Red Dragon Cartel - Red Dragon Cartel

Red Dragon Cartel cover
Red Dragon Cartel
Red Dragon Cartel
Frontiers Records
2014
5.5
Having been away from the music scene for about 9 years, Jake E. Lee returns with his new moniker, Red Dragon Cartel. The whole idea occurred when guitarist/bassist Ronnie Mancuso (Beggars & Thieves, Cher, Vanilla Fudge etc.) & the renowned producer, engineer and mixer Kevin Churko (Ozzy Osbourne, Five Finger Death Punch, Rob Zombie, Hinder, In This Moment etc.), while working together, started talking with Jake and things immediately took shape. Right after that, Ronnie and Jake along with Kane Churko (Kevin’s son), started writing songs under Kevin’s supervision. The rest is history… and this is how, more or less, Red Dragon Cartel was born.
 
Let’s start with the obvious thing. Jake is a great guitarist and songwriter. He has co-written two of the best Ozzy albums (“Bark at the Moon” & “Ultimate Sin”) and has delivered some superb guitar riffs along his career. After his Ozzy years, he formed the Badlands, which were a bloody good band, but they never made it big. Jake’s companions are: D.J Smith on vocals, Ronnie Mancuso on bass & Jonas Fairley (Black Betty) on drums. There are also a few important guest appearances on the album by: the vocalist Robin Zander (Cheap Trick), the vocalist Paul Di’Anno (ex-Iron Maiden), the bassist Rex Brown (ex-Pantera, Down), the bassist Todd Kearns (Slash, Sin City Sinners, Static in Stereo), the drummer Brent Fitz (Slash, Theory of a Deadman, Alice Cooper, Vince Neil etc.), the bassist Scott Reeder (Kyuss, The Obsessed), the vocalist Maria Brink (In This Moment), the vocalist Sass Jordan (S.U.N.) and the drummer Jeremy Spencer (Five Finger Death Punch). Furthermore, the album was produced by R. Bernard Mann (a.k.a Ronnie Mancuso & Jake E. Lee) and executively produced, mixed and mastered by Kevin Churko. The sound is full & heavy without being too modern or shady.
 
So far, so good. I was quite happy when heard about Jake’s return to music business. Unluckily, all the excitement lasted till the moment I pressed ‘play’. To my surprise, a riff ala “Bark at the Moon” came out of the speakers and took over. Why on earth would Jake have to “copy” himself?! For what reason? Is it a minor sin to copy yourself or not? Is it a major sin to “copy-paste” others?! Moreover, “War Machine” could have been Jake’s very own “N.I.B.” or what?! Com’ on! The worst track here is “Wasted” where Paul Di’Anno sings but that wasn’t so much of a shock for me though. In all honesty, things are not so bad. I may overstate cuz’ I had been expected so much and got too little in the end. “Big Mouth” (featuring Maria Brink) & “Redeem Me” (featuring Sass Jordan) are among the most tasteful tracks on the album. D.J Smith also sounds good (on “Slave” for example) but this “wanna sound ala Ozzy” thing keeps him away from unveiling his true abilities.
 
It’s kinda weird but I do feel that Jake hasn’t got over his Ozzy years and he’s kinda under Ozzy’s shadow. Everything in this album is so wannabe Ozzy. He and Zakk Wylde have their own reasons for not having got over Ozzy and that’s respectful. What I do not like is their trying to be something they’re not. Ozzy marked them as musicians and that’s apparent. Now those days are over and they need to follow their own road and express themselves freely. Honestly, I do not need an Ozzy-clone album in 2014. That won’t work eventually and then what’s gonna be? If there’s gonna be a second Red Dragon Cartel album, better make it the way it should be; away from any “Ozzy complexes”…