Passionate Pilgrim is an artful, rock-infused song cycle with Baroque instrumentation, co-written by composer- performer collective Oracle Hysterical (Elliot Cole, Majel Connery, and Doug and Brad Balliett). The recording, out on VIA Records on March 17, 2017, is a collaboration between Oracle Hysterical and Juilliard-trained period ensemble New Vintage Baroque. Texts from the album are drawn from The Passionate Pilgrim, a poem cycle once attributed to “W. Shakespeare.” The collection was stripped of its stature when the Shakespearean parentage of all but two poems was revealed to be fake. Here this orphaned cycle enjoys new pride of place, reimagined as a mashup of tuneful chamber-pop.
Oracle Hysterical’s distinctive alchemy shines on the album. The period instruments and lush arrangements anchor influences ranging from John Blow, to the Beatles, and My Brightest Diamond.
“Still, I hope you’ll take me at my word when I offer a keen endorsement of this fascinating prospect’s results. The voices of Oracle Hysterical are sweet, fresh, and appealing, ideally suiting the poetry’s chaste ardor. New Vintage Baroque’s accompaniment is lively and lithe, without a trace of mustiness. Admirers of Joanna Newsom and Shara Nova will find plenty to savor.... One song, ‘When As Thine Eye,’ whispers especially Beatlesque in its breathy retro-pop intimacy.”