Singer-songwriter, guitarist, producer, political and philosophical writer and activist, Gerry Dantone, does not follow the proverbial musical crowd…to say the least. In a sonic culture where “the single” is king, the public’s pop sensibilities are led by the dangling carrot known as “the hook”, and a hit song is only a hit for a minute, Gerry has just created and released his SECOND rock opera album.
He and his Long Island, NY-based crew of musical troubadours form the self-contained unit known as, UniversalDice, and currently consist of: Gerry Dantone (vocals, guitars, programming, producer, mixing, mastering), Bob Barcus (lead guitar, production assistance, website, graphic design), Ed Canova (bass), Walt Sargent (keys), and Vin Crici (keys, production assistance).
“I have a philosophy about lyrics and music. I need to have a reason to write the next song. Each piece needs a reason for existing.”
Together, they’ve forged ahead on previous albums, which include: 2004’s Out of Many, One, 2001’s Mostly True Stories, and their first rock opera, 1999’s My Name is Thomas. All in preparation for their latest effort, the 16-track meg: Birth, Love, Hate, Death, an epic tale written from the perspective of a Mother, her Son, Danielle (the son’s “damaged” love interest), and Sugar Daddy (Danielle’s pimp); four characters who take the hard road. All in all, it is project designed to have an empowering, consciousness-stirring affect on its listeners.
HERE’S WHAT WE DUG MOST…
Opening the production with, Welcome To The World, Dantone & company pull off a light and airy Steve Miller-esque riff as we welcome the characters to the table of life.
Lovely and somber, I Wish I Could Tell You This, plays like a letter from the mom to her son, about all the things kids don’t know—for their own protection. A melding of gentle etheric, electric tones, brightly layered background vocals, and thoughtful writing make it special….
“Then I got pregnant and was called a whore
I wish I could tell you this
They forced me to have you, then he disappeared
I wish I could tell you this
Now his shadow is in your eyes, I can’t accept it, I don’t know why
Nothing against you, it makes me cry
I wish I could tell you this…”
Take Me Home feels like something from Phil Collins as our wounded character, Danielle, finds solace in the equally damaged Son. More of those soothingly etheric electric tones create a melancholy melody in a tale of anxious youth. Be sure to stick around for the solo at 4:51..
“She lit another cigarette
I said, Why do you do it?
And told her it’s going to be her death
She said, well what does it matter?
Cause I don’t care how I go, as long as it’s not alone
Take me home…”
Our Son sings a sad song of love soured by dark things done in life, in the quick-footed, Danielle, a track which instantly reminded me of The Rembrandts.
Sugar Daddy boasts remorselessly in, I Love It When They Hate It, as an Allman Brothers-like riff plays on.
Now we’re talkin’. The Boy throws a bluesy pitch at Danielle in Better Man. The Dice make a worthy argument, and in doing so, created something the laymen can use in future loving-persuasions.
Man Enough and I’m No Good for You (OUR FAVORITE TRACK) feel like a pair of dark and substantive John Mayer tracks, as the Boy crashes against the rocky shores of Danielle’s battered past. (Also, No Good… sports a sick acoustic guitar lick.)
Despite its liberating conclusion—which is that love is all that matters in any moment—we’re just not sure if it worked out for the Boy and Danielle in the album’s closer, Forever, another gentle acoustic number with strong classic-rock threads.
If you’ve ever lived and breathed, there will be a song in this collection that picks apart some portion of your life. The angst is palpable, and makes me appreciate the fact that I survived the love and loss of my own youth! Musically, it is plain to see that these five gentlemen have earned their stripes, as each track succinctly serves the story first and foremost. Vocally, Dantone’s smokey timbre sounds like some derivative of John Mayer and Don Henley, which creates an emotive force once united with his thoughtful lyrics, such as this passage from Honestly, “If this is love, judge what I do, do I make your dreams all come true? Do I make you feel glad that you’re awake?”
All in all, UniversalDice’s latest album, the future rock opera, Birth, Love, Hate, Death, is an impressive and commendable effort which required high levels of both cerebral and intuitive creativity. We wish them all the best in getting the project produced into a full-blown rock-opera.
Steve Miller meets John Mayer…
BELOW: Listen to UniversalDice’s latest rock-opera album, Birth, Love, Hate, Death; and connect with their website and social media platforms. Please support UniversalDice by visiting them online, and playing, downloading, and/or purchasing their music, or attending a live show! And, as always, thank you for supporting real music!