tenure with Osbourne, Lee went on to create arguably his best and most compelling music in the late '80s and early '90s with the short-lived blues-based outfit, BadlandsIn recent years, the reclusive icon has resurfaced only occasionally — appearing on various tribute records and solo releases. However, in 2014, the famed guitarist returns with his new project, Red Dragon Cartel.

Recorded at the Hideout Recording Studio in Las Vegas, the self-titled debut from Red Dragon Cartel arrives worldwide on January 28th. Produced by Lee and Cartel bassist, Ronnie Mancuso (Beggars and Thieves), the record was executive produced, mixed and mastered by Kevin Churko (Hinder, Ozzy, Five Finger Death Punch), with songwriting credits being shared between Lee, Mancuso and hard rock's reigning go-to guy, Kane Churko. Production on the record had commenced prior to the finalized Cartel line-up, hence, the array of big-name guest vocalists. However, upon its completion, frontman D.J. Smith and drummer Jonas Fairley had joined the band's official ranks.

Fairley, Smith, Lee and Mancuso
The lead video single, "Deceived" possesses a no-holds-barred "Bark at the Moon" energy. Along with "Shout It Out," these  two hooky, guitar-driven  groove monsters  make for  a powerful pair of openers.

With guest lead vocals from Cheap Trick's Robin Zander, "Feeder" is one of several highlights. Its less than happy-sounding lyrics, "I can almost smell the bodies buried in the ground," would seem to be outside of Zander's typical "I Want You to Want Me" comfort zone, however, he proves to be a convincing storyteller and the track works.

Psychedelic and melodic, "Fall from the Sky" is another stand-out, as is the bona fide pedal-to-the (old school) metal nugget, "Wasted," featuring one-time Iron Maiden vocalist, Paul Di’Anno.

Another power point, "War Machine," lies stylistically somewhere between classic Black Sabbath and modern day Wolfmother. Additionally, Sass Jordan's guest vocal on "Redeem Me" helps it to stand out from the rest of the hard-hitting pack as a straight-up and gritty blues rocker — one that's fabulously reminiscent of Badlands. However, Lee's most vicious and enticing riffs (possibly) ever are heard on "Slave," which is the record's pick of the litter.

In sum, Red Dragon Cartel is a mighty debut — a record that's as strong as of any from Jake E. Lee's impressive 30-year career.

-Christopher Long
(January 2014)

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1 comment:

  1. I'm going to definitely add this one to my wish list. Thanks for the review!