Image © Sony Classical 2004
(21 February 2004) Every great once in a while an artist appears on the music
scene whose sound is entirely original, yet instantly recognizable. Enter Casey
Stratton, a young new singer/songwriter whose major label debut, Standing at
the Edge, is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Producer Patrick Leonard
(Madonna, Elton John and Jewel) obviously had wonderful syngery with Casey
while working on this album. While Casey is a trained pianist (and the piano
is the principal instrument on this album), each track features layers of
keyboards, guitars, bass, drums and orchestra giving the album an expansive
and soaring quality.
Casey originally hails from Michigan, where his father played in a popular
Michigan band. Casey took violin, cello, piano and guitar lessons at an early
age. Piano became Casey's instrument of choice. After graduating from
Michigan's Interlochen Arts Academy, Casey pursued a record deal. After
years of hard work that brought both successes and failures,
he was finally put in touch with Patrick Leonard, who quickly
recognized Casey's special talent.
Standing at the Edge, is absolutely brilliant from start to finish.
Each song on the album is nuanced and captivating. There are simply no
throw-away tracks. The opening track, "For Reasons Unexplained," is a
powerful and heart-rending piece. Beginning with a haunting and broken
piano rift reminiscent of October Project's "Bury My Lovely," the melody
instantly engages the soul. The intensity and profound intimacy of Casey's
vocals and lyrics pull so strong on the heartstrings that it is hard to
get through the song without shedding tears. When Casey reaches the chorus
singing "sorrow comes again for reasons unexplained, I come to you but I am
not the same," one becomes acutely aware that Casey is allowing a glimpse
into the deepest parts of his own soul.
Several of the songs reflect a folk influence. An example is "The House of
Jupiter," which is an upbeat, guitar-led song that never quite looses its touch
of bittersweet melancholy. The ethereal, pulsing "Contagious" is darkly romantic,
tragic, and sensual. Again, the chorus section of the song shows Casey at his
most gifted as a songwriter. With a hook that is undeniably mesmerizing,
"contagious" is a fitting adjective to describe this song.
"Blood" is another track that instantly pierces the ears and heart. Combining
synthetic flavors, an aggressive percussion line, ripping Bosendorfer piano,
and subtly violent lyrical imagery, "Blood" is outright addicting. During the
chorus, Casey utilizes interjected and lush harmonies,to punctuate the lyrics.
This is one of the most memorable songs this reviewer has heard in years.
Trust us--you'll be singing along by the second listen.
In contrast to "Blood" is the quietly devastating "The Dead Sea." With
hints of Sarah McLachlan's "Wait," "The Dead Sea" is a song about the
increasing distance in and ultimate death of a beloved relationship. In all
of its lovelinees, "The Dead Sea" is almost too poignant to hear--as if one
is eavesdropping in on a most private and sad scene. "Bloom" is a jaw-dropping
orchestral track that is cinematique in scope. What is most impressive is that
Casey orchestrated the strings in their entirety.
What makes Casey's music so impactful besides his engaging melodies and
lyrics is his voice. A melange of quiet strength, mystery, and a deep,
barely concealed vulnerability, listening to Casey sing is like hearing a
stranger tell a wonderful tale that you suddenly realize you've had a role in.
It is almost unfair to see so much talent emitting from one person.
Casey Stratton has struck a perfect balance between classical edginess and
pop "hookiness." Certainly Casey will appeal to fans of Tori Amos (with whom he
is often compared). But it is no small compliment to say that Casey's debut is
as equally artistic as Tori Amos' work while being even more listenable. It
looks as if great things are in store for this formidable artist.
Read further reviews, listen to soundbites
and order the album from amazon.com
will have to stand aside and make room for Casey Stratton.--Justin Elswick