Dragon - 1986 Dreams Of Ordinary Men

Lee South AfricaLee South Africa South Africa
edited August 2 in year-1986

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ARTIST: Dragon
ALBUM: Dreams Of Ordinary Men
LABEL: Polydor
SERIAL: 829 828-1 (LP), 829828-2 (CD)
YEAR: 1986

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: image

LINEUP: Mark Hunter - vocals * Todd Hunter - bass, fairlight cmi bass, backing vocals * Tommy Emmanuel - guitars * Alan Mansfield - keyboards * Doane Perry - drums

Guests: Todd Rundgren - guitar, backing vocals * Gary Window, Lenny Pickett - sax

TRACK LISTING: 01 Dreams Of Ordinary Men * 02 Speak No Evil * 03 Nothing To Lose * 04 Western Girls * 05 Intensive Care * 06 Temptation * 07 Midnight Sun * 08 Love Don't Stop * 09 Forever And Ever * 10 Smoke * 11 Start It Up * 12 When I'm Gone

Background

After the sweeping success of 1984's 'Body And The Beat', Dragon were once again a household name in the Antipodes with a Lazarus-like comeback under their collective belt.

Sadly, Peter Hewson who had penned many of their 70's classics needed a break and returned to New Zealand where he tragically died on an all night bender. What a loss.

Dragon continued, issuing the hard rocking hit single 'Speak No Evil' in 1985, as well as 'Live One', a concert record from the 'Body And The Beat' tour (Sydney performance). These events kept them in the limelight, then it was time to record a follow up album.

Turns out Todd Rundgren was brought in to the cockpit and the band were off to New York for a big budget production experience. Judging from Todd's production on Cheap Trick's 1983 disc I had serious reservations but it turns out I needn't have worried.

No thin, jangly rustic approach here, what's left is to discover the quality of the songs. Could they measure up to the titanic AOR of 'Body And The Beat'?

The Songs

Title track 'Dreams Of Ordinary Men' answers yes in emphatic fashion, shades of 80's Utopia in the intro, Marc's vocal tone and the lush backing vocals. Once the song gets rocking though, Dragon rise above the comparison for some thrilling AOR in the call and response tradition. What a chorus, melting the coffee meter right away.

The aforementioned 'Speak No Evil' is next, hard driving AOR punctuated by synth stabs and a pounding rhythm section.

Not as sugary sweet as 'Dreams.'. perhaps, yet Marc sells the story of a country family moving to the city with conviction, an urban parable of sorts.

'Nothing To Lose' comes down to a very relaxed midtempo, the chords and vocals seeming to shimmer in an aquatic AOR dream full of melodies and their endless echoes. As much as I value urgency and uptempo rhythm in my AOR, this is something a bit special, Simon Reynolds may have described this as tectonic plate shift/oceanic drift, as he once did of a Talk Talk album!

'Western Girls' returns to urgent AOR territory, this time combining some serious Toto structure with the best of Cheap Trick in the melody and vocals. I love the way the rhythm moves with the melody, the drums almost becoming a melodic instrument while pounding out the rhythm. Lukather like riffs, stabbing pianos and synths, and Hunter's crisp vocals seal the deal on another AOR winner. Pity it was less successful as a single but no matter, great song.

'Intensive Care' starts out a little new wave influenced, a jarring rhythm and scratchy riff bely the period Toto AOR to follow once it gets going. Those bell chime synths in the bridge and buzzing guitar sustain add extra magic to an already ethereal melody.

'Temptation' begins in similar vein to 'Intensive Care', choppy and confused rhythm and Marc coming over like an irritated Peter Garrett, yet the riffage indicates AOR to follow, and once again it does.

From the most unlikely beginning, an AOR anthem develops, the synth manipulation of melody in the chorus is true genius, last heard on New England's 'Take Another Ride' from the unreleased 1982 demos.

The comparison extends into the vocal arrangements, combined with some John Farnham era LRB for good measure. Pristine AOR.

Utopia's influence is all over 'Midnight Sun', the harmonised verses recalling Todd and Kasim Sulton. If a little brash at times, it still conveys a ton of AOR melody and easily achieves a pass mark.

'Love Don't Stop' is an unfortunate mess of effects and gimmicks, quirky in approach like the more zany moments of The Tubes. A sub par melody doesn't help, certainly not an album highlight.

'Forever And Ever' is a little better, a boogie tempo and 50's harmonies that should be annoying but end up working, something like 'In Your Letter' by REO Speedwagon.

'Smoke' wraps up the album via an obvious return to the laid back aquatics of 'Nothing To Lose'. A worthwhile listen, the exhileration factor ever so slightly diminished though.

In Summary

A very strong AOR follow up to 'Body And The Beat' then, 'Dreams Of Ordinary Men' was released in the USA and Europe as well, though under the moniker of Hunter.

They were hopelessly mismatched on a European tour supporting Tina Turner, patchy sales somewhat inevitable.

In Australia and New Zealand though, the success continued and rightly so. Several singles were issued, succeeding to various degrees, and television appearances to promote the singles kept the Dragon profile high.

With their Antipodean stronghold secure, their next move would be a pair of singles and a further AOR beauty 'Bondi Road'. Next chapter please.


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