Fan Reviews - The Dangers, "Dreamtime”
by Julie Bradlow
Ah, mid-August, when many dependable things happen: the Perseids meteor showers, heat and humidity almost everywhere in the lower 48, and a new Dangers album! In this case, Dreamtime, the Dangers’ tenth studio album, issued in the band’s fortieth year, comes out on August 17. Produced by Dangers frontman Chris LeRoy and engineered by Maria Baglien, Dreamtime is deceptively jaunty and poppy, with nods to classic rock influences like The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel and Bob Dylan. Careful attention to the lyrics, however, makes the listener realize that the album is not so much about being in a dreamlike state as about discerning fantasy from reality.
The track most illustrative of this tension is “Fat of the Land,” which opens as follows: “Sitting in an open field/Clouds rolling over the sun/Paper says it’s no big deal/Plenty nuff for everyone.” Then, the tempo increases, the guitar strums more insistently, and the song continues: “But I don’t think I’m dreaming/We’re going down from where I stand/People getting hungry/Gazing on the fat of the land.” Three of the album’s other songs explore dreaming: The title track “Dreamtime,” envisions dreams as a safe place: “Dreamtime, dreamtime/Please close our eyes/City lights of fireflies/Will keep us safe tonight.” The track that precedes it, “Motor,” speaks of dreams in the aspirational sense: “Might have simple plans/Might have simple dreams/Won’t meet your demands/That’s clear enough to see/Out here in the country/We know what we need/Love and conscience, peace and dignity.” The song “Dreaming” portrays dreams as a cause for optimism: “You say you hear the breaking of a thousand hearts/Well I can hear a thousand beating on their mark/Am I dreaming?/Yes I’m dreaming/And that’s a start.”
Another theme of Dreamtime is indecision. Its first track, “Last Train,” first appeared on LeRoy’s Death of Me album Life’s So Hard, Make it Softer. It begins plaintively: “Sitting on a train track trying to decide/Should I lie back for the rest of the ride?/Cash my ticket to the other side/Why?” The Johnny A Hickman/Chris LeRoy anthem “Another Road,” which first appeared on Hickman’s solo record Tilting, also pulses with uncertainty: “Want to get away/I understand it/But I don’t want to say it/And I don’t want to stay/This is a fine way home/Seems like a lifetime/Over and over again.”
The album concludes – almost -- on an reassuring note with “Treasure:” “In your mind/you’re waiting for connection/But you can’t see/no mansion on a hill/Be careful/That you never lose direction/There will always be/A candle on the sill.” Then, up pops the hidden track, “Kevin’s Fries,” an obvious nod to the Beatles squib “Her Majesty,” that closes Abbey Road.
While the Dangers’ lineup has changed over the years, LeRoy, drummer Brad Vaughn (whose fills are, happily, high in the sound mix), guitarist Mike Geoghegan, and keyboardist Ralph Torres have been constants for a while, and are joined this time by bassist Matt Wyckoff. Guest vocalist Ray Zeigler appears on several tracks, as does percussionist Aidan Vaughn. Harmonica player Bill Barrett, guitarist Brad Lewis, and bassist Roy Durnal make “Fat of the Land” and “Treasure,” which also includes a guitar solo from Wyckoff, standout tracks. The download is available now, and CDs are available in a couple of weeks. However you like to listen, don’t sleep on whether to pick up a copy of Dreamtime!
by Patrick Judy
This is a wonderful follow-up to last year's 'The Land of Opportunity'. Like 'The Land of Opportunity', 'Dreamtime' has an overall concept or theme. Dreams are a common thread that weaves its way throughout the album. I may be reaching here, but I consider this to be a kind of sequel to 'The Land of Opportunity'. Last year's album dealt with the political struggles we face in our country. Things were looking very dark. In 'Dreamtime', we see or dream that things can be better. We still have a lot of struggles to face, but there is something better on the distant horizon. I love that 'Dreamtime' keeps the tradition of all albums by The Dangers by having varying styles of music. Here are my thoughts on each song.
"Last Train" (This is a great song that first appeared on Death of Me's 'Life's Hard Make It Softer' album. This version has a quicker tempo and the mandolin really shines. This is a story of a person battling addiction and contemplating ending it all. Everything is going wrong for him except for him learning and playing his music. That brings him happiness, "Life can be golden in small degrees.". I love that line. In spite of all of his problems and problems he may have made for others, he is a good guy that you want in your corner. This is told in the lyrics about him being good, but trying to be bad and laughing and being sad but, "He could be the best friend you ever had.". I believe dreaming appears when he is remembering the good times and wishing for what he feels is a typical home, "Wish I had a family in a 50's home.".)
"Motor" (I like the harmonica. The drums really stand out and feature some nice fills. The motor in the song could be literal or figurative. It works either way as the subject of the song speaks of leaving because of not fitting in with an unnamed entity. They have different plans and dreams and are not going to be ordered around. The motor is going to carry them away where they can find love, a conscience, peace and dignity.)
"Dreamtime" (This one has a 50's slow dance feel to it. I think that this song is about a couple on the run. The perspective is from a man trying to calmly reassure his love that they are safe for the night and to get some sleep. There could be something different about them because he says, "And we're headed back to where we're understood.". The style of the song could mean that the story takes place in the 1950's which was a time when people were not as tolerant of others. That is still a problem today, but it was much more commonplace then. They are at a crossroads and he mentions "a city of angels". Behind them is the danger and an equal distance ahead is salvation.)
"Another Road" (This song first appeared on Johnny Hickman's 'Tilting' album. I love the guitars and drums on this. There is a great solo and some nice drum fills. This is a nice cruising song. I picture a young man with a motorcyle trying to decide whether to stay or blow town. Neither choice is all that appealing to him. He is dreaming that another road will appear and give him a clear answer on what to do.)
"Find A River" (I like the guitars, drums, vocals and vocal effects on this one. This is a once rich and powerful person that has fallen to their lowest point. It seems they gave up their love for power and money. Now that that is all gone, they realize it meant nothing. They find a river to their love. The river represents all the tears that he has caused. He promises to love his love forever if he finds them at the end of the river.)
"Blessed" (The bass, drums and keys really shine on this one. There is a lot of religious symbolism in this one. You have the chosen ones, tortured souls and salted earth. The Sad songs are a common thread that binds all of these different people together and has them get along.) "Dreaming" (This is an uplifting song about hope. One person sees the negative in everything (hearing the breaking of a thousand hearts, hearing mountains tumbling down, hearing shouting of a 1000 lies.....), while the singer sees the complete opposite (hearing heartbeats beating on their mark, hearing the rhythm of solid ground, hearing a gentle voice inside....). The singer states that they may only be dreaming, but that is a start, because there is hope.)
"True" (The drums, keys and guitar stand out on this. Again we have some nice drum fills. There is a great guitar solo during the last minute and then the keys and bass join in carry the song to the end. This is another song that features some religious symbolism in the form of an angel. This angel comes out of the sky to make everything right. They "roll it away". Making it right could mean doing whatever to make happy outcomes for everyone. It could also mean wiping everything away because it cannot be saved and Judgment Day has arrived.)
"Fat Of The Land" (I love the added sound effects of the crows and the other birds during the opening and closing. It helps put you in that open field the song talks about. Bill Barrett's harmonica really shines here. I also like what I think is a mandolin playing in the background. I feel this one is about the reality the singer sees and the fantasy that the media and/or government are trying to portray. The media says that there is, "Plenty nuff for everyone.", while the singer says, "People getting hungry gazing on the fat of the land.". It is further revealed later that, the "Papers say I'm not in the plan.". That means that there may be plenty, but it only for some elite and not truly for everyone as they said before. The singer says that there is no "miscommunication on either side" and "This is not California. It ain't even Alabam". This means that the fantasy the papers are talking about must be coming from the Federal government. The last verse starts with, Sitting in the setting sun. Feeling like a heavy load. Is this all what we began? Is this all that we can hold?". I take this to mean that the great economy that was promised is just a fantasy for everyone, but the few at the top.)
"Trouble No More" (The drums really stand out again on this one. I believe this one is about a man who has a big house and wealth, but it means nothing without his love. He describes his wealth and then says, "Living here without you so much worse than morning chill.". He has wealth, but he also has a lot of trouble. He changes his views during the song. He first says, "If I could change direction of the sea to the shore Or had the strength to open up my door.....I would be in trouble no more. If you could find me Jesus We'd have trouble no more." as if it is a possibility. He then changes it to if "We" could do those things instead of if "I" could do those things as if he may be asking for help. He then gives up and says that "We cannot do those things after stating that, "Darkest is the closing hour before a life fulfilled.". I think the changes occur at different points in his life. He says at the end of his life that, "You finally found us Jesus. We got trouble no more.".)
"Treasure" (I love Bill Barrett's harmonica and the mix of the vocals and backing vocals on this one. This is a gentle song that reminds me of 1950's Do Wop because of how softly the drums and guitar are played and the rhythm and tempo at which they are being played. This song is about someone who feels lost in their life, but the singer, who is someone who loves them, keeps trying to encourage them. He keeps telling them "Don't you worry. There's treasure for you here.", which means that everything will be wonderful once we are together.)
"Kevin's Fries" (This is a very short and fun ditty and it is also a hidden track. I love the way it is made to sound like an old record. The sound reminds me of Arlo Guthrie. It also reminds me of the joy in finding hidden tracks on some of the Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers albums and Cracker's 'Kerosene Hat'.)
This concludes my thoughts on 'Dreamtime'. I really enjoyed this album and writing about it. All of you did a wonderful job. I hope that some of my opinions on what the songs were about are correct. I realize though that some are probably way off though. Still, it is fun to speculate. Finally, I would like to welcome Matt Wyckoff to The Dangers. I am looking forward to see what comes next. Until then.