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Transatlantic - SMPT:e CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.07 | 762 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Transatlantic's debut album was released in the spring of 2000, five months before the SPOCK'S BEARD career peak of "V". Clearly the stars were aligned for Neal Morse that year, although I doubt the erstwhile Beard frontman would interpret his good luck in such pagan terms (insert rueful emoticon here).

The supergroup attracted some criticism for being musically skewed toward its keyboard player, a hollow complaint after hearing the new band's centerpiece epic "All of the Above", arguably the best Spock's Beard song not on a Spock's Beard album. It was a piecemeal opus, as usual for Morse, but the separate pieces all highlighted his compositional fluency, as well as a few performance skills I wish he'd exercise more often, best heard in strictly instrumental passages like the jazzy "October Winds" jam.

It needs to be said that the song's heroic length was more calculated than organic. If you own the Roine Stolt remix of the album, you'll hear drummer Mike Portnoy during the extended ambient outro urging his bandmates to "keep it going!" just to reach the half-hour plateau. But there isn't a dull moment over any of those thirty-one minutes, from the "Close to the Edge" fade-in to the final guitar harmonics.

The six-part suite almost deserves an entire review by itself, which I'll refrain from pursuing, except to note the understated beauty of "Camouflaged in Blue", one of loveliest ballads ever penned by the prolific Morse. Ditto "We All Need Some Light", an even prettier song until the bombast kicks in, and showing signs of belated lyrical maturity as well. "While the creep beats the rap on appeal / And the cop who can't stop shows the kids how to steal" is a clever bit of doggerel, and the heartfelt yearning of the chorus is a lot easier to digest than the medieval wish-fulfillment in a typical Neal Morse sermon from his later solo career.

But after that the quartet has to scramble to find enough material to fill a CD, with mixed results. "Mystery Train" is a not unpleasant throwaway rocker resembling an outtake from the "V" sessions. "My New World" is a lackluster Roine Stolt original with a trite storyline about a hippy chick and her soldier boy, complete with stock '60s references to Woodstock, Jimi and Janis, and Frisco (the latter a particular annoyance to any Bay Area native).

And the album ends with a curious piece of musical archeology, resurrecting the Proto Prog relic "In Held (Twas) in I", one of the earliest Progressive Rock epics ever recorded. The song hasn't aged particularly well, which in theory would make it the ideal candidate for a thirty-year face-lift. But the update sounds mechanical when compared against the richly arranged PROCOL HARUM original, trading the faux-pretensions of the 1968 version for the real thing.

In retrospect the band probably went into the recording studio too quickly, before enough of the new material was properly chewed and digested (which might explain why their 2001 follow-up "The Bridge Across Forever" was so much stronger). Apparently even a global alliance of Prog Rock superstars needs time to find its feet, but there were a lot of fans (myself included, at the time) willing to share those growing pains with almost masochistic enthusiasm.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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