God bless Gerry Dantone and Universal Dice

He gives you faith that real rock and roll, not slam banging raise hell runes thought-provoking rock with muscle, still happens. I need that. A lot of people do.

The band’s new singles “Last Prayer” and “One Out of Many, One” aren’t necessarily. They do, if nothing else, illustrate a point. Age matters too much to many music listeners. In our fast paced world, anything older than six months is confined to the trash can. Universal Dice’s latest singles, however, “Last Prayer” and “One of Many, One”, were initially released 25 and 18 years ago respectively.

They haven’t dated. In fact, they are as vital as ever. In the case of “Last Prayer”, from the rock opera entitled My Name is Thomas…, Dantone’s character piece about a fallen priest searching for redemption within is poetry set to music. The arrangement is largely meditative in nature, big mid-tempo chords driving much of the piece. The drums, keyboards, and vocals are Dantone’s alone.

He is an evocative singer able to be musical and emotive. He adopts the attitude of any great vocalist or actor seeking to embody the character they play. Dantone gets under the skin of his priest, writing from a first person perspective, and modulates each line treading through emotional and even possibly hopeful territory with confidence and skill. No “character” would sing this song if they didn’t have hope.

Guitarist Bob Barcus and bassist Sam Cimino are the other players. Their performances are crucial to the song’s success, but it is Barcus who will grip many. His guitar solo in the song’s second half is moving, biting, and filled with deep blues. Barcus continues to shine during the second single as well.

His presence is more pronounced during “One of Many, One”. Barcus fills the track with wonderful playing from the outset while Dantone delivers a clear, profound lyric that describes his feeling for America’s original national motto. This track, from the album of the same title, is born of disappointment. Written in response, however, to America’s disastrous wrecking of Iraq during their invasion and occupation, Dantone’s singing fills one with hope, however faint, that we may turn back the clock yet to time when the nation hewed more closely to its founding ideals.

These are songs that are far from relics. They sing of human beings, pain, hope, and dreams of victory without rancor, justification, and cliché. Gerry Dantone, producer, multi-instrumental, songwriter, singer, is the heart of Universal Dice, but he’s ably assisted here by two longtime cohorts who understand and relate to his goals. “Last Prayer” and “One of Many, One” may not be truly “new”, but they are as capable of shaking your heart like they did upon their first release. If you have not heard this band, like me, these two songs may open the door to one of the best musical experiences you’ve had in recent memory. Universal Dice are far from finished and I will be coming back for more.

Gwen Waggoner