Jake E. Lee has been a rock ‘n’ roll recluse having placed himself on a bit of a self-imposed exile since Badlands disbanded. There were brief stints with Wicked Alliance with singer Mandy Lion and The Bourgeois Pigs with Shark Island singer Richard Black and House of Lords guitarist Michael Guy—but they were not meant to be.
Throughout the years there’s been speculation about Jake. Mostly rumors – mostly negative – as to why Lee stepped out of the spotlight. There’s been everything from drinking and drugging to having sustained an injury that resulted in his inability to play to being homeless. The truth is Jake has been living in Las Vegas for several years; in 2012 friend Ronnie Mancuso (Beggars & Thieves) and producer Kevin Churko encouraged Lee to write new music – record it with the promise that if he didn’t feel it he could resume his reclusive lifestyle.
The writing session spawned the “Feeder.” Lee was inspired and kept writing the result is his comeback record with his new band Red Dragon Cartel. Initially the album was going to be a solo record with guest singers it later evolved into a complete band effort. The core band consists of Lee on guitar, Mancuso on bass, Darren James Smith on vocals and drummer Jonas Fairly. There are several guests featured throughout the album which includes the likes of Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander and Tom Peterson, Slash drummer Brent Fitz, singers; Maria Brink (In This Moment), Sass Jordan (S.U.N.), and Paul DiAnno (formerly of Iron Maiden). There’s noticeable cohesion heard in the tracks with core band than the tracks with guests. While some guest tracks are better than others, they seem disjointed in comparison to those featuring the core band.
The album kicks off with three of the best tracks on the record with “Decieved,” where we find Lee plagiarizing his “Bark at the Moon” riff, “Shout it Out” a modern rocker with a monster groove that is followed by “Feeder” which features Robin Zander on vocals. After that the album has spotty moments with other standouts being the gritty “Wasted” with Paul DiAnno on vocals, the industrial “Big Mouth” featuring Maria Brink of In This Moment, the doomy “War Machine” sounds like it could have been lifted from a classic Black Sabbath writing session. Red Dragon Cartel is far from a perfect record. While it might not meet the ‘unreasonable’ expectations of the some fans’ for Jake E. Lee’s return to the stage, the album has several shining moments that will serve as the vehicle to catapult Lee back in spotlight with all of his guitar slinging contemporaries.