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Transatlantic - The Whirlwind CD (album) cover

THE WHIRLWIND

Transatlantic

 

Symphonic Prog

4.05 | 916 ratings

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TCat
3 stars The supergroup, Transatlantic, has quite the impressive line up when it comes to its performers. These are all musicians that have played in other neo-progressive bands. You have Neal Morse from 'Spock's Beard', Mike Portnoy from 'Dream Theatre', Roine Stolt from 'The Flower Kings', and Pete Trewavas from 'Marillion' performing together on this album. So, you would expect a lot of great music from this, wouldn't you? Lots of amazing keyboards, guitar, bass and percussion, with plenty of meter changes, mood shifts, dynamics and everything else you expect in a typical neo-prog band. So how does everything work together in this record? I must say that it's rather straightforward and a good rock album for the most part, but it definitely isn't challenging.

I obtained this CD several years ago while working for a music store chain. As usual, I was interested in everything progressive, but I knew I didn't particularly like Neal Morse's vocal delivery in most cases with 'Spock's Beard', so I wasn't really that interested in buying it. But since this was a demo that was sent to the store, and since it was a practice to give away promos to employees a year after they were received by the store, I was happy to snatch this one up. Since this time, I have determined I am not really a huge fan of Transatlantic, though their music is definitely progressive, I have a hard time with it feeling like the music is just too forced, too predictable, and not really authentic.

The album itself is a double album, with the first CD being made up entirely of the 77 minute title track, which is a suite divided up into 12 tracks. Now that's ambitious, isn't it? The first track consists of the 'Intro' and the title track 'Whirlwind' combined into one track. The 'Intro' has everything you would expect, some great (but short and undeveloped) solos, meter changes, and so much else going on. It sounds great on paper, but there is a lack of development in all the short sections. The hope here, right off the bat is that this is like many other Intros to other epic works, basically a preview of themes and etc. that are going to be going on throughout the suite. If that is the case, then this is all understandable. You can easily tell when 'The Whirlwind' section of the track starts, because things immediately fall into an simple 4/4 meter with a simple, straightforward feel and the vocals start off almost immediately. This main theme continues through the rest of the track. Pretty much what you would expect so far.

'The Wind Blew Them All Away' is a straightforward rock song, albeit, it is decent with some great soloing, but there is nothing really groundbreaking that stands out here. It's just a good rock song. 'On the Prowl' begins with a good keyboard-led section, with a jazz fusion feel. Soon a nice guitar/violin call and answer section starts up, and it develops into exactly what you expect. The vocals start eventually, but again, it's what you expect it to be, nothing extraordinary, just some good musicianship. The same basic feel continues through most of 'A Man Can Feel', just bright rock, but we do finally get into a minor key during the last half, which is a welcome change, but it's short lived as the next song; 'Out of the Darkness', sounds like a pop song.

This basic pattern of straight forward rock/pop, with some nice solos, pretty much describes the rest of the first CD. It's good rock music with some good solos and a few short sections that approach prog-iness (like 'Evermore' and the 2nd half of 'Is It Really Happening?') which are always over much too quickly, but not much more than that. Not a lot of emotion really, more like a job that has to be done out of necessity. By the time you get to 'Evermore' you realize that this is actually Christian rock. Oh yeah, a lot of the lyrics are corny'.'You got to lay down your life/Like rain in Spokane/You got to fall through the sky.' (?????) As far as the suite overall, it's got some great moments, but they are far overshadowed by the many weak moments. Except for the last track, there is not a lot of emotion in the vocals either. But that last track is just a lot of pageantry that goes on far too long. I can just imagine the people at their concerts with one hand raised in the air, rocking back and forth slowly. I often wondered why no one has thought to put a pane of glass in front of them, put some glass cleaner in one hand and a cleaning rag in the raised hand and Presto!....you have your windows washed.

The 2nd CD has 4 original songs and 4 covers. 'Spinning' starts off the original songs, with a duration of 9 minutes. The vocals on the first section are corny and unmistakable Pop. The 2nd half of the song is instrumental and much, much better. It is obvious that the strong suit of the band is the instrumental sections. It's a shame that the vocal sections are so annoying. If you pay attention, you will notice the snippets of Grieg's 'Peer Gynt Suite: Morning Song'. Next is a 4 minute song called 'Lenny Johnson', a story-song about a loner. I guess this is their 'Eleanor Rigby' or something. Pretty much a straightforward song. 'For Such a Time' comes next, more acoustic driven, a somewhat religious, soft rock song. 'Lending a Hand' is a boring 8 minute mid tempo song that goes nowhere for 8 minutes with some Beatle-esque harmonies in the choruses.

The second half of CD 2 is all covers. It starts off with Genesis' 'The Return of the Giant Hogweed'. This is quite an ambitious song to cover on an album that has been fairly mediocre up to this point. The adaptation is pretty faithful, the vocals are a bit stronger than the original sung by Peter Gabriel, and it sounds a little more updated, but other than that, it doesn't add or take away much. Okay, my wife just said this song is annoying, so there you have it. The next cover is 'A Salty Dog', a beautiful song originally done by Procol Harem. The cover is once again, quite faithful to the original, but I do prefer the vocals on the Procol Harem version, and that mysterious feel of the original is missing. Other than that, it's good. 'I Need You' is the next cover, but it is actually 2 different songs with the same name, on done by America and the other by The Beatles, specifically George Harrison. They should have just left this one off altogether, it's absolutely pointless and its Boy- Band awful. Last of all is a cover of Santana's 'Soul Sacrifice'. Again, it's faithful to the original, but therein lies the problem. This was originally a song meant for improvisation, and as such, it is a shame to make it sound so polished and perfect. Yes it's amazing that the band can keep up with it, but if you are going to do a cover of an improvised song, then improvise it. Otherwise, your cover is pointless.

So, overall, this is a good rock album. There are some excellent moments, most of those are in the instrumentals, but there are also bad moments. This is far from an essential release, and for the most part, it is not very progressive. Emotion is lacking most of the time and it is more rock oriented, and as such, it's a good Christian rock album. But that is it. 3 stars.

TCat | 3/5 |

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