The MP3 download here is not the original Rykodisc album that was released in 1992. (That apparently you can still purchase if you order the CD.) It's not just the fact there are 20 extra tracks available with the digital download. It's that many if not most of the 15 tracks from the original album have been remixed. Not remastered -- remixed. In some places it's subtle, in others obvious.
I downloaded the original Rykodisc version from Amazon some 7 years ago. Noting recently that it was no longer included in my online Amazon Music Library, I inquired, and was told that this original version had been "removed by the content owners." I was invited to "purchase" (free, with a promo code) what they called "a newer Chris Bell Music album": I Am The Cosmos (Deluxe Version).
That "deluxe" version, available for digital download only, was released in May 2016, according to its page. It has only 12 extra tracks compared to the 20 extra on this version you are currently looking at -- which is an "ultra" deluxe version, I suppose, that was released just last week, in September 2017, only 16 months after the basic "deluxe" version. But the 15 tracks from the original are still the remixed ones. And, like the basic deluxe version, they are not in the same order as on the original version: "I Got Kinda Lost" and "Make a Scene" have switched places, as have "Fight at the Table" and "I Don't Know."
If, like me, you have been used to hearing the original Rykodisc versions for ages (and its tracks in a certain order), you may find listening jarring and even a little disappointing. Admittedly, the original version was released 14 years after Chris's death, but still, it's been out for 25 years now. Who takes such a long-released classic record from one of America's greatest unsung artists and decides, nah, let's change it up a bit?
No doubt Chris's estate -- the aforementioned "content owners" -- is responsible, and while I don't begrudge them trying to keep Chris's flame alive and maybe making some money, the extra tracks alone would have been sufficient, perhaps with a remastering of the original tracks. But not remixing.
I'm giving this 5 stars because, remixing or no, it is still obviously I Am the Cosmos, the greatest album nobody ('cept us chickens) ever heard of, and as Robert Christgau said, it clearly shows that Big Star was his idea.
I initially wasn't going to buy this new edition of I Am The Cosmos, having finally picked up the original Rykodisc 1 CD release of the album that dates back to 1993 and this being a rather pricey Rhino Handmade edition, but ended up not being able to resist, being the massive Big Star and Chris Bell fan that I am, and realizing how much extra material was included I realized it was well worth the investment and so right was I!! This a simply gorgeous reissue, complete with a lovely booklet with great rare photos and some nice essays on Chris by his brother David and other folks, and a run-down of the origins and differences in the alternate and demo tracks on disc 2. Plus I think the whole thing sounds even better than the original Ryko album edition, which already sounded fine but this sounds even cleaner and more powerful of a remaster.
I think the whole thing is essential and particularly if you're a dedicated Big Star and Alex Chilton fan you'll likely want to add this to your collection. I haven't stopped playing it since it arrived and I was already playing the Ryko CD constantly so it just augments what was already available. I don't have a least favorite song, they're pretty much all great, and the whole thing grows on you over time even the alternate versions of tracks like "Speed of Sound" or "Fight at the Table" or "Better Save Yourself."
Also realized the price isn't that high considering all you're getting and the gorgeous packaging and loving care with which this reissue was executed. Hats off to Rhino, Ardent, the Bell family, everyone involved in getting this masterpiece released! It's become one of my most prized possessions in a very short span of time, as with the Big Star box set which is also essential as far as I'm concerned. I also recommend reading Rob Jovanovic's fantastic book on Big Star as accompaniment to both this and the Big Star catalog, it can only enrich the listening experience that much more.
As noted by other reviewers, many/most of the mixes on the 2017 Omnivore disc are subtly but noticeably different from the "original" (also posthumous) Rycodisc release. (I haven't heard the subsequent Rhino re-release.) Is that an intrinsically bad thing? Not as such, but why?
I've been living, intimately if chastely, with the Rycodisc version for a couple decades. At this point, it's part of my musical DNA. There are arguably a couple of overly proselytizing duds (I'm not a huge fan of Look Up or There was a Light), but the rest. . . ? Amazing.
The "new" mixes both add some interesting detail and distract somewhat from the simplicity of the "originals." I guess what I'm trying to say is I'm still tying to habituate. I will say that the copious extra mixes are both welcome and generally excellent.
In sum, I'm not going to toss out my Rycodisc "original" anytime soon (and good luck trying to find an affordable copy), but the new Omnivore disc is a well welcome addition to my collection.
This album involves a time travelling Jeff Buckley bearing the child of George Harrison. One of the great albums of the 20th century and it wasn't even meant to be. Chris's brother provides the heartbreaking backstory behind Big Star's disappointment, Chris's depression, the writing in Europe, and the scattered recording sessions prior to his untimely death long before this scrapbook was compiled and released.
While the late Alex Chilton gets most all of the accolades when it comes to Big Star, Chris Bell was easily his equal & then some. It's nice to be able to hear these songs again and wonder what if he had not passed so young.
DETRAS DE ESTE DISCO HAY UNA TRISTE HISTORIA,,,,SIN EMBARGO ES UN HERMOSO LEGADO DE UN ARTISTA QUE PASO COMO UN METEORO Y CASI NADIE LO NOTO. CANCIONES MELANCOLICAS PERO DE GRAN GUSTO MUSICAL Y MUY BIEN INTERPRETADAS ,LO PONEN A UNO A PENSAR QUE HUBIESE SIDO SI LA HISTORIA HUBIESE SIDO OTRA????
What a pity Chris Bell fatally piled up his car in 1978 after giving up on a music industry that did its level best to finish him first because this is all we'll ever get to hear from him. This music is great and it shows Bell maturing as a writer out of Big Star. (I love Big Star, but this music improves on a lot of what Chris was doing there.)
The playing is stripped down vintage, not at all dissimilar from the Big Star stuff with loud, crunchy/clean Strats through British valve amps, ringing acoustic six and twelve strings, drums, basses, some boogie piano, a touch of Moog, and lots and lots of harmony vocals. Arrangement is often quite cool, too, with instruments often adding by their restraint or even absence. The production is similarly vintage with a nice tube-and-tape warmth you really don't hear much of anymore. (If you're looking for crystal clear recording on a '70s low budget recording, look elsewhere.) Alex Chilton's guest vocs on You and Your Sister really work well. Bell's not got Chilton's choir boy voice but has a raw aggression that Chilton frequently lacked (e.g., on Fight at the Table) and can keep a good tune for a ballad when he needs to (Though I Know She Lies). He's no slouch as a guitarist, too, playing better than he did on #1 Record. The comparison of Bell as Lennon to Chilton's McCartney isn't half bad, though for both their writing was rather more Lennon than the sweetness of McCartney.
In all, what a loss but at least we've got these songs.
Listening to this and the Big Star albums makes me wonder what might have been with a little commercial success. This two dish CD has many great examples of Bell's genius. It is a shame Chris died so young
A mess. This album wasn't necessarily recorded as a singular album, and as such it's sort of stitched together from various sessions and demos. But really that only adds to its mystique. The absolutely spellbinding, soulful, powerhouse of a song "I Am the Cosmos" might be the best rock ever recorded (in my humble opinion.) Like a lot of posthumous albums, this and many other songs almost feel like some kind of suicide note, and it has a sort of final stand vibe to it. These songs are weary, Bell puts all of himself into them. Sounds cliche, but these songs have a soul, Bell's entire state of mind is conveyed perfectly. Not everything is even nearly approaching the greatness of the title track perhaps, but nevertheless, all the material here is pretty great in its own right. A note though: avoid the deluxe album. All the songs have a weird mastering and mixing, too spacey and unfinished sounding. The original one-discer though has a fantastic sound to it, thickly detailed with the vocals appropriately buried just the right amount into the soundscapes underneath.
All in all, a conflicted, depressing soul-searcher of an album. It's heavy stuff, put in the right mindset, it's revelationary.
Best Tracks: "I Am the Cosmos" "Better Save Yourself" "Speed of Sound" "You and Your Sister" "Look Up"