It would be one of those pivotal albums that informed everything thereafter. Like Shirley Horn’s ‘Here’s to Life’, Madonna’s ‘Ray of Light’, ‘James’ ‘Laid’, REM’s ‘Automatic for the People’, and Marianne Faithfull’s ‘A Secret Life’, the first album I ever heard by Casey Stratton – ‘Standing at the Edge’ – instantly became a collection of songs that spoke to me deeper than any Top Forty pop song ever could. Produced by longtime Madonna cohort Patrick Leonard, ‘Standing at the Edge‘ was that rarest of animals – a cohesive cycle of music that took the listener on an emotional journey with the richest of melodies, and one of the most moving voices I’d ever heard in my long-short life.
I remember listening to the album and marveling at both the sonics and the lyrics, the majestic cascading piano, the moving bits of strings, and at the core that glorious voice – transcendent and vulnerable and powerful all at once. There are certain albums that come into your world when you expect it the least, but need it the most. This was one of those albums for me. They don’t preach, they don’t beg, they don’t wink or dance, but they seep inside your soul, because they share something only you thought you’d experienced. Maybe it was heartache, maybe it was a lost love, maybe it was betrayal, maybe it was pain. Maybe, if you’re lucky, it was happiness.
‘Standing at the Edge’ delivered all of that, and in Stratton’s voice I heard a kinship of spirit that the greatest artists are able to conjure for all of us willing to listen. It was the transformation of feeling into song, of emotion into music. From the most plaintive of coos to the most wailing of laments, his instrument may have carried the weight of the world sometimes, but it always soared.
The voice can be a vessel, especially when it’s as pure as Stratton’s. The voice can also be a healing element. In his pain we may recognize our pain, and in his sorrow we may share our sadness. The sharing of such sorrow is a sacred thing. Nothing else binds humans more tightly ~ not laughter, not fun, I hesitate to say even love, but I’m always hoping to be proven wrong about that.
Today marks the tenth anniversary of ‘Standing at the Edge’ – and it’s just as powerful and moving now as it was then. The best music withstands the sands of time, and the best artists are never forgotten. Stratton remains as viably potent in his songwriting and performances as he was a decade ago – if anything, he’s only managed to hone and sharpen his skills.
Thank you, Casey, for giving me a voice when I had none. We all thank you for that.
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