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Dragon - 1989 Bondi Road

ARTIST: Dragon
ALBUM: Bondi Road
LABEL: BMG/Arista (Wheatley)
YEAR: 1989


LINEUP: Marc Hunter - vocals * Todd Hunter - bass, backing vocals * Alan Mansfield - keyboards, guitars

Guests: David Hirschfelder - keyboards * Mike Caen, Tommy Emmanuel - guitars * Andy SIdari - bass * Mitch Dalton - acoustic guitar * Micehl Rose - pedal steel * Mark Collins - banjo * Andrew Oh, Kenny G - sax * John Watson, Kerry Jacobsen, Mitch Farmer - drums * Wayne Goodwin - violin * Sunil De Silva - percussion * Ken Francis - kerangs * Simon Darlow - choir * Wendy Matthews, Mary Azzopardi, Shauna Jensen, Cheryl Black, Sharon O'Neill, Jo Pigott, Rick Price, Karen Johns - backing vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 Young Years * 02 Blue Blue * 03 Book Of Love * 04 Here Am I * 05 Ice In This Town * 06 Gold In The River * 07 Bondi Road * 08 Summer * 09 Family Man * 10 Runaway * 11 Good Time Girl * 12 Celebration


Next chapter in the Dragon story then, 'Dreams Of Ordinary Men' had fared very moderately in Europe but rode the charts in Australia and New Zealand. Before the next album was conceived, Dragon once again caressed the singles chart, this time with two singles. First was a cover of Kool & The Gang's 'Celebration', followed by an almost hi-energy tinged 'River'. 'Celebration' was a fairly major hit, 'River' far less so, but again the band's profile was maintained successfully between albums. At this point the core trio of the Hunter brothers and Alan Mansfield welcomed back a returning David Hirschfelder (ex LRB). Mansfield and Sharon O'Neill had formed a formidable songwriting alliance to complement the existing core, so quality AOR tracks were hardly a scarcity when they entered the studio for what would become 'Bondi Road'.

The Songs
'Young Years' immediately brings an electric/acoustic combination into play, an approach which eventuates through much of the album. Fairly sedate verses give way to tidal waves of melodic attack in the chorus, and I'm only too happy to stay underwater and drink it all in. Prime time 80's LRB is the closest reference point yet the Dragon identity is etched all over this. I confess that by the time Marc belted out 'our memories won't fade away' my clenched fists were trembling. A massive hit, a tribute to remembering youger days, and one of the top 5 AOR tracks I've ever heard. 'Blue Blue' is on the lighter side of AOR, piano and acoustic guitar the only passengers on this midtempo train, barring the brief sax solo. Too classy and crafted to fall into bland MOR, good song. The intro to 'Book Of Love' recalls late 80's Saga, but the script changes as Toto comes into focus, more high calibre AOR. 'Here Am I' sounds like a Brazilian lounge track at first, Toto then permeating the verses, a very West Coast rhythm and the keyboard hook directly from the David Paich school. The chorus is a little different though, gliding into gentle 70's pop somewhere between The Carpenters and supermarket muzak. Didn't work for me I'm afraid. Redemption is immediate though, as 'Ice In This Town' opens up a classic AOR trifecta. A well arranged horn section embellishes the verses, loving the thumping bass in the bridge, but the chorus takes the prize - a revolving door of melody, with those bell chime synths from the previous album making a triumphant return. This easily stands alongside any Northern Hemisphere AOR of the period.

'Gold In The River' shows glimpses of what Midnight Oil were doing at the time, limited to the verse and bridge sections though. Dragon once again pull off an anthem chorus here, an especially satisfying wall of vocals and tasteful keys in evidence bringing period Foreigner to mind. AOR central without doubt, but the best of the trilogy is the last. Title track 'Bondi Road' builds in tempo, layers of AOR intensity and sophistication leading to one of the all time choruses. Anthemic doesn't begin to describe the shifting melodic dunes pouring out of the speakers, easily matching Journey in full flight. Beach culture is thoroughly celebrated here, Southern Hemisphere AOR of the finest calibre. 'Summer' extends the theme, a bright and breezy pop rock/AOR confection. Released as a single it didn't light up the charts as expected, certainly the title track was the obvious choice. 'Family Man' tugs out some more West Coast sophistication, very smooth and lightweight, reasonable enough. 'Runaway' is miles better, straight ahead AOR with heaps of Dakota and period Cheap Trick. Yet another high flying chorus, Dragon making melody sound effortless here. 'Good Time Girl' sounds like the boys were listening to a lot of 38 Special, catchy Southern tinged AOR on offer. This one really grew on me, going up several notches with repeat plays for the review. It also ends the album proper for me, although the so so cover of 'Celebration' is tacked on the end. It was a hit between albums, so understandable I suppose.

In Summary
'Bondi Road' was another substantial success for Dragon in the Antipodes, and you can tell from the title and much of the subject matter that they focused on their home market here. Taken as a trilogy of albums starting with 'Body And The Beat', some of the finest AOR I've heard is on offer. For sheer consistency and Southern Hemisphere appeal though, 'Bondi Road' may just be the best of the three. For reasons unknown to me, Dragon were only heard from again in 1995 with the semi unplugged 'Incarnations' disc. They're a vital band in our beloved genre, I urge you to check them out.

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#1 | gdazegod on March 04 2013 02:50:57
I'm probably of the exception.. 'Here Am I' (not 'Last To Know' ) is a quite cruisy tune. Yes a bit schmaltzy I'll admit, but a great lite listen. The Saga comparison to 'Book Of Love' is dead on!
#2 | AOR Lee on March 04 2013 04:45:07
Point taken George, 'cruisy' is probably the perfect description for Here Am I. I loved the verses, just felt they promised a chorus with a tiny bit more crunch. I can see this track working for a large portion of the readership though, would've made a great contender for our Daze Of Wimphem column back in the day! whatever happened to that column ?
#3 | gdazegod on March 04 2013 05:07:09
Daze of Wimphem probably went out with the Ark mate! lol!
#4 | airborne on March 07 2013 22:57:46
Brilliant album. What more can be said about marc hunter? Legend.
#5 | gdazegod on March 08 2013 01:49:40
Playing it this week. Revved up loud in the car. Sounds great!

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