Jake E. Lee’s Red Dragon Cartel Rock New Jersey
Jake E. Lee emerged from an ’80s metal scene that celebrated excesses of every sort. Not the least of which was over-the-top guitar playing, many times at the expense of the music that was being created. Lee, however, stood out for being able to shred with the best of them but never at the expense of the song. From the lighting fast solos during his period with Ozzy Osbourne, to the bluesy-swagger of Badlands, to the heaviness of Wicked Alliance, there has always been something new and incredible up his sleeve.
For the better part of 15 years, Jake E. Lee has been as known for the fact that he’s missing from the music world as he has for being one of the best guitarist to come out of the ’80s metal scene. Fortunately, his absence from the music world ended this past January with the debut release from his new outfit Red Dragon Cartel. Always one to do things a bit differently, Lee chose a relatively unknown vocalist (D.J. Smith) to relaunch his career. The choice in vocalist seemed odd, that is, until you see them take the stage.
At their recent show at Mexicali Live in Teaneck, N.J., the band opened with the thunderous drums of ‘The Ultimate Sin’ and ripped into a set that was raw and refreshingly fearless. From the start, it’s clear that Lee is on his game. Spinning and jumping around the stage, he exudes an energy that is contagious. Drummer Jonas Fairley and bassist Ronnie Mancuso provide a solid foundation that gives the band room to jam without sounding like free-form noodling. Case in point, Badlands ‘Rumblin’ Train’ is transformed into a blues song that sounds like it’s spilling out of a juke-joint in a swampy part of hell.
To the audience’s credit, no one seemed to mind that RDC’s self-titled debut is well represented. ‘Deceiver’ and ‘War Machine’ fit perfectly alongside Badlands classics like ‘Highwire’ and ‘Shine On’. D.J. Smith shows a tremendous amount of respect to Badlands singer Ray Gillen, calling it an honor to sing his songs before playing a haunting version of the little known ‘In a Dream.’ Dipping further into Lee’s catalog the band plays ‘Sun Red Sun’ off of Badlands’ never officially released ‘Dusk’ album.
Few bands have the guts to dip as far into their catalog as Jake E. Lee has with this band and for that they were rewarded with a crowd that didn’t want the night to end. Closing with ‘Bark at the Moon,’ you realize that this band could play for another hour and you’d still want to hear more. Let us hope that this is just the first of many chapters in the life of this band.
Exclusive Photos of Red Dragon Cartel in Teaneck, N.J.