The Happy Dragon Band


Band members                              Related acts

   line up 1

- John Bee Badanjek -- drums, percussion

- Tom Carson -- vocals, guitar, keyboards
- Dennis Craner -- bass

- Mike DeMartino -- keyboards 

- John Fraga -- bass

- Cecily Lonergan -- vocals

- Gary Meisner -- guitar

- Mike Orzel -- tambourine

- Clem Riccobono -- vocals

- Ralph Sarafino -- drums

- Scott Strawbridge -- guitar

- Brian White -- guitar


 

 

- Detroit (John Bee Badanjek)

Phantom's Divine Comedy (John Bee Badanjek and  John Fraga)

- The Rockets ( John Bee Badanjek and John Fraga)

- Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels ( John Bee Badanjek and  

  John Fraga)

- Wazoo (John Fraga)

 


 

Genre: progressive

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  The Happy Dragon Band

Company: Fiddlers

Catalog: 811015-1157

Year: 1978

Country/State: Detroit, Michigan

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: minor ring, edge and corner wear

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 154

Price: $250.00

 

This one has a fond place in my collection.  Not that I think it's a great LP; 'cause it isn't, rather it was the first "big ticket" album that I ever bought.  I found it at a local record store on a wall behind the cash register.  The store wanted $50 for it. but gave me a $5 discount because I had purchased a couple of other albums.

 

Having released a little noticed 1974 album for Capitol under the guise of Phantom's Divine Comedy, four years later former Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels drummer John Bdanjeck, singer/guitarist Tom Carson, bassist Dennis Craner, keyboardist Mike DeMartino and guitarist Gary Meisner reappeared as The Happy Dragon Band.  Released by the small Michigan-based Fiddlers label, anyone expecting to hear another set of faux Doors-inspired psych was bound to be surprised by 1978's "The Happy Dragon Band".  Whereas the earlier Phantom LP featured all-original material, here all nine tracks were penned by someone under the name of Tommy Court.  Whoever he was, Court  was also credited with production, engineering and direction.   Musically the set was a major shocker.  Dropping their earlier pseudo-Doors stance, material such as '3-D Free', 'In Flight' and the instrumental 'Bowling Pin Intro' found the band plunging headlong into outright experimentation.  Featuring extended tracks filled with synthesizers, odd studio sound effects and dazed vocals, the results didn't make for a particularly commercial outing.  That said, the album sported a weird, hypnotizing appeal that's worth a couple of spins.  Dark, heavy and disturbing, part of the aura may be explained by the liner notes - "This album is in memory of: my friend Ritchie & my child Ritchie Joe".  Reportedly only 200 copies were printed; hence the steep asking price.  Not something the get the dance party started, but it was quirky in an interesting and engaging fashion.  I'd listen to it again ...

 

"The Happy Dragon Band" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) 3-D Free   (Tom Court) - 3:29    rating: *** stars

Easily one of the album's odder numbers, '3-D Free' was a slightly disconcerting ballad that combined a reggae influence, a dated stab at social relevance, along with some of the most irritating vocals you've heard in a long time (every time I hear this one I flash back to chalk on a blackboard mode).

2.) Positive People   (Tom Court) - 3:05    rating: *** stars

Opening up with an explosion of Kraftwerk-styled synthesizers and Talking Heads-styled shouted vocals, 'Positive People' was equally hard to figure.  Ultimately the synthesizers simply took over the song so the David Byrnesque vocals simply didn't matter.     

3.) In Flight   (Tom Court) -  4:33   rating: *** stars

So the ballad 'And ' In Flight' simply begged the listener to continue playing spot-the-influences ...   And 'In this case even a deaf person would be able to spot the Pink Floyd influences ...  Actually influences doesn't even come close to it.  This one literally sounded like it had bee stolen off of "Welcome To the Machine".    I'd suggest they were lucky not to have been sued for plagiarism.     

4.) A Long Time   (Tom Court) - 3:22  rating: * star

The opening guitar feedback seemed promising, but that was a fleeting hope as 'A Long Time' quickly degenerated into an irritating sound collage.

5.) Bowling Pin Intro   (Tom Court) - 2:35   rating: * star

Built on an irritating mixture of  synthesizers,  discordant noise, and various sound effect, ,'Bowling Pin Intro' was a full frontal assault slice of experimentation.  Didn't do much for my ears ...  

 

(side 2)

1.) Lyrics of Love   (Tom Court) -  2:34   rating: *** stars

'Lyrics of Love' started out with a nice blend of acoustic guitars and a laconic, Donovan-esque vocal.  Yeah, it may have been recorded in 1978, but it had a very mid-'60s vibe.  Completely atypical and goofy enough to be one of the album's more commercial numbers.   

2.) Disco American   (Tom Court) - 3:36   rating: ** stars

A you may have guessed, 'Disco American' really wasn't a dance track, rather sounded a bit like a Frank Zappa-meets-Mott the Hoople-styled slice of social criticism.  A rocker that wasn't particularly tuneful, insightful, or effective, probably the best thing here was the fuzz guitar solo and the guy who occasionally showed up with the snarling George Clinton-styled vocal.  Actually, the 'American Disco' refrain reminded me a bit of a David Bowie tune ...

3.) Inside the Pyramid   (Tom Court) - 2:44     rating: *** stars

An acid-tinged mid-tempo rocker, 'Inside the Pyramid' had some heavily treated, Floyd-influences vocals.  Initially this one struck me as very disturbing, but after awhile the breezy acoustic guitars, nice vocals and breezy melodies all won be over,       rating: ** stars

3.) Astro Phunk (instrumental)   (Tom Court) - 3:43  Opening up with some of the cheesiest '70s synthesizers you ever heard, 'Astro Phunk' was best described as sounding like one of those old Atari space invaders game going bonkers with the intention of destroying all mankind.   

4.) 3-D Free (Electronic)   (Tom Court) - 4:32    rating: ** stars

'3-D Free (Electronic)' ended the album with a toughened up and heavily treated reprise of the opening song.  

 

 

 

In 2007 the Radioactive label reissued the set in CD format (Catalog number RRCD 118).  I'm guessing the Radioactive set was unlicensed so use your conscious when deciding whether to fork out for a copy of the reissue.

 

 

 

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