Header
Transatlantic - SMPTe CD (album) cover

SMPTE

Transatlantic

 

Symphonic Prog

4.06 | 536 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Chicapah
Prog Reviewer
4 stars It would make sense logically that one of the many inherent problems involved in assembling so-called "Supergroups" would be ending up with a whole lotta chiefs and not enough Indians. It's also naive to postulate that a utopian democracy would work, either, so I get the impression that at some point Neal Morse got designated as the untitled chairman of the board of this project, so to speak, because I find his influence to be the most dominant of the four on this album. This is not to say it's a detriment, however, and his tactful leadership probably kept this debut from becoming a free-for-all anarchy of egos.

Not being the personality types to timidly test the waters, Transatlantic boldly steps out and presents a 31-minute epic to introduce themselves to the symphonic prog world. It's quite a haul to digest at first but it definitely shows that they weren't afraid to reach for the stars. "All of the Above" is predictably long on music and short on decipherable lyrics but it makes for an enjoyable half hour of listening, nonetheless. It's divided into six segments and the first one, "Full Moon Rising," fades in like you're standing close to the edge of a mysterious abyss and soon you're immersed in an energized, instrumental mini-overture that features the inimitable growl of the Hammond organ. (Always a plus.) Morse takes the initial shift at the mike by singing something about a full moon appearing "while the sun burns bright as day" and off you go. "October Winds" offers a calmer atmosphere with dense harmonies, then a cathedral organ accompanied by Roine Stolt's guitar stylizations and fat tone elevate things to a higher level in a hurry. Neal tosses in a nice jazzy piano solo before moving to the organ and then he steps aside to let Roine's guitar blaze a wide swath again. Things smooth out once more with the haunting refrain of "maybe nothing matters anyway," leading to the graceful bass guitar chordings of Pete Trewavas that characterize the understated "Camouflaged in Blue," a somewhat traditional-sounding but pleasant ballad that provides some perspective. Stolt's raging guitar segues into the rockin' "Half Alive," yet another jaded glimpse into a musician's life on the road, followed by the quieter "Undying Love." Mike Portnoy's always-amazing drumming draws you into Roine's hot guitar lead and then you get a reprise of the opening section. Here the guitar playing is again very impressive as it swirls atop a huge cathedral of sound. You may find it odd but my favorite part of all is what I call the "shimmering" ending in which they patiently take their time to create a fantasy of suspended musical colors, reminding me of a mist-shrouded waterfall. While the whole opus fails to achieve greatness you gotta give them props for attempting such a large-scale undertaking right out of the gate.

No one writes better prog rock ballads than Neal Morse and "We All Need Some Light" is one of his best. The deep, ringing 12- string guitars and the clever interplay between piano and acoustic guitar in the middle compliment Morse's poignant delivery of lines pleading for a glimmer of hope in this mixed-up world. "Mystery Train" is very much an eclectic rocker in the vein of Spock's Beard (Neal's band at the time) with its unorthodox but alluring funky groove that Mike and Pete slip into with ease. There's some intriguing percussion rolling around in the shadows and it has a dreamy, Beatle-ish ending. Next is Roine's "My New World" and it may be the most cohesive track offered here. It starts with a classical twist, then establishes a big wall of sound around the fluid guitar. A verse partially performed in 5/6 time and a full, three part harmony-embellished chorus are remarkable but it's the solo section that literally sizzles with various inventive forays off the beaten path. Neal's comforting Hammond organ ride guides you back to the verse and chorus, punctuated by some jazzy guitarisms. Overall, the well-thought-out and crafty arrangement of the tune makes this a true highlight of the CD.

Yet all this fantastic musicianship and cooperation didn't stop the proceedings from ending up in what I think was an error in judgment when they opted to revive the old Procol Harum ditty, "In Held ('Twas I)." While I can appreciate that they obviously came to a consensus concerning including a lengthy, involved song they all craved to cover for one reason or another, I have to admit that I'd never heard it before and I think there's a good reason for that. It's just not that memorable. Beginning with some flatly spoken metaphysical babble that evolves into an overly dramatic score, the tune meanders listlessly through different moods before entering a dated psychedelic arena where anything goes. That's followed by a build up that sounds like something from a cheap monster movie taking you back to some lackadaisical verses before transporting you to a weird pomp-and- circumstance motif where they perform an unusual variation on "God Save the Queen." While the song does give Portnoy a chance to kick out the jams on his drum kit as only he can do, I have to state the blatant fact that I don't "get" the total sum of this saga. It's kinda like having one of your friends play you something that just knocks them out but does absolutely nothing for you personally. And it's not like I didn't try my damnedest to like it. I gave it at least ten spins before giving up on it. So it goes.

This album has all the earmarks of a supremely talented foursome feeling each other out while attempting to find a unified sound. It's not weak or tedious at all but it lacks the cohesiveness that would personify their brilliant follow-up, "Bridge Across Forever," which I think is one of the best symphonic prog albums of the 21st century. I feel that if I'd gotten this CD first I may have hesitated to invest in their next one and I would've been tragically cheating myself so be advised that they get a lot better on #2. While I grant this one 4 stars (mainly due to the high level of musicianship and engineering involved) it really deserves a 3.5 in my book.

Chicapah | 4/5 |

MEMBERS LOGIN ZONE

As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Share this TRANSATLANTIC review

>

Review related links

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | GeoIP Services by MaxMind | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: JazzMusicArchives.com — the ultimate jazz music virtual community | MetalMusicArchives.com — the ultimate metal music virtual community


Server processing time: 0.02 seconds