Concert Review: Red Dragon Cartel at Revolution in Amityville, NY
Since Badlands’ 1991 release, Voodoo Highway, Jake E. Lee has led an incredibly low-profile musical existence. He has resurfaced from time to time with a few solo releases and a very short club tour with the short lived band Wicked Alliance, but none of his projects seem to take root and before too long he would be back living under the radar.
So when news broke that Jake was now living in Las Vegas and in the process of recording new material with the idea of creating a band, few fans took the news as being set in stone. The news simply seemed too good to be true – that was until this past January when the incredibly well received “Red Dragon Cartel” was unleashed on a loyal fanbase that was not disappointed.
In true Jake E. Lee style he chose to avoid the typical track of 80’s guitar-god, which is to use one of about five hired-gun singers to handle the frontman role. Instead, he chose an unknown Canadian singer by the name of D.J. Smith to share vocal duties on the album and also to be in the touring band, along with bassist Ronnie Mancuso and drummer Jonas Fairly. The album delivered the goods but after a rough start many were wondering what lay ahead for Red Dragon Cartel.
“The Ultimate Sin” opened the set and was a prelude of what was a well-balanced collection of songs showcasing a musician that has been under-appreciated for a catalog of music that is a varied as it is powerful. Each project that Jake has taken on has been unique and each stage of his career was represented in the set. Somewhat surprisingly, only two Ozzy songs were included (“Bark of the Moon” closed out the night) but with a wealth of Badland songs, including lesser known gems such as “Sun Red Sun” and “Shine on”.
D.J. Smith adds a rawness to the band that is refreshing. His vocal abilities seem to lie somewhere between that of Ozzy’s and Ray Gillen’s and even though he is essentially doing cover versions, the songs don’t come off as copies of the original – simply Smith’s take on them. A highlight of the night was the blues influenced “Rumbin’ Train” from Badlands’ debut album. Setting aside his guitar shredding for the slower blues fills of “Rumblin’ Train” you hear a musician who can shift gears at will and the band follows along nicely, giving him enough room to explore the open spaces that the song provides.
Sadly, knowing what we know from the past, there’s the fear that we may lose touch with this musical chameleon before too long but for the time being, Red Dragon Cartel may be the best we’ve ever seen from Jake E Lee…and that’s saying a lot.