You know what? The word “psychedelic” is losing whatever meaning it once had to people who don’t really know how to describe things. Certainly there is a better term to be tossed around for what amounts to, at this point, the bulk of music made between 1965 and some indeterminate point in the ’70s, or inspired by same. Clinical studio fuckery, for instance, doesn’t exactly cut it. Brothers Dennis, Daryl and Doug Dragon found this out the hard way, as some late night sessions they cut in 1970, after hours at Sunwest Recording Studios in LA, met with stony silence from record labels at the time. No sweat, they figured, and bounced off onto their own paths of dubious distinction, such as the backing band for a beleaguered Beach Boys. Your parents might recognize Daryl Dragon as “the Captain” of ’70s papsters the Captain and Tennille, late of gentle AM radio hits like “Muskrat Love” and “Do It To Me One More Time.”
A track unearthed by DJ Food for a mix CD led to the rediscovery of BFI, short for Blue Forces Intelligence, an unreleased album reel by the Dragon clan. If its delayed release proves anything, it’s that the brothers had, and probably still have, an extraordinary amount of musical talent and discipline within them, the kind that suits those setting up careers as hired guns. The tracks that make up its release are impeccably controlled in their delivery; even a recorded snippet of a Catholic Mass fits pitch-perfect in its lines. Session engineer Donn Landee certainly worked with the brothers to produce a release as polished and innovative for the date as could have been made.
Unbeknownst to them, that future would sound dated by 1975. Perhaps that’s one of the problems with this release – a complete and utter disregard for spontaneity, the efforts of men so blinded by the lights, and the possibilities behind them, that the notion of writing a hook was lost on them. There’s library music out there with more freedom in its charts than BFI. There’s moldy bread with more “psychedelic realness” than BFI. A song called “Food for My Soul” offers, curiously, none of the sustenance suggested, content to sway back and forth in an ocean breeze. “Sandman” commits an even bigger party foul on its backbone of ching-chong Oriental chopstick melody that’s even more heinous now than at its time of creation. Music like this is about as funky as a doorstop, as psychedelic as a bottle of childrens’ chewable aspirin.
With Sunwest’s technology at their disposal, the brothers leaned heavily on available electronic instruments; between the modular synths, Taurus bass pedals, and treated electric instruments in their arsenal, the Dragons carved out the sound of the near future, with the wall-to-wall, beige contours and rust-colored gels of a game show set yet to be built. The surfaces of their sounds are all the listener is allowed access to; their instrumental prowess and complete lack of melodic ambition could be misconstrued for musical autism. Gary McFarland? Enoch Light? 101 Strings? BFI is as easy to listen to and as ambitiously commercial as these artists in their prime, and more bereft of personality than any of them. It’s dinner music – music to sell waterbeds by, a smooth and hardened shell never meant to be penetrated. Only the vintage and value of the gear it was performed on has appreciated with age. There is nothing mind-expanding, funky, or original in here.