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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Dangerous Odds

The Best of Dangerous Odds, Vol. 2

Review by Vivian Lee

Dangerous Odds are Al Jewer (flute, woodwind synthesizer, sax, bass), Art Durkee (Chapman stick), Tom Hamer (drums), Diedre Buckley (viola), Ron Ellis (poet), Larry Giles (poetry, voice). Guests include Biff Blumfumgangne, and Ross Nielsen with Heather Figi, Kristina Hord, Blain Kennedy, Rick Murphy listed as special guests. Dangerous Odds formed in 1990 as a regrouping of Chamber Rock Ensemble, a poetry music project that featured Al Jewer and Art Durkee. Named out of stick player Durkee's wish to reflect the band's commitment to performing without the"' safety net' of rehearsal", the band has been playing in "all styles of music from classical to jazz to experimental to groove based rock and many more ... Frequently at the same time".

The Best of Dangerous Odds, Vol. 2 is the Madison, Wisconsin group's debut, titled because of material taken from performances in the bands second four years 1993-96 (See? The title does too make sense). Devotion to improvisation aside, another factor marking this group as unusual is the "Guitar Free Zone" declaration. All the tracks but a couple on Vol. 2 are without guitars, creating an interesting musical climate. If experimental spontaneous music and spoken word performance created in a Guitar Free Zone tickles your eardrums, I dare you to try Dangerous Odds. The Best of Dangerous Odds, Vol. 2 is available via mail order for us $15 + $1.00 S/H at the Laughing Cat label's web site, http://www.lafcat.com/. 

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: The Early Years Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Dangerous Odds
This track starts with a slow, steady bass riff in a regular rhythm while mid tone flute flutters about and harmonies in spurts throughout the song. Ron Ellis' singsong recital of stream of consciousness verses takes forefront amidst the various instruments being played. Ellis' voice doesn't rank with James Earl Jones but it's not glaring or boring.
Clocks In Chaos
This song starts with the constant ticking of a clock in time. In the distant background Larry Giles atonally recites lyrics about time, chaos and famous scientific theorists like Einstein and Heisenberg.
AgGaGahGiGihGao
The wackiest track features vocal cacophony in the style of McFerrin overlapping and interplaying while a flute wavers and warbles alongside bass notes. There is gentle percussion as the song ends with sax and the coos of an infant (Jewer's baby son). It makes you wonder if the song title wasn't inspired by baby talk. Funny and wildly silly, this stand out song could be a real laugh riot if performed for a live audience.
Remote Manipulator
Rather than monologue poetry recital this song features dialogue between a human and a machine monolith - the Hal 2000 like Remote Manipulator.
Green Canopy
An eco-ode to living the simple life for Mother Earth's sake. Shaw's rapping reminds me a lot of Deborah Harry a la "Rapture" minus the heavy funk factor. The compelling lead guitar solo makes me think Alex Lifeson meets Eric Johnson.
I Want My Ph.D.
A chorus languidly sings acappella style "I want my Ph.D." to the tune of Dire Straits' "Money For Nothing". Is this an ode to the virtues of education? You decide.
Ricochet
Ron Ellis chants verses amidst eclectic instruments being played in harmonic cacophony.
To Steve Reich
Larry Giles' dedication to Reich laps over an orchestra of instruments and sounds like melodic string synth.
Bone Flute
The bone flute intro calls to mind R. Carlos Nakai playing in the Native American musical tradition. The lyrics spoken here have a spiritual, mystical feel to them ("Please make a flute of my bone"). The use of the viola guitar is notable here.
Nhema Mutato
African musical traditions get the Dangerous Odds treatment as Durkee plays a Zimbabwean sub-contrabass mbira, commonly known as a thumb piano. One hears the intermittent sounds of car shocks. The song has an Art of Noise vibe going on.
Cellular
The single guitar like note seems to sing throughout the song while Ron Ellis sparingly recites poetry.
L'hôtel
A jazzy slow bass riff introduces Larry Giles delivery of unenergetic poetry with a faux French accent. As much as I liked that bass line, this was a weak song.
I Love A Parade
A booming kettledrum intro wakes the ears, heralding Biff Blumfumgagnge's high-pitched voice reciting the keys on a keyboard, Q-W-E-R-T-Y. Whatta happy racket is this wacked out parody of circus music!
Tantrum
This instrumental includes synth sounds that seem like Edward Van Halen going wild with his guitar. These tones accompany unbridled Stick playing.
Darkness
A dirge like piece with a Gothic feel, this one evokes the peace of the crypt - NOT. This song is eerie. It's almost as if the players are mourning the end of the CD.
 
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