Dragon - Universal Radio. 1974 New Zealand
CD reissue: 2009 Aztec (Australia)
Release details: Single sleeve cover and quite rare as an original. The only (legit) reissue to date comes from the always wonderful Aztec. It's housed in a fine triple fold-out digi-pak with an extensive history, photos, and 3 bonus tracks (though two are from a solo effort by band leader Marc Hunter and is a debatable addition). The release was taken from vinyl indicating the masters are lost (or in poor condition), but still sounds excellent. There are many boots out there, so watch out on that front. The Vertigo original only has the "spaceship" label, so don't hold out for the non-existent swirl variety. Funny enough, Aztec used a mock-up swirl design for the CD itself.
Notes: Dragon's debut came at the twilight of the early Hammond organ fueled progressive rock of the early 1970s with the more sophisticated AOR styled album that was about to dominate the FM landscape in the mid 70s. Universal Radio is definitely more the former, and also possesses a strong Latin fusion/rock component as well as a bit of space rock. Guideposts include fellow countrymen Ragnarok and Living Force, along with bands such as Kestrel (England) and Fruupp (Northern Ireland). Only 3 short years from their debut, Dragon were to become pop stars in neighboring Australia, and you can hear hints of that future sound on the track 'Going Slow' (though with progressive oriented breaks still in place). The album peaks on the splendid multi-layered epic 'Patina'. Bonus track 'Black Magic Woman' demonstrates a lingering Santana influence that was to be shed on their next opus Scented Gardens For the Blind, which is arguably an even better album. As it stands though, hard to imagine fans of early 1970s progressive rock not enjoying Universal Radio. There are a lot of ideas packed into this recording, so the relistenability factor charts high. Strongly recommended.