Home / Album Reviews / Single Review: “Once Upon a Time” Gerry Dantone’s Universal Dice 

Single Review: “Once Upon a Time” Gerry Dantone’s Universal Dice 

The latest single from Universal Dice, “Once Upon a Time”, hails from the band’s forthcoming effort Misfit Memoirs. It follows up the album’s initial single “Curse” with another fully realized effort built with Gerry Dantone’s customary storytelling flair. He doesn’t belabor his narrative. Instead, Dantone structures the story around dialogue rather than grounding it in minute details that might otherwise drag the song down with needless weight. Dantone plays each of the instruments on this recording save a few added drum fills from bandmate Vin Crici. 

URL: https://universaldice.com/

Nevertheless, Universal Dice’s “Once Upon a Time” always sounds like a band effort rather than an one-man band project. It’s entertaining and emotionally affecting throughout. 

Dantone deserves considerable plaudits for that accomplishment alone. It isn’t easy to balance high-minded artistic ambitions with a penchant for entertaining music. However, Universal Dice doesn’t bog themselves down with pretentiousness. “Once Upon a Time” steps lighter than you might believe as the song unfolds without cumbersome pomp and circumstance that mutes its effect on listeners. Dantone keeps the arrangement airy. Universal Dice doesn’t clutter it with unnecessary instrumentation. Everything serves a clear purpose throughout the track and crescendos with a particularly potent guitar solo near its conclusion. 

His vocals play an integral role. Dantone doesn’t have a technically marvelous voice encompassing a wide range. He nonetheless possesses an evocative instrument. The singing gets under the song’s skin, bringing its speaker to life with subtlety, and Dantone’s phrasing never fails to invest the performance with the right amount of drama. He has a canny sense for developing the song’s potential without ever rushing the performance. The atmosphere of near-theatricality he brings to the cut doesn’t smack of self-indulgence but, instead, enlivens the dramatic overtones. 

Misfit Memoirs and the first two singles are part of a longstanding tradition. Dantone, as a composer, takes his cues from classic rock stalwarts such as Pink Floyd and The Who, among others, as he focuses much of his songwriting efforts on character-driven stories. His first-person narrator makes an indelible mark on the listener’s consciousness. He draws a three-dimensional characterization that smacks of a flesh and blood human being rather than an empty songwriting idea, and this is characteristic of the band’s output to date. 

 You can appreciate the song on its own. Dantone has written a track that you don’t need to hear in the context of a longer work for it to achieve resonance with listeners. Each new release from Universal Dice continues building a legacy that belies its indie status – this isn’t music written and played on the margins and would find a wide audience in a perfect world. 

It will nevertheless be an affecting listening experience for anyone who gives it a chance. Gerry Dantone’s artistry continues growing and hinges on his abiding responsiveness to the human condition. Dantone is a songwriter with a tight grasp on what makes people tick. He doesn’t take shortcuts, and his work reverberates with the sound and fury of human lives. “Once Upon a Time” deserves a place in your listening life and will encourage you to pursue more from this fantastic band. 

Julie Blankenship

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