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Transatlantic - The Whirlwind CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.05 | 916 ratings

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4 stars A shining example of what I like to call, "comfort prog".

When I first listened to this album, I thought it was kind of dull. A more-of-the-same feeling stayed with me through much of it, and I just felt it was a going through the motions type affair. But knowing how prog albums can creep up on you the more you hear them, and wanting to give a band that contains two musicians I've always been very fond of (Morse and Stolt) a chance to change my mind, I continued listening. I'm not sure when it was, but probably around the 4th or 5th time through it all just started to click and make sense. The recurring themes and melodies, as well as lyrics, really making it feel like a 78 minute single piece of music.

Though, in all honesty, there are distinct "songs" here as well (much like in Supper's Ready, for instance, which it should be noted most prog lovers don't criticize for using the "suite" approach). But even those are woven so tightly into the fabric of the piece that it just flows along like a single piece. There is no doubt it's retro, no doubt it's not startlingly original. In this case, I can't see how that can be a criticism since the band never made any pretensions to creating something shockingly new and cutting edge. Some people seem to confuse genre's with inventiveness in musical creation, but that's an issue for the forums here at Progarchives, not my review.

Because of the cohesiveness of this behemoth, I really won't go into great detail about the contents. There is a traditional overture, relating most of the major themes and melodies to come, followed by a suitably upbeat and bouncy introductory vocal section. There is gritty prog (On the Prowl, Lay Down Your Life), balladic prog (Rose Colored Glasses), mellotron overload (A Man Can Feel), instrumental excesses (Pieces of Heaven, Is It Really Happening?), and a suitable uplifting finale (Dancing With Eternal Glory / Whirlwind (Reprise) ). The latter was the most difficult for me to appreciate, due to the "praise God" type of lyrics and even music that is employed in the first part. Plus, it does seem a bit drawn out, even for these guys. Originally, I felt the actual ending was not nearly as over the top and grandiose as it should have been for such a lengthy, epic song, but repeated listens have changed my mind on that somewhat. The last 12 minutes really do work as a good dramatic, emotional ending, even if I can't really get on board with the emotions being referenced and even if I still think they could have easily shaved a few minutes off. But that minor complaint aside, I find this a very enjoyable chunk of symphonic sweetness, perfect for when I don't want music that is too challenging, complex or original and just want to have waves of formulaic symphonic bliss sweep over me. I write that last line in all seriousness, because let's face it, truly progressive music (in the dictionary definition sense) is often not pleasurable to listen to, even if it is like nothing you've heard before. There is just something about the symphonic prog genre that just pushes all my musical buttons and I'm not ashamed to say that if it's well done, like it is here, I couldn't care less how original, or not, it is. But I still say this band takes the ingredients of mainstream 70's symphonic progressive music, and creates something new and very worthwhile to listen to. I probably don't need to say this, but these are 4 extremely skilled musicians who play everything flawlessly, with Roine even injecting a decent amount of soul and finesse into his vocals and lead guitar work. Though I could say the same for Neal, he seem to have a specific way of singing that changes little across his various musical outlets, so I'm not really sure if it's genuine or not. I'm going to assume it is though, because I mostly enjoy it. Also, Trewavas kicks all sorts of ass with his bass playing on this album.

A quick word about the bonus CD. Spinning is quite good, sounding like it would fit right into any of the last few Flower Kings albums (fantastic instrumental section), but not really sounding like a Transatlantic song. Lenny Johnson is a decent, if unremarkable Stolt "pop" song, with some good lyrics. Such A Time sounds like it should have probably been put on a Morse worship album, not on a TA album. Lending a Hand has a nice Beatles vibe and seems quite good, for the first 4 minutes or so after which is seems to just drag on for no real reason at all. The covers are played fairly flawlessly, yet lack any of the soul and fire of the originals. Which is usually how it is with covers, unless they are reworked to make them more interesting. Still, Soul Sacrifice sounds pretty neat to me, with Roine doing a pretty convincing Carlos Santana impression (and Portnoy shows that he really can sing, kind of, on A Salty Dog). But really, I'd rather have had more original material, even early demos of the main album.

All in all, a solid 4 star album that is probably this bands masterpiece without a doubt. It's the most cohesive and consistent thing they've done BY FAR, not counting the bonus CD, of course. My impulse to give it 5 stars has not surfaced, and probably never will, which has been true for all their albums. This one, however, is the best by a long way, and it's a shame we don't have a bit finer rating system to allow me to show a bit more difference between my ratings of their albums.

infandous | 4/5 |


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