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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Witsend

Cosmos and Chaos

Review by Josh Turner

When I first heard this album, I was driving away from the Alpine Valley festival grounds after a tiresome and draining day at Ozzfest. I made a fruitless attempt to fit into the crowd by cranking up a heavy band by the name of Tankard. My head was already pounding and I just couldn't take it any longer, so I was compelled to click the eject button. For the moment, Tankard's brutal music was going on the backburner.

After a day of hardcore metal, I needed an effervescent musical cocktail to ease the pain and relax my eardrums. I shuffled through a few discs and finally decided neo-prog was what I needed. This is what ultimately brought me to Witsend. I don't think I'm going that far out on a limb to think I was the only person listening to this kind of music on the way out of the parking lot. While passersby might have thought this was an odd selection, to me it was just what the doctor ordered.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Voyager
The track sounds pretty similar to the Star Trek theme along with The A-Team, Fall Guy, and TJ Hooker. It has eighties schlock TV written all over it. The music was probably influenced mostly by Kansas. It's purely instrumental, but you could say aspects of it sound like material found on Spock's Beard "The Light". It's cool to see the influence and inspiration of past works manipulate music in such a constructive way.
Cicadian Rhythm
This authentic print may have been lifted from the museum of Izz, because it has "I Move" stamped all over it. However, DNA tests prove this claim to be a false positive. The music was created a decade before "I Move" was ever released, so it is quite a bit ahead of its time. Unlike the previous track, we get some vocals, and they remind me of our Mamas & Papas.
Tautology
There is nothing hurried about this instrumental. It's a wise old man sharing his stories and taking his time. The pricks of the guitar sound like the ticking of a clock. The music rocks ever so slowly. This is one vintage piece, but it's charming nonetheless.
Etude No. 1
There is a sole guitarist sitting alone on the stage and he is deep in thought. Al Morse's Chautauqua would be a relevant reference for this guitar solo. However, it is Carl Badassarre who is responsible for these good vibrations.
Strange Loop II
After a rest, we plunge into an upbeat and witty guitar-driven ditty. Sam Giunta (keyboards) and Paul Mihacevich (drums) find their way back into the mix. This is an impressive instrumental closest to Dixie Dregs "Cruise Control". The tempo transitions every couple of seconds. It changes so often, I thought smoke would pour out my stereo system.
Cosmos
There is nothing pushy about this piece. Unplug the phone, shut the blinds, and enjoy the day off. This soothing cut is similar to one of Steve Hackett's classical affairs.
Poetry in B Minor
Here we get a selfless and serene passage on the piano. It's nothing more than a cat nap. While it's short, you get enough time and space to clear your head of all its troubles. At this point, the musical mayhem I've left behind is now a distant memory.
Mount Ethereal
This is a James Bond movie, the music to the Spyhunter arcade classic, and maybe even the Odd Couple's theme song rolled into one. The trend of TV tunes continues as well. Also think of a candy marble rolling through a mini-obstacle course until it lands on an ice cream sundae as seen many times (*ahem*, I mean, on rare occasion) on Sesame Street. This piece is fun, bouncy, and full of life.
Etude No. 2
This is the matching bookend to Etude No. 1. It's nothing more than an acoustic guitar, but it adds balance between the crazier cuts.
The Tone Row
I had a pit in my stomach when listening to this one as the chord progressions are creepy. It's like an evil menace lurking in the shadows. You're not sure whether you should trust your instincts or if the danger is just an illusion made-up in your mind.
Closure
This piece incorporates many of the influences seen in earlier pieces. Feel free to tell Dorothy we are back in Kansas. Spock's Beard, Mike and the Mechanics, and Dixie Dregs are eager to pop in for a look-see. It's all over the board, but the last thing it will do is bore you. The cockpit of this prop plane has a slew of instrumentations and demonstrates a number of daring stunts. This is high-flying adventure. Be sure not to lose your lunch on the barrel rolls and loops.
Chaos
Here we encounter a number of the old themes reprised, but there is neither rhyme nor reason to its organization. As its name implies, this really is chaos. The themes come and go at will. In my opinion, the track before is the real finish. This is the surprise twist for those who waited diligently through the credits. It's a clever way to end an album that has seemingly done everything in the cosmos to keep us intrigued for 48 minutes straight. Like a star shooting through the chaotic sky, this album is over in a flash of light.  

 
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