RED DRAGON CARTEL
(Frontiers Records, 2014)
Review by: Wes Dodson
As guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne, Jake E. Lee’s efforts on Bark At The Moon (1983) & The Ultimate Sin
(1986) were pivotal components of a then blossoming heavy metal landscape when I was growing up.
Why, I can go so far as to say that I bought Bark At The Moon on vinyl in 1984...
… at a WalMart.
… in Hearne, Texas!
Bark At The Moon World Tour (1984):
In retrospect, you simply cannot deny Jake E. Lee his due for the manner in which he filled the vacancy
left by Randy Rhoads. If you also factor in the turbulent drug and alcohol hurricane that animated Ozzy
back in those days, it’s not at all surprising that Jake’s professional association with Osbourne lasted little
more than three years.
Regrettably, I wasn’t particularly fond of Jake’s followup collaboration with Ray Gillan (Badlands, 198893).
It wasn’t that the music was bad or anything… I just didn’t care for Gillan. To make matters worse, I
loathed that their first single “Dreams In The Dark” (from the 1989 Badlands debut) was in fact a label
mandate; a song created specifically to pacify the suits at Atlantic Records. The powers that be wanted a
track that would suckle from the commercial teat of success that Whitesnake’s “Still Of The Night” was
enjoying at that time.
Post-Badlands material was sparse, and last I recall hearing from Lee were contributions to the long out-of-print
Randy Rhoads Tribute import disc (East West Japan, AMCY4456) back in 2000.
It’s been a quite a while since I had personally heard anything new from Jake E. Lee.
I had been anticipating the release of his new record for quite some time. When word got out that it would
contain a track recorded with former Iron Maiden vocalist, Paul Di’Anno, I was sold! And on January 28th,
2014, Red Dragon Cartel finally hit the streets of North America.
My first taste of the new album was the official video for “Deceived”:
A menacing cloud settled above me right about the time vocalist D.J. Smith first opened his mouth. To my
sincere disappointment, Lee had recruited yet another David Coverdale clone for a vocalist. I guess I had
expected this new material to be just a little more… modern.
Don’t get me wrong. The guitar work comes across well. There’s even a peculiar phrase or two
reminiscent of material from Infestation, the 2010 comeback album from Ratt. Lee, of course, was an
original member of the early Ratt incarnation known as Mickey Ratt.
However, I can’t get past Smith’s gravely falsetto making me absolutely cringe in places.
That said, an unforeseen surprise comes in the form of Smith’s ability to mimic Ozzy’s vocal styling to an
eerie tee… and that’s far from an easy task! Steve Vai hit the nail on the head years back, noting
something to the effect of Ozzy’s vocal range being in its very own zip code! What I thought to be
happening on Red Dragon Cartel was most uncanny… so much so that it crossed my mind as being
outright, blatant artistic fraud. Certain passages from Red Dragon Cartel sound so much like Ozzy that it’s
damned hard to differentiate! Wait-a-minute, this sounds like Ozzy, but this isn’t Ozzy…
… or is it?
Yeah, so… turns out the entire record was cowritten by former Ozzy bandmate, bassist Bob Daisley, and
none less than Osbourne himself.
Bob Daisley, as you might recall, is the guy credited with penning Bark At The Moon, The Ultimate Sin, &
No Rest For The Wicked (1988) respectfully. Additionally, Daisley is alleged to have cowritten the first two Osbourne solo offerings, Blizzard Of Ozz (1980) and Diary Of A Madman (1981), alongside the late Randy Rhoads and Uriah Heep alumni, Lee Kerslake. Alleged, as in… the O$bourne’s have went to great lengths of the legal spectrum to avoid shelling out long pastdue royalties to either Kerslake or Daisley. In 2002, the original bass and drum tracks were erased from the master recordings and replaced with newly recorded accompaniments from then-Osbourne bassist, Robert Trujillo, and drummer Mike Bordin. The O$bourne’s had defiled the most precious of heirlooms… the two lone albums that comprised the legacy of Randy Rhoads.
So, it’s rather shocking to learn of Bob Daisley and Ozzy Osbourne swapping spit again. But hey, time (and a briefcase full of Euros) heals some wounds, I suppose…
Of note, Red Dragon Cartel also features guest appearances from both Robin Zander (Cheap Trick) and
Sass Jordan. And alas, there’s no mistaking the vintage, gruffly vocals of Paul Di’Anno as the record
spins on into “Wasted”… a much anticipated track for me. But, what is easily one of the finer moments to
my ears is the track, “Big Mouth”, fronted by In This Moment vocalist, Maria Brink:
With four of the ten Red Dragon Cartel tracks fronted by different vocalists, I am inclined to think that this
record was a timely, labored effort. Perhaps this lack of consistency suggests why Jake took so long to
put this album out. Be that if it may (my pissy grievances over the new front man aside), it’s really nice to
hear something new from Jake… it’s been sooo long.
Welcome home, dude.
\m/ JAKE E. LEE \m/
Because The Music Matters!!!