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Transatlantic - The Whirlwind CD (album) cover

THE WHIRLWIND

Transatlantic

 

Symphonic Prog

4.05 | 747 ratings

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usa prog music
5 stars Transatlantic is a supergroup comprised of Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings), Neal Morse (Spock's Beard), Pete Trewavas (Marillion) and Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater). In 2000 they released their debut CD to glowing reviews. Although only a few months were spent between conception and final mixing, the music exhibited a depth and complexity that progressive rock fans had been craving. A year later the four members convened again for an intense writing/recording session that yielded Bridge Across Forever. Building upon their strengths, their follow-up began to see a more distinctive style emerge. But the project disbanded when Neal Morse took a sabbatical from progressive rock to concentrate on his solo career. Over the next seven years speculation and rumor would keep the ghost of Transatlantic alive. Ironically, Neal Morse would incorporate several of the supergroup's compositions into his live sets. But now the rumors and speculations are at an end. The four have reunited and brought forth their most ambitious epic to date ? a 78-minute concept piece called The Whirlwind.

From the opening notes it's as if no time has passed at all. Everything that we've come to expect is here ? vintage keyboards, soaring guitars, pounding drums and bass. There are generous doses of vintage Spock's Beard, classic Flower Kings and more than a few nods to Pink Floyd and The Beatles. In fact, everything sounds so familiar that long-time fans will warm to it instantly.

Being a 78-minute sprawling epic in most hands would feel over-blown and needlessly self-indulgent?and just too damn long. But somehow Transatlantic manage to skirt these pitfalls. The different sections of the song (there are twelve total) all segue nicely from one to another; the transitions never feel unnatural or forced, and this goes a long way to sustaining the mood across the entire disc.

The only real complaint I have would be the lyrics. During the last few minutes I feel they become a little too Christian-specific for my taste, and this from someone who feels Neal Morse's best solo release (so far) was Testimony. Transatlantic has certainly dealt with religious themes before, but the lyrics were more open-ended and could be interpreted for any faith. For myself, phrases like "His Hand", "Eternal Glory", "River of Life", Breath of Life", "Giver of Life" all seem too specific.

Those who opt for the 2-disc version will get four original compositions that are generally pretty good ("Lending a Hand" just seemed completely lifeless to me), and four cover songs. Transatlantic have never been shy about covers, but I did feel these seemed a little lack-luster. "Return of the Giant Hogweed" is a virtual note-for-note recreation of the original with vocals by Neal. Next time perhaps give us an instrumental version of "The Battle of Epping Forest", or a prog-metalized version of "Robbery, Assault and Battery". The cover of Procol Harum's "A Salty Dog" was nice, as well as the Santana tune "Soul Sacrifice." But don't hit the eject button too soon ? there's a short hidden track at the end?which is actually probably the best thing on the disc. It's a short ditty on ukulele ? it's completely off the wall and I hope the band incorporates more of these 'odd' excursions into their main album next time.

For the uber-fan, there's the Super Deluxe edition that's housed in a small box and includes a making-of DVD. I have not watched this yet ? I want to live with the album a few more months before diving into the mechanics of putting it all together.

In the end, it doesn't matter which version you wind up buying. The real treasure is The Whirlwind. It's everything you want in progressive rock ? great music, great melodies, meaningful lyrics (with the above caveat) and superb musicianship.

usa prog music | 5/5 |

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