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THE DRAGON

Vangelis

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rhaydon@ntlwo
4 stars One of Vangelis early 'experimental' albums this is a surprisingly good.Only 3 tracks and you could be forgiven for thinking that this is a symphonic prog album.It isn't! The first track in fact never veers off course and sticks solidly around one rythym.Mostly improvised it starts to get a bit tedious around the ten minute mark.The second track is the reason for getting this.The word 'Beautifull' can easily be overused but not in this case.Classic Vangelis,this builds with such lightness of touch that it is breathtaking.The final track is more 'tradional' sounding prog with slight Folk Prog undertones.Quite good.Overall this a pretty decent early prog effort from Vangelis.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#34903)
Posted Tuesday, May 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This album is among the first ones by Vangelis. Do not expect a "1492" or "Chariots of fire" album. Mostly it consists in acoustic, exotic and rhythmic guitar through bass, primitive percussions and strange electric piano notes. The quite addictive "Stuffed aubergine" also has an excellent floating & mysterious keyboards arrangement plus an interesting electric piano sounding a bit like a guitar. There were some musicians involved: Michel Ripoche, Brian Ogder, Mick Waler and Silver Koulouris. The fast and progressive "Stuffed tomato" should slightly remind you the Frank Zappa's "Ocean is the ultimate solution" track!

Rating: 3.5 stars

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Send comments to greenback (BETA) | Report this review (#37108)
Posted Monday, June 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
Eetu Pellonpää
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This was a pleasant surprise to me after the complex and cacophonic "Hypothesis" album. "The Dragon" is much more accessible LP, and I'm very fond of the old sound which it has.

The title track is like a long mantra, with some Middle-East influences in it's style. The stuffed foodstuffs on the B-side maybe describe nice evening dinners the band had in a restaurant, with a great view to the Aegian sea. You may also want to check these two songs first, if you want an easier introduction to the early works of Vangelis. Covers are also funny, so you might want to have this as a vinyl!

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Send comments to Eetu Pellonpää (BETA) | Report this review (#40128)
Posted Sunday, July 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
talshiar_spoc
5 stars Vangelis in his more relaxed phasses of Live, a Jazzy like album whom never bores. A Must have for any experimental Jazz and Jam-session collector/lover. Vangelis and friends in a exiting Jazz-Jam sesion, never heard a better album in this fasion.

Album is only availeble combinet with the album "Hypothesis" a album more electronic then this one but still a very good album as well.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#46825)
Posted Friday, September 16, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Recorded only a month after Hypothesis, this album is a very different beast altogether. Whereas Hypothesis was experimental jazz, The Dragon is more rock. This is not to say it is straight rock - it still features plenty of experimentation. The title piece takes up the entire first side, a 15-minute lumbering groove that evokes images of a very large creature striding heavily across the landscape. The main theme is played on the violin, and Vangelis' keys provide the thundering bass stomp. Fiery guitar weaves in an out. Powerful, hypnotic, and exotic. Side two consists of two pieces of different natures. Stuffed Aubergine presents a soft mood comfortably blurred in gauzy white tones. For those who don't know, an Aubergine is a kind of mushroom. The piece has a beautiful melody over a chromatic chord progression and is one of my favorite early Vangelis pieces. This one, along with 'Aegean Sea' from the Aphrodite's Child 666, set the tone that came to dominate Vangelis' later music. The next and last track is Stuffed Tomato. I have no idea how he arrived at these two titles (maybe it was late and he wanted to get the sessions over with so he could have his dinner). This piece begins with what is credited as guitar but sounds more like a bouzouki, partially because what is being played is more like a Persian dastigah than a western rhythm, but then again, these are Greeks who have influences I am not familiar with. The guitar/bouzouki intro leads into a powerful theme and jam that closes out the album. Prog fans might get into this one more than its predecessor, and rockers too, especially the title track, although this is probably too eclectic to have a wide appeal. I myself enjoy it a great deal.

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Send comments to Progosopher (BETA) | Report this review (#286758)
Posted Wednesday, June 16, 2010 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars The prior « Vangelis » albums left me pretty cold but they were released more than forty years ago, so?This "Dragon" effort is quite different though. The long title track has some "Bolero" flavours: hypnotic, repetitive, Oriental influenced. On top of this, the percussion work is quite good and the heavy groove is quite convincing as well.

In all, this is my favorite track from this artist so far (while in solo). Fine violin play as well is worth a mention. Quite good in every aspect: it is a fine surprise after all.

I wouldn't say that the other two tracks are on par with this excellent epic: "Stuffed Aubergine" is more on the symphonic jazzy way; it takes a long time to really kick off (if ever it does?). Some good acoustic guitar parts are highlighting this song during the second half which is another fine moment actually.

The culinary recipes seemed to inspire "Vangelis": the last "Stuffed Tomato" is alas not on par with the other two songs: it is some sort of a disparate folk song. It features some good acoustic guitar again (with a fine Greek flavour). After a long intro of the same treat, the song evolves towards some heavier notes which are more of my liking.

This album is quite decent and I rate it with three stars.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#304935)
Posted Sunday, October 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
octopus-4
COLLABORATOR
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
3 stars This album has more or less the same lineup of Hypothesis, there's just a guitarist more. Who knows Vangelis from his more celebrated albums will not be much disappointed. On the title track there's a remind to the Greek floklore by the percussions and the violin, but the electric guitar, something very unusual for Vangelis, transforms it gradually into a psychedelic rock session. So imagine a repetitive base on which a very acid guitar plays a solo. The base makes me think to Amon Duul and the guitar to Ash Ra Temple. Is it krautrock?

"Stuffed Aubergine" is opened by a soft electric piano. This is the Vangelis whom everybody is most used to. It takes more than 4 minutes before an acoustic 12 strings guitar adds some rhythm. It's made just of a couple of chords: A- and D, proceeding in this way until the end.

The "Stuffed Tomato" start to be stuffed by what seems to be a string instrument like a buzouki, but can also be just an acoustic guitar. What it plays is between the sirtaki and the American Country. Three minutes and we have progressive rock with jazzy and beat elements. The track is one, but we have effectively several different songs. The third part starts with acoustic guitar and rapidly becomes a jazzy jam session lead by Vangelis electric piano.

Good but non-essential is how I define this album.

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Send comments to octopus-4 (BETA) | Report this review (#351594)
Posted Monday, December 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
Guldbamsen
FORUM & SITE ADMIN GROUP
Site and Forum Admin
5 stars Firebreathing Lizard

Forgive me now, because this will be a very biased review. This was my second Vangelis album, which I bought some 7 or 8 years ago along with the Conquest of Paradise soundtrack, and for unknown reasons it still remains my favourite release from him. I´d just watched the Ridley Scott movie about Cristopher Colombus and felt the music was fascinating, huge and adding to the overall scope of the thing - a magical touch. I was however completely baffled by this monster, and it left me wondering if it indeed was made by the same artist. The resemblance between the two albums is comparable to that of a growling German Shepard and big box of lip-balm.

David Bowie has always been called a musical "chameleon", but I honestly do believe that Vangelis is more deserving of that accolade. I mean the guy has made records with all kinds of different influences: Jazz, electronic, symphonic, avant and psychedelic - all of them orchestrated by his highly unique way of knitting melodies and structures together. The Dragon though is a wonderful Krautrock album as much as that sounds preposterous, feverish, misguided, full of bs, insane and totally bonkers - yep, this is Krautrock...

The first and self-titled cut is an astonishing eastern journey with drawn out swaying bouncing music, that paints a picture of a Persian bazaar experienced through flickering mental dreamlike curtains. A demented insisting and slightly menacing violin slices its way through a thicket of fuzzed out snuffling drumming, a bass that mimics a subsonic bleating lamb, psychedelic mantra inducing guitars and an intricate woven carpet-like keys utilization by the man himself, and bam! the music is thick like gravy and hypnotic like watching a mosquito buzzing around in perfect squares. I often think of Swedish psych/kraut band Älgarnes Trädgård, when I listen to this track. There´s a similar psychedelic folk sauce going on here, and I simply adore it.

Second fire-breathing lizard is a more subtle and calm piece, and I think the album benefits from the rather long piano driven prologue, which covers your open wounds, ripped up by the preceding cosmic onslaught, with a soothing bandage conveyed in musical bliss. When the gentle guitar joins in, it feels like an ice-cream you´ve been holding in your sun-baked hand for far too long, -uneventfully and gently melting down your fingers. I love this track and again there´s traces of the more mellow side of Krautrock, and I´d happily play this to a small bird without the fear of getting piipped at too much.

Vangelis decides to end The Dragon with a ferocious adventure in psychedelic tinged fusion, that reminds me of the Dadaist Kraut-jazzers Exmagma and their more robust and elephant-like musical facets. Although it starts out like a folkish tune with skewed acoustic guitar, it segues into some wild n´ frenzy fusion with Vangelis playing some of the best electric piano I´ve heard from the man - often recalling the great Herbie Hancock. It´s truly the bouncing back and forth between these two textures that makes this track. See-saw whoohi - up and down from side to side, and back again! Just remember that seatbelt and you´re in for a terrific ride.

Like I started out saying, this is a highly biased review, and largely down to my uncontrolled love of psychedelic music, but mostly because The Dragon was my starting point in Vangelis´ enormous discography. Looking back now, after some 12 purchased records, I still feel this is his crowning achievement, even though he probably thinks of it like he thinks of chlamydia: irritating and there, but you´ve nearly forgotten about it...

Beautiful and treacherous like a towering black waxed dragon in lederhosen.

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Send comments to Guldbamsen (BETA) | Report this review (#564953)
Posted Wednesday, November 09, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars If you're only familiar with Vangelis' synthesizer-based albums, The Dragon may be a shock to you. Even on the keyboard-y "Stuffed Aubergine (Stuffed Penguin)", the keyboards sound much older (not to mention quieter), and the song is a lot closer in nature to early experimental ambient music than his later work. It's very pleasant, though, and the soft shape and volume of the keys on this song recalls the feeling of gazing at a blanket of mauve colored dust from a distance. The title track is radically different than his more commonly known music, being a long, improvised drone of guitar, bass, drums, keys, and violin that actually sustains itself well given how repetitive it is. The other piece, "Stuffed Tomato", is also very different, even from the rest of the album, having more of a jazz feel, but not a traditional one - still experimental. It might not comapre with his later masterpieces, but it's a very unique album, not just in Vangelis' catalouge, but within the world of music in general.

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Send comments to 7headedchicken (BETA) | Report this review (#595074)
Posted Friday, December 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
Neu!mann
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The second unauthorized Vangelis album (after "Hypothesis") was recorded in 1971, very early into or even before his illustrious solo career. So it makes sense that the music here resembles something from his group APHRODITE'S CHILD more than the middlebrow synth extravaganzas and soundtracks he would later gain fame for.

At the time, the future Oscar-winning composer was simply exploring possible career options, in a London studio alongside a quartet of session players. An actual album was never intended, and by the time these tapes were (illegally) released in1978 the tardy results must have blindsided a lot of fans. The album's heavy, Hellenistic psychedelia was more structured than the jazzier "Hypothesis", but sounded just as unlikely next to other Vangelis albums available at the same time ("Spiral"; "China").

The 15-plus minute title track is a lot like the creature depicted on the front cover: a rampaging beast of music built around a strong, hypnotic riff lifted straight off the dirty backstreets of urban Athens, apparently by way of Munich (it wouldn't have sounded out of place on an early AMON DÜÜL album). In startling contrast, the delicate electric piano of "Stuffed Aubergine" (I'm guessing all the titles were chosen at random from a Greek cookbook) sounds not unlike CLUSTER's Hans-Joachim Roedelius enjoying a Mediterranean vacation. Be ready for when the synthetic strings finally drift within earshot: a moment of understated musical drama.

The album finale "Stuffed Tomato" then beats a hasty retreat to rural Macedonia, for an ethnic folk jam played on what might be a bouzouki-like string instrument or a radically de- tuned piano. There's a brutal edit before the full band is engaged, showing exactly how Vangelis might have developed his music in a more traditional Prog Rock setting.

The London sessions were never really completed, and didn't lead anywhere except to a battery of lawsuits. Maybe Vangelis abandoned the tapes because he wasn't the obvious star in a true ensemble effort, possibly the same reason for his not joining YES a few years later. Or maybe he just felt this sort of unrehearsed music wasn't enough to build an entire career from.

Either way the album (even more than "Hypothesis") stands apart from his primary body of work, but in a very cool, very novel way. I feel conflicted about awarding four stars to something Vangelis himself fought hard to legally block. But there isn't a court of law on Earth where this music wouldn't kick serious butt.

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Send comments to Neu!mann (BETA) | Report this review (#875650)
Posted Friday, December 14, 2012 | Review Permalink
Aussie-Byrd-Brother
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
5 stars Where do I begin with one of my favourite albums? One that I've had for over twenty years, that I still listen to all the time and find it impresses and amazes me more and more each time. Vangelis' `The Dragon' is what true progressive music is to me - a blending of different styles and genres to create something truly inventive and forward-thinking. It's a hypnotic combination of droning raga-rock, psychedelic haze and ethnic atmosphere, full of drama, rising tension and contrasting dreamy passages. The way the acoustic instruments weave around electric guitar and humming electronics truly bridges the past and the future, the ancient world with the modern.

The title track is a hypnotic mantra, filled with swallowing gulping bass and dizzying ethnic percussion. This journey to the East is a thrilling and dynamic droning piece, with a rough and reckless Krautrock style as it runs through everything from bolero rhythms, near-Arabic themes and fuzzy dark psychedelia. It constantly builds with lurking mystery and monstrous tension throughout, occasionally breaking into wild violin jigging and freeform distorted electric guitar phasing. Tribal beats, crashing predatory drumming, monotonous acoustic guitar strumming and harsh electronics blur into a tornado of blissful aggression and primal fury. Just close your eyes and be swept away with it.

`Stuffed Aubergine' begins as a tip-toeing and delicate dreamscape of gentle electric guitar picking and floating shimmering electric piano. I think of a serene lake, with an inviting and beckoning ghostly female presence far away in the distance calling me closer. It's as if this figure has taken me in her arms where I know I'll be protected from all my doubts and worries, but I'm still anxious and frightened at this new sensation. Waterdrop-like looped percussion soon mixes with commanding strummed acoustic-guitar bliss with serene synth washes and mad bass soloing. Such a wonderful and drifting Krautrock number, that makes for a perfect come-down with just a hint of danger.

`Stuffed Tomato' is a ragged, almost sitar-like droning folk piece with commanding deep-throated aggression before stomping in with a thick and crushing Amon Duul-like feel good acid-freakout middle full of hippie vibe. Careening bass, spiraling keyboard solos and murky electric guitar churning tear through a whirlwind of jazzy electric piano and impossibly manic acoustic playing. Play it loud, and this one will totally threaten to overwhelm you.

I was initially drawn to the album by that wonderful cover. As a lifetime collector of comic books, the album cover just leapt out at me! I mean, just look at it - B-Movie monster heaven! I'm a proud owner of a pristine vinyl edition, and it holds a very special place in my collection. It's unbelievable to think that this album was never really intended to be released, instead put out without the artists' permission. The fact we came so close to not being able to enjoy this wonderful musical experience is shocking.

Although I like many of his later electronic albums, it's his earlier phase as an experimental/world/ambient artist that really fascinates me, as Vangelis was clearly searching in all possible directions for a sign of where to head. This is really up there with his immersive proto-ambient `L'Apocalypse Des Animaux', though where that album is a subtle and fragile thing of beauty, `The Dragon' is a wild and wooly beast flailing about full of energy.

An essential part of any raga-rock, ethnic, dark psychedelic folk and Krautrock music fans collection.

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Send comments to Aussie-Byrd-Brother (BETA) | Report this review (#899852)
Posted Saturday, January 26, 2013 | Review Permalink

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