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Transatlantic - The Whirlwind CD (album) cover

THE WHIRLWIND

Transatlantic

 

Symphonic Prog

4.04 | 747 ratings

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Nightfly
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
3 stars It's been 8 years since the symphonic prog supergroup of Neal Morse (ex Spock's Beard now solo), Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater), Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings) and Pete Trewavas (Marillion) released a studio album under the Transatlantic banner. Was it worth the wait? Well The Whirlwind is no doubt a very good album so I suppose the answer is yes. I do however have a few reservations that stop it making classic status.

The Whirlwind is available as a double cd, with the second disc being half covers. The Whirlwind itself as I'm sure most people are aware by now is a single piece of music reaching almost 78 minutes in length, sub divided into 12 individually titled parts. The musicianship as expected is top notch and with players of such a high calibre it doubtful if they could release a complete turkey.

On first listen I was far from impressed and looking back at the notes I made with a review at a later date in mind I had jotted down comments like prog by numbers, bland, one paced lacking highs and lows etc. Of course I would never base a review on only one listen and after a few plays like many good albums The Whirlwind started to reveal its charms.

It's a record full of strong melodies and enjoyable though rarely edge of seat instrumental workouts. Musically and not surprisingly it sits between the symphonic sound of The Flower Kings and Spock's Beard/solo Morse including sections that could easily fit on those bands albums. Trewavas doesn't really bring any Marillion with him nor Portnoy Dream Theater. In fact much like on the first 2 transatlantic albums Portnoy plays, in keeping with the music's requirements, with far more restraint than in his day job. Morse takes the lions share of the vocals followed by Stolt. Portnoy and Trewavas are each given small parts to sing though it has to be said that while adequate it seems a bit pointless and could have been better handled by the real singers in the band. I suppose we should be thankful that Portnoy doesn't attempt any of that ridiculous growling that he does on Dream Theater's latest. When Trewavas sings he does so on a section that sounds very Beatles inspired, as it does in one or 2 other places.

Where The Whirlwind falls a little short of the great epic it surely could have been is it is a little predictable. Okay maybe I shouldn't have expected any surprises as each musician in their own individual main band with perhaps the exception of Trewavas with Marillion has tended to slip into a formulaic approach, drifting little from the template that makes their recognisable sound. I've no problem with that however as long as it's good, which it is. The other problem is the sheer length. Now don't get me wrong, I like an epic as much as the next prog lover, but whilst some parts are excellent there are also a few sections that come across as padding. Perhaps in the attempt to write the longest song in prog they lost sight of quality control occasionally? It's at its worst on the Is It Really Happening? section which is tedious and repetitive. It does improve however when the repetitive chant is replaced by one of the more dynamic instrumental parts of the album.

Moving onto the second disc which is 4 originals and 4 covers. Of the originals Spinning is very good starting with a simple, light almost country rock approach it surprisingly turns into an excellent prog instrumental workout in many ways more exciting than most the instrumental parts on The Whirlwind. Lenny Johnson is weaker; a short song with a Beatles vibe but is nothing spectacular. For Such A Time is also fairly unremarkable, starting off as an acoustic track building into a power ballad. Pleasant enough is the best I can say. Lending A Hand is another nod in the direction of The Beatles and plods along nicely enough but outstays its welcome.

I've never been a fan of cover versions, always feeling they are a bit pointless, especially when covering songs that were so brilliantly executed in the first place. Such is the case with all 4 covers here. All classics in their own right there's nothing here that improves on the brilliant Genesis track The Return Of The Giant Hogweed. It's played faithfully to the original but falls a long way short of the original. Ditto A Salty Dog, I Need You and Soul Sacrifice. However, this is intended as a bonus disc and on that level I wont judge it too harshly.

Getting back to the main feature then, to sum up The Whirlwind is a welcome return for Transatlantic. A very good album though not as good as their 2000 SMPTe debut by some margin. If you already like the band then this one's worth getting, if you don't then this one won't change your mind. Very good but nearer 3 than 4 stars.

Nightfly | 3/5 |

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