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11 Jun 2016

Leong Lau "Dragon Man"1974 Australia Jazz Funk Psych

 Leong Lau  "Dragon Man"1974 rare Australia Jazz Funk Psych.


A very rare album in original form - a recent copy sold for close to $1,500 - Leong Lau’s debut is an album I never even heard of until 2010. After one listen, it became the CDRWL’s best discovery of that year! And two years later, Strawberry Rain announced their intention of reissuing the album on both LP and CD. The LP came out earlier this year, and the CD is literally right off the press! The original comes in a single sleeve with a small poster insert including lyrics and recording info. The LP reissue is exact including the poster, though I suspect the cover is thicker and more durable than the original, but I can’t validate that. The CD comes in a digi-pak where the top folds out replicating the poster insert. Nice idea! The CD also adds a rare 45 from 1977 as a bonus. The sound on both formats is excellent and they come highly recommended.

Notes: Here are my original CDRWL scribblings: Cover is a bit misleading, showing head honcho Lau holding up a saxophone, which would indicate a honk fest. In contrast, this is a deep psychedelic funk album, with lots of wah wah guitar, phased/echoed sax, flute, heavy bass & drums with plenty of ranting from Lau, channeling his best Frankie Dymon imitation. Picking up a strong Hendrix influence as well. Considered by many to be one of the most expensive albums from Australia, and it’s easy to see why. Super album.

The ebay auction I referenced at the top included a more full history, which I’ll paste here (credits and thanks go to the author): “Born in Malaysia of Chinese ancestry, Leong Lau studied Chinese Opera and played flute with the Chinese Community Orchestra.  He joined the Sydney Dance Company in 1969 as a dancer and was trained in ballet, modern and improvisational dance.  After five years, he entered the Sydney Conservatorium of Music where he trained in professional music performance and composition, and then played concert flute with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Leong Lau has remained somewhat of an anomaly in the record collecting scene. “Dragon Man” is a fantastic LP loaded with wah-wah guitar, fuzz solos, flute solos & wild vocals.   An artist with a sound that’s as wild as his look on the cover – a definite individual from the Australian underground of the 1970’s – serving up some incredibly offbeat vocals alongside a range of his own   instrumentation on guitar, alto, tenor, and flute!  The album has some nice heavy bass at times, which creates a raw funky edge that’s a real surprise – not straight funk, but kind of a psych-funk groove that really fits with the rawer bluesy energy that Leong Lau is trying to convey in his music.  A very compelling fusion of sounds from many different corners – with titles that include the long jammer “Deep In The Jungle”, the funky flute workout “Dragon Man”, and the tracks “Soul Baby”, “The Atlas Revolution”, and “Rhythm Pounding””

Worth noting that Lau’s second album “That Rongeng Sound”, while no less rare, is quite a disappointment when compared to the monster “Dragon Man” album….

That is of course not connected with how good it is. But there definitely is something weird, typical of a private session. It is even unclear why it has been recorded, because it doesn’t show a direction regarding a direction towards expectations from a public. It more sounds like jam sessions of a hippie, even though I am not sure if he was one. In that association, it reminds me a bit of the Cosmic Michael album, which also expresses a situation in which a person is completely convinced in the expressiveness of his own world no matter how good or bad that might be. But don’t get me wrong : Leong Lau is a good guitarist to freak out with, mostly in the slightly lower sound range sections (a bit like Hendrix in lower modes). The bass and drum session musician jam rather basically, but it provides Leong Lau the necessary excuse to show something wild now and then not only with his electric guitar. More often he takes the opportunity to add sax solo’s in an acid rock fashion (which is rare to create that effect) or flute solo’s. Just now and then he falls back onto real blues (rock) style and song blues style. A few personal song expressions are expressed, a bit in an awkward, almost clumsy way, but also expressing with it,  is hard to express direct feelings, the jams must show the more sure energy, heading towards something more unique, but I am not sure if it ever succeeded to reach those heights, the direction’s freedom is what makes it unique. A strange album with its own charm and elements under it’s weight of own obstructed situation of a passing by opportunity of a construction.   

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..