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The story of Dragon is one and the same as that of the group Burning Light founded in 1976 by singer/guitar-player Jean Vanaise - who also chose the group’s name - and his brother the drummer/flutist/percussionist Georges Vanaise along with some musician friends. The group which hails from the Belgian town of Ath, halfway between Lille an Brussels, started out by performing in the area which was very rich musically speaking. However, they only performed at parties playing their own personal versions of current hits along with one or two original compositions.
During this time spent perfecting its technique, the group included two singers. The first, Michel Lefevre had a superb voice but left the group to concentrate on his education, and the second, a native of Zaire whose voice was likened to Hendrix’s, left the group to become an attaché to President Mobutu’s son. The band’s first keyboard player was Jean-Pierre Pirard who left for health reasons. dragon live
Jean-Pierre “Tom” Houx replaced the bass-player and became one of the mainstays of Dragon; playing the trumpet, trombone and keyboards as well as the bass guitar.
JeanBurning Light broke out of the rather limited party circuit during the pop music boom at the beginning of the seventies. This happened at several festivals which sprung up all over Europe including the unique Belgian rock festival in Coq Sur Mer where the 40 best Belgian groups played (The Pebbles, Irish Coffee, Lagger Blues Machine, and Arkham ;including Daniel Denis, later of Univers Zero and (Magma’s future keyboards player Jean-Luc Manderlier)). The group’s music then took a more personal turn and they went to perform abroad for the first (and last) time in their career at the Golf-Drouot in 1971.
The singer/guitar-player Bernard Callaert joined the band shortly afterwards and so completed the formation. Most of the compositions were originally created by Jean Vanaise and then worked on by the group as a whole, each member putting forward his own ideas and arrangements and making suggestions for his own instrumental part.
They had a predilection for the music played by bands such as Pink Floyd ,Golden Earring, or Iron Butterfly, but were determined to create their own personal sound giving preference to the instrumental parts, not just as a matter of choice but because they were aware of being better instrumentalists than singers. Such a choice only confirmed their preference for a conventional formation of bass, drums, keyboards and guitar. However, since several of the musicians played more than one instrument, they were able to fully exploit their talents and the varying instrumental possibilities available, thus giving their music a wide and particularly enriching variety of sounds and harmonies.
It was at this time that Burning Light put together the repertoire which later featured on its album leaving behind any pieces that no longer corresponded to their musical development. The group had been using slides, smoke machines and wearing masks when performing on stage since 1973. These accessories and special effects emphasised the visual and theatrical side to their show.bernard & jean pierre
ChristianIn 1976, Christian Duponcheel joined the group. A former keyboard player/saxophonist with Lagger Blues Machine and at the time joint owner with his brother of a music shop where the guys bought its instruments; he had heard the band on tape and been greatly impressed. The addition of a new member increased the group’s musical possibilities and where certain compositions required a change of instruments on stage. Jean-Pierre Houx would play the trumpet of trombone, with Bernard Callaert or Jean Vanaise on bass, or alternatively Jean-Pierre on keyboards with Christian Duponcheel on saxophone or guitar.
The arrival of Christian Duponcheel, strengthened the group’s conviction that they should make an album with the dual aim of making their music more well-known and launching themselves on an international career. They all began looking for a record company for their future album. Even though EMI seemed interested it eventually had to abandon the idea owing to an internal reorganisation which left Burning Light with no alternative but to produce the record itself. An advertisement seen in the British New Musical Express magazine led them to choose the Acorn studios, a new 16 tracks recording studio which later also welcomed the Belgian group Womega.Georges
BernardWorking with only a small budget, the group managed to complete the recording, including mixing, in only 5 days, a remarkable achievement was made possible thanks to the help and good advice given by the sound engineer Colin Bateman (a musician himself). He also managed to obtain EMI’s help in cutting the record. The group decided to change its name for this recording. Jean Vanaise opted for Dragon: an international, rather neutral and more up-to-date sounding name than the previous one. The albums superb double sleeve was designed by Jean-Pierre Pirard, while the songs featured were chosen because they were the most representative and polished in the group’s repertoire.
Once the album had been recorded, 1500 copies were pressed and distributed by the group itself, and by the distributor Gamma Rec in Belgium. The promotion of the album was practically inexistent as the band omitted to send out any press sheets to specialised and other media and only the journalists who bought the record themselves made any mention of it. This lack of promotion did nothing to help Dragon, nor did the fact that the album was released just at the end of the progressive period and the beginning of the punk period.Jean Pierre
Jean 1977They did not perform on stage under their new Dragon-identity preferring to start work on a new album which would enable it to present a complete and accomplished show. With this aim in mind they set about composing a new album which they finished just as a general feeling of lassitude caused the group to split. The musicians had the feeling (entirely justified) that the mood at the time no longer favoured their style of music. Moreover, all the musicians got married in the year following the release of their album and found it impossible to reconcile married life with their musical and professional careers since none of them were professional musicians.
(note: this second album did saw the light of day in the eighties as Jean Vanaise released it as a limited edition lp named Kalahen on 400 copies ; in 1992 it was also re-released on cd by the Italian Mellow records - ed.)
dragon cover
Dragon fell apart in 1977 without an announcement of an “official” split. Christian Duponcheel and Jean-Pierre Houx later joined the rock group Alcool, which went on to become Graffiti, before abandoning their musical career. What remains from Dragon’s career is an excellent album (re-released on cd by Musea records in 1992) of original progressive rock, a “must” for any fan of this style.Christian d

Reprinted from the liner notes of the Dragon cd booklet by kind permission of Musea records and Bernard Gueffier.

In 1980, out of the blue a single hit the shops from a band called CITY TALES. This group played music in the vein of Dragon with Jean Vanaise handling the guitars. But besides this private release the band seemed to be vanished quite quick… -ED