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Transatlantic - The Whirlwind CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.05 | 1002 ratings

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4 stars A Convincing Rug For the Balding Mammoth

John Wayne was asked by a student, 'Is your hair real?' Wayne responded in the affirmative, then added, 'It's not mine, but it's real!' (he wore a toupee) Whenever I play this album it's that anecdote that always springs to mind. That is not to say that Transatlantic are involved in the art of concealment so much as a brilliantly executed and affectionate homage to the classic Prog elements of the early 70's. Are they to Progressive Rock as Tarantino is to cinema? It's not the composition or arrangements that are necessarily derivative either but perhaps just the instrumental textures deployed and the sheer unfettered scope of the undertaking. There are no copyright laws applicable to stylistic spirit after all. Shiny modern replicants of Mellotron, Hammond, Moog and 'heroic' lead guitar pick up the discarded glove thrown down by Yes, ELP, Kansas and Genesis with the ensuing duel being a damn sight closer than anyone could reasonably hope to expect. (My money was on them taking a dive in the 2nd) Transatlantic have youth on their side and have learned more than a few tricks from their ageing tutors in how to 'fight dirty' when the need arises e.g: The fondant I Need You and For Such a Time might have cropped up on a Phil Collins and David Gates 'duets' album if the pair were down to the bare bones of their last couple of million. These anodyne atrocities are barely above the breadline never mind the waist. Dancing With Eternal Glory sounds uncannily like a very timid Barclay James Harvest (who even at the height of their powers were about as feral as socially awkward bank clerks)

However it's the strength of the bulk of what remains plus the variety of imaginative treatments of this thematic material on The Whirlwind that sets Transatlantic apart from the current crop of Retroprogressive visionaries.Yep, as the 'Rotten' one would have it we mean it Man and a dearth of post-modern knowingness will always receive a warm welcome from this rodent. In 2010 we should all be so over that tiresome game of 'sincerity vouchsafes innocence' played out to a coterie of smug winking ironists (and thank god for spell checkers)

The spectre of plagiarism does hover fleetingly over Is it really happening which starts as several uncomfortably numbing minutes of what just about every Pink Floyd song ever written 'post Syd' sounds like to me. Such grumbles aside, the remainder develops into a hugely enjoyable display of fiendish chops wedded to robust, malleable and memorable melodic ideas.

I guess that the 2nd CD in this package represents Transatlantic's take on Bowie's Pin-Ups being a trawl through the band's cited influences and avowed inspiration. As you would expect the mood is somewhat lighter and playful here and they even embark on a very spirited gallop through The Return of the Giant Hogweed which is only sullied when the singer unwittingly conspires to remove any lingering doubts that Genesis were the most quintessentially English of Prog bands. Lending a Hand is a very accomplished but weird hybrid of what the Beatles might have sounded like covering an XTC song cribbed from erm... the Beatles. Speaking of the Mop Tops, their own wonderful ditty that shares its name with that of America's I Need You simply relegates the latter to the status of 5th cousin twice removed. The Procul Harum cover is darkly definitive and it is interesting that Transatlantic bring out the hitherto unheralded sinister aspects of A Salty Dog which casts a song habitually viewed as nothing more than a pleasant ballad in a whole new light:

all hands on deck, we've run afloat!' I heard the captain cry 'explore the ship, replace the cook: let no one leave alive!' Across the straits, around the horn: how far can sailors fly? A twisted path, our tortured course, and no one left alive

I've always viewed Santana as the doomed marriage between a sultry volatile Hispanic and her pale air guitar enthusiast groom. The 10 minute Soul Sacrifice is not one I am prepared to make fellas,sorry.

Given the prodigious length of this whole extravaganza I found it difficult to come up with a satisfactory rating for this album. This is heaps better than I envisaged and my trepidation about musicians normally employed in bands I heartily loathe, is mercifully unfounded. There is nothing here that sounds to me remotely like Dream Theater or Marillion while what vestiges of Spock's Beard or the Flower Kings can be detected are unobtrusively subtle. The core of the dominating The Whirlwind suite itself is very strong throughout and probably worth the admission price alone.

Much has been debated about the Christian slant of Morse's lyrics and although such an orientation holds little interest for this reviewer they are no sillier and considerably less wilfully impenetrable than those of Anderson, Sinfield, Lake and Gabriel et al.To his credit, Morse at least resists the temptation to encode his message beneath the camouflage of arcane allegory. I think he chooses wisely here as he knows full well that such an approach would lead to his lyrics being decoded as chicanery by his gleeful detractors.

Thankfully there ain't no sanctimonious preaching hereabouts as the message is very mundane and secular indeed: If you party all night long without taking responsibility for your actions and treat people like skittles instead of helping them up, yer life will probably turn out like shite and you'll be a miserable bastard that no-one loves.

If you think that's proselytizing, then your toupee has grown over your ears pilgrim. (A Miracle)

ExittheLemming | 4/5 |


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