Snake Eyes on the Paradise: Greatest Hits 1976-1989

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By their own admission, New Zealand outfit Dragon were a pop band -- and a hell of a good one when they put their minds to it. (Which isn't to say they didn't have the artillery to rock out as well; they did.) Some of the songs they wrote -- especially those penned by late keyboard player Paul Hewson -- hold their own against anything that has come from the Antipodes and was (and is) worthy of more attention north of the equator. As a live act, the legendarily dissolute Kiwis, led by brothers Marc and Todd Hunter, were a lucky dip. Some nights they blazed like a napalm run; others they lost the plot completely as the booze and drugs literally stole the show. But in the studio, impatient though they reputedly were, they crafted some great music. Snake Eyes on the Paradise captures the best of it. A 21-track set, this disc offers excellent coverage of the band's recording history and varying lineups while placing emphasis on their peak period from the '70s and their renaissance in the early '80s. The early stuff in particular -- "April Sun in Cuba," "Are You Old Enough?," "Still in Love With You," et al. -- is comprised of prototypical singalongs. But, like all of the material here, it's memorable without being simplistic or "disposable"; you know you're listening to a band that can both write and play with aplomb. The melodies are ear-grabbing, the hooks sharp, and the musicianship tight as a noose. This disc is a superb tribute to a band that was as unique as it was inherently troubled, a document of a skilled and passionate group that swaggered its way into the folklore of down under rock. Released just after the passing of charis-nihilistic frontman Marc Hunter in 1998 -- the third member of the band to die before his time -- Snake Eyes has a haunting poignancy. From the days when artistic integrity and radio-readiness weren't mutually exclusive, this one recommends itself.

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