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Syzygy - Cosmos and Chaos (2013) 20th Anniversary Compendium CD (album) cover



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3 stars Now this a really unique affair! In 2013 the band celebrated the 20th anniversary of their debut 'Cosmos And Chaos', and - without question - this is a valuable cause to release something special for the progressive rock community. Hence they do us the favour to provide a retrospective which features re-mastered, re-performed and even re-discovered band material, summed up by the motto 'Music For The Ears, Mind & Soul'. Alongside with the disc comes a nice book, just a compendium if you will, offering some interesting informations and neat personal insights. This is signed by the musicians on top of it, who are Carl E Baldassare (guitar) and Sam Giunta (keyboards) in particular, as they are founding members as well as the main composers, but also drummer Paul Mihacevic and Al Rolik (bass), who are longtime companions in the meanwhile.

What should one expect from an anniversary statement in terms of the music? Neither a remake of their fantastic live album 'A Glorious Disturbance', that figures, nor really new song material as such. So much the more we are going back to the band's start basically, this related with the fact that they had a kick off under another moniker, namely Witsend. The two previously unreleased songs Opus No. 1 and Opus No. 3 are of the rarest and earliest type hereby, and concerning the timeline there's another leap of 10 years backwards to accomplish. Former members Gary Priebe (bass) and Roman Zmudzinski (drums) are involved on this occasion. Here they are proving compositional and technical skills at any rate. The sound quality though, while being recorded on cassette tape, is obviously lacking of fidelity.

The song titles by the way are pointing to their classical and symphonic tinged roots, I'm quite sure. And it goes on in this way with some miniatures, which means short solo works on guitar and piano, and then going over to some duets and later on to several common debut album excerpts.which are showing the band in full power. Finally it's a real benefit to add two live cuts from 2010 to the collection. The compositions are shining in all its glory, featuring five musicians (a singer is on board too) in top form. As for that I strongly recommend to get in touch with 'A Glorious Disturbance'. However, this nicely packed anniversary compilation is a must have for fans either way, and surely a good starter if you are going to become aquainted with the early creative period of this band.

Report this review (#1357405)
Posted Thursday, January 29, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars It says that diamonds are eternal,ant that's a true statement!That's the same thing with this timeless album,which has been re-released 20 years after it's birth!Man...20 years since COSMOS AND CHAOS saw the light of day!What can I say now,20 years after...Only that this album didn't get any trace of rust of dust!It's so damn fresh and full of great ideas!By the way...the idea of re-record the full album,with new technology and to put the tracks of the abum in a different order,compared to the initial pressing...that's brilliant!It's absolutelly stunning to see that the compositions have the same impact and power of suggestion for the listenets after almost a quarter of a century!!!Great,solid prog rock compositions,the magic and the wizardry is present!!!The new and the old tracks...,the bonus material...even the quality of the recordings is primitive.... is excellent,for all the SYZYGY fans,and proves once again,the imense talent of the guys in the band from the very beginning of their musical activityIt's a pleasure to see thet the former SYZYGY members were also high caliber musicians and they delivered at maximum the huge talent since the very beginning of the band!!I really like also the digipack presentation,the look of the album-it's absolutelly stunning!!!!A very well made album,made with love,passion and determination by a very talented band,with a huge potential,undoubtedly one of the best prog rock secret missile kept by the Americans!!!Even the more pretentious prog rock lover will have a great moment of excitement and delightment to made a new audition of COSMOS AND CHAOS 20 years after the original debut and to rediscover the roots of what SYZYGY means in today's music!!!!Thank you guys for the work and God bless you in the future ,to bless us with new releases...high quality releases of pure magical prog rock music!4.50 stars!
Report this review (#1370577)
Posted Friday, February 20, 2015 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars While the US band SYZYGY didn't official form until 2003, the band has a history going back many years. Initially all the way back to 1980 and a band called Abraxas, but more in case here is the prehistory of the band lasting from 1984 until 2003, when they were known as Witsend. Witsend released one album in the almost 20 years of its existence, namely "Cosmos & Chaos", which saw the light of day in 1993. This 2014 release by Syzygy revisits the album 20 years on, and while recorded in 2013, this production wasn't officially available until 2014, when it was self-released by Syzygy.

Syzygy has been a project in the works and in development for multiple decades, and the album "Cosmos & Chaos" was a first important step for them when it was issued in 1993 under the Witsend moniker. This anniversary edition is a slight improvement over the original release in sound. A pleasant affair that merits a check by those who are intrigued by bands exploring the meeting points between classic progressive rock and hard rock, as well as existing fans of both Syzygy and Witsend.

Report this review (#1614783)
Posted Saturday, September 24, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars Caveat: Regardless of how much I love a band or album (and Syzygy is one of my very favorite progressive rock bands), I am not the biggest fan of remastered albums unless the original had glaring production flaws.

So, what do I think of this new 2014 reissue of Syzygy's "Cosmos and Chaos" album?

Positives: 1) I like the re-recording of two shorter tracks using a grand piano instead of the original electronic instrument (Yamaha CP70). 2) I really enjoy those two bonus tracks of pre-Cosmos and Chaos Witsend. Not only are they reasonably well recorded for 1984 cassette recordings, but the songs are pretty interesting and well-played with another drummer and bass player in the band. 3) The packaging is fantastic, with very good liner notes to boot. The group has seemed to take great pride in how they package their recent albums. 4) The remastering is a subtle improvement - nothing drastic to these old ears. But some flatness in the original recording is removed, and I hear certain guitar and keyboard parts more clearly than originally presented. There is an overall warmer feel to this remaster. 5) The track re-sequencing presents a unique way to listen to this music, grouping all the solo instrument material up front, then the small ensemble pieces, and finishing with the full band "Witsend Trio" pieces.

The not-so-positives: 1) The two live bonus tracks of songs that were originally instrumental-only (Mount Ethereal and Strange Loop) now contain vocals, and are very enjoyable...but extraneous if you already own the Glorious Disturbance live album from a couple of years ago where I first heard those same (or very similar) performances. 2) As mentioned above, the remastering is nothing dramatic; I thought the original recording was pretty good as it was. 3) I've heard the original album so many times that I'm already conditioned to expect a certain song to follow another (e.g. Etude No. 1 is naturally followed by those snarling opening guitar tones of Strange Loop), so it's a bit uneasy to me to hear a different track order. The band members apparently felt that it was jarring or jagged to go from soft to rocking, or small ensemble to full band sound; but I actually liked that dynamic in the original recording.

I can appreciate that Syzygy probably wanted to better identify this older Witsend album as one of their own, so a repackaging and remastering reissue under the Syzygy name would make sense. They saw a great earlier album like Cosmos and Chaos that they did not want to get lost in the shuffle, and they put together a really nice package (especially with the bonus tracks, and particularly if you've never heard those two great instrumental rockers redone with vocals).

But...I have to say that I've always loved the original too! Personally, I'd rather listen to a new album of new music from these guys instead of a marginally improved reissue of an album that's already pretty durn good. I sense that the band members are pretty particular about the music they present; it no doubt factored into their decision to reissue this album. Their commitment to their music is certainly evident in the amount of time spent writing and perfecting their craft between albums, as well as the phenomenal level of sophistication and musicianship behind every single song in all of their albums. Yet while I feel that this version of Cosmos and Chaos is great, I'm not convinced that it was enough of an improvement over the original to warrant a reissue, especially with all the thousands of other bands and albums vying for my ears' attention.

Bottom line: If you never picked up the original, definitely get this reissue with the improved piano parts, the remastering, and the cool bonus tracks - it's a great album. If you do have the original, this still makes a nice "improved and enhanced" alternative to that album.

(Eagerly looking forward to any new material...) - SJ

Report this review (#2439358)
Posted Wednesday, August 19, 2020 | Review Permalink

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