Review Summary: Jake does a misstepRunnin’ with the Devil
, a new solo album from the guitarist Jake E. Lee, followed three years after the excellent Retraced
. Just like the 2005 LP, Runnin’ with the Devil
contains covers of other bands and musicians’ songs. However, when the former focused on blues and hard rock from the 1960s – 1970s, the latter has different geography: it’s dominated by the 1970s hard rock and heavy metal, with a brief return to the 60s and a one-off detour into the 80s. The previous attempt was surprisingly successful, so will the same happen to Jake’s another cover effort?
The answer in this case would be more like “no”, than an explicit “yes”. For whatever reason, Runnin’ with the Devil
changes the formula, which made Retraced
a success, leading to an expected and pretty sad outcome.
Many things on the album evoke raised eyebrows. For example, it was a smart move to cover more obscure songs on the previous album, so that those unfamiliar with the originals can perceive the LP as a full-fledged Jake E. Lee solo effort. The selection on Runnin’ with the Devil
feels like the aim is on a wider public. This is how we get a limp version of Van Halen
eponymous classic, decent It’s a Long Way to the Top
(with Lemmy on vocals) by AC/DC
, secondhand Seek & Destroy
and solid Wango Tango
by Ted Nugent
. The last artist, actually, prevails on the album, taking 6 tracks out of 11. There are both popular Nugent numbers (luckily Stranglehold
is not covered here) and deeper cuts, and comprise the more interesting part of the LP.
Also, unlike Retraced
, all songs feature not one vocalist to creates a sense of consistency and cohesion, but has a new one on each of the tracks. Predominantly Jake, himself coming from the 1980s, invited his contemporaries, most of them of glam metal variety, like, for example, Stephen Pearcy of Ratt
, Phil Lewis of L.A. Guns
or Jani Lane of Warrant
. Also put in an appearance Chuck Billy of Testament
, as well as Lemmy and Glenn Hughes
, who need no introductions. It should be stated that in general the featured vocalists handle themselves well, most of the time even overshadowing Jake E. Lee. However, this time around it does not seem to be that difficult.
So happened that Jake E. Lee, the main selling point of the record, for the first time in many years evokes no enthusiasm. The always reliable guitar player with a signature sound, Jake delighted us with his riffs and solos on the Ozzy Osbourne
albums, as well as solo efforts. Now the situation is different. By all means, nobody is going to implicate him in incompetence, it is the other way around, Jake, being a true professional, handles easily the thrash classic from Metallica or the languish Get Down, Make Love
. Still, despite the technical strength of the six-stringer and all the licks and solos Jake sounds rather uninspired, and the tracks rarely manage to quicken the pulse of the audience, leaving them indifferent, by contrast with Retraced
. Moreover, there are periods, when he doesn’t play anything, shifting the focus on the featured vocalist or rhythm section. On the one hand, it’s admirable, but on the other it is going to be Jake’s name on the cover that might attract potential listeners and the fact is on Runnin’ with the Devil
he is a shadow of himself.
And so it seems that the LP would be of no interest to the fans and those appreciating the originals. The somewhat successful Ted Nugent covers do not justify the need to purchase. Even the historic throwback to the early days of Jake E. Lee career, represented with Cry in Time
from Mickey Ratt (before they renamed themselves to Ratt and released their most successful Out of the Cellar
), do not make the album a required listen. Well, missteps are common, and for Jake it is the first one.