Posted on: May 6, 2024 Posted by: Kim Muncie Comments: 0

I’m a steadfast admirer of Universal Dice’s past releases and expect that their pending release Misfit Memoirs matches or exceeds the standard set by Gerry Dantone and his bandmates. The forthcoming collection’s first two singles “Curse”, and “Once Upon a Time”, establishes a high bar. “Once Upon a Time” is the latest track from Universal Dice’s pending album and leaves a lasting effect on the listener. I applaud Dantone and his band’s faithful adherence to traditional songcraft and eschewing any bells and whistles abundant in many modern releases. It has a contemporary touch while still embracing time-tested fundamentals, and balance is one of the factors in its appeal. 

I’m impressed with how he frames the song in such a gripping way. It grabs your attention from the opening notes and doesn’t release its hold until the song concludes. Despite the fraught drama and heavy emotions throughout the lyrics, it’s never a draining listening experience. Dantone long ago learned a key songwriting lesson that intense adult songwriting material demands that the artist sweeten it with musical honey to ensure mass appeal. It isn’t pandering.

This attitude recognizes that the entertainment component of any song is part of its artistic reason for being, and woe to the songwriter who disregards this truth. 

The music for “Once Upon a Time” obeys this dictum. He doesn’t stuff the arrangement with an abundance of needless ballyhoo. Instead, “Once Upon a Time” embraces time-honored fundamentals while presenting itself in a modern light. Its production attributes are impeccable.

It boasts a straightforward progression that never makes unreasonable demands on the listener and achieves a low-key dramatic sweep that complements its outstanding lyrics. 

Dantone’s singing further elevates those lyrics. His nuanced reading of the songwriting doesn’t revel in melodramatic excess. However, it does delve full-on into bringing the underlying characterization to life. Performing with the right tone is essential. Dantone artfully skates the line between dramatic phrasing and traditional singing without running “Once Upon a Time” into a ditch. It’s a marvel to hear. 

I believe the length is another important reason for its success. It lands right in the sweet spot between being short enough that it doesn’t over-indulge and long enough that it fully develops. No listeners will feel cheated or put upon. It should translate into live performance with relative ease. Dantone’s arrangement lends itself to reproduction with minimal adjustments. I want to hear a live performance of Misfit Memoirs once the album comes out.

It’s a reminder that work that reaches high still exists. Naysayers love to remark that rock music, as the over-45 crowd knew it, is long dead. Perhaps it is as a profitable commercial concern, but the style lives and breathes as an abiding and still viable art form. There’s nothing about this song suggesting it should be in a museum. It is a work that takes itself seriously without ever sounding heavy-handed. “Once Upon a Time” is one of the most fulfilling listening experiences I’ve enjoyed so far in 2024.

Kim Muncie  

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