Dear Hunter

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Act I: The Lake South, The River North (2006), 6.5/10
Act II: The Meaning Of, & All Things Regarding Ms Leading (2007), 6/10
Act III: Life And Death (2009), 5.5/10
Migrant (2013), 5/10
Act IV: Rebirth In Reprise (2015), 5.5/10
Act V - Hymns With The Devil in Confessional (2016), 7/10

Casey Crescenzo started out singing for the Receiving End of Sirens, a Boston band that recorded Between the Heart and the Synapse (2005). Casey Crescenzo started out singing for the Receiving End of Sirens, a Boston His solo project Dear Hunter dramatically increased his status to singer-songwriter, composer, multi-instrumentalist and arranger. The project was born with the intention of crafting a six-album rock opera set in the early 20th century. Act I - The Lake South, The River North (Triple Crown, 2006), played entirely by him except for the drums and a couple of guests, More than the prog-rock melodramas like The Inquiry Of Ms Terri Crescenzo excels at recreating the atmosphere of ages part, like the decadent cabaret of the expressionist era in The Pimp And The Priest. and the piano march with a nostalgic carillon in The Lake South (before it turns symphonic, halfway between Vangelis and Michael Nyman). With a broad range of styles that encompasses both the a-cappella invocation Battesimo Del Fuoco and the hard-rocking City Escape (littered with surrealistic detours, notably a recurring oneiric piano carillon) the album is a testament to Crescenzo's musical acumen.

The more massive Act II - The Meaning Of & All Things Regarding Ms Leading (2007), that employed professional keyboardist (Luke Dent), percussionist (Sam Dent) and guitarist (Erick Serna), continued on the same track. The loud and visceral The Procession and The Church And The Dime evoke the prog-rock of Emerson Lake & Palmer and Colosseum. The nine-minute The Lake And The River invests too much on pomp and the power-ballad Red Hands exaggerates in pathos. The album contains the first three parts of The Bitter Suite, that suffer from the same problem. At least the stately polka of closer Vital Vessals Vindicate mimicks the faux grandeur of the Queen and boasts the best choral singalong of the album. The catchy ditty Smiling Swine and the skits of vintage musical styles (The Oracles On The Delphi Express, Blood Of The Rose) come as a relief.

Act III - Life And Death (2009) is generally more bombastic, from the virulent Brazilian dance In Cauda Venenum to the grotesque military march The Tank (a career highlight). Another highlight is Go Get Your Gun, a stately country-rock a` la Stan Ridgway, whereas overproduced songs like Mustard Gas are the worst offenders: a lot of pounding and shouting, but very little substance. Grand closer Life And Death sounds like a poor man's Pink Floyd. The vignettes of old-time America are less entertaining than usual although they are arranged more professionally (The Poison Woman, This Beautiful Lie). They don't benefit from the ponderous arrangements.

The Color Spectrum (2011) collects nine EPs dedicated to the color spectrum.

Migrant (Equal Vision, 2013) was the first album not dedicated to a concept.

The rock opera resumed on Act IV - Rebirth In Reprise (2015) and insisted on the third chapter's aesthetic of excess and exaggeration that ultimately sounds tedious (The Old Haunt and Wait being prime examples). The more or less catchy Waves is easily dwarfed by the less grandiloquent numbers, such as the cartoon music of Rebirth, the circus music of The Bitter Suite IV And V - The Congregation And The Sermon In The Silt (the album includes three more parts of The Bitter Suite) and the clever novelty King Of Swords, in the vein of disco-music of the 1970s. The nine minute A Night On The Town, that transitions from Brazilian carnival (reminiscent of In Cauda Venenum) to neoclassical lied, is another waste of energies.

Just when the project seemed to be losing momentum Crescenzo found the right balance. Act V - Hymns With The Devil in Confessional (Equal Vision, 2016), his best produced album yet, worked as a summary of all the tricks that Crescenzo had used so far, and therefore relished more in variety than in pathos. There are an emphatic pop ballad a` la Bon Jovi (The Flame) and an existential-cosmic melodrama a` la David Bowie (A Beginning), but there are also a bucolic neoclassical ballad (Melpomene) and an aquarius-age MOR lullaby (Cascade) with a theremin-like motif evoking movie soundtracks of the 1960s. Crescenzo finds it natural to croon arias that seem to come straight out of a Broadway musical (The Moon/Awake and The Haves Have Naught), but he still excels at recreating music of decades earlier: the single The Revival is a catchy collage of vintage cliches, and Mr Usher sends us back to the 1950s with Frank Sinatra-style crooning, female doo-wop group, and jazzy drums and piano. These are virtuoso confections of nostalgia. The album's highlight, The Most Cursed of Hands/Who Am I, stands apart: a stately and theatrical folk-rock a` la Fairport Convention that segues into a pre-war French cabaret song. The album is probably too long, but there is still one gem before the end: the martial and theatrical The March, shouted a` la Meat Loaf with male backing vocals.

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(Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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