Reflections on Transatlantic’s “KaLIVEascope”

TA4liveA kaleidoscope takes a mishmash of glass bits, pieces of plastic and paper, and combines them into symmetric images. Random elements are jumbled together and reflected into scenes of beautiful harmony and balance. Just like the kaleidoscope’s mirrors create beauty from seemingly incompatible pieces of broken glass, Transatlantic takes four exceedingly talented and strong personalities and combines them in ways that generate some of the most beautiful and powerful music today.

Transatlantic has just released a mammoth live set from their European tour in support of their recent album, Kaleidoscope, and it’s a scorcher. There are several different editions, and the smallest consists of 3 CDs/1 DVD (which is a steal at 23 USD). The CDs document their more than 3-hour-long show at Tilburg, The Netherlands, while the DVD covers their Cologne, Germany concert. The Tilburg show is really something special – Transatlantic and Neal Morse (as a solo artist) have performed there many times, and an obvious bond exists between the band and the audience. The DVD is very nice, because throughout the concert here is a huge screen behind the band with continually evolving kaleidoscopic/fractal patterns that enhance the viewing experience.

Transatlantic have grown tremendously as a group. For the uninitiated, it is a “super-group”, with members coming from some of the most successful prog acts ever: Neal Morse (Spock’s Beard, Flying Colors, solo), Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Winery Dogs, Adrenaline Mob, Flying Colors, etc., etc.), Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings), and Pete Trewavas (Marillion). Their first couple of albums, SMPTe and Bridge Across Forever were great, but one got the sense that the various members brought their own songs to the projects, and not a lot of collaboration happened. The musical interaction on their third album, The Whirlwind, was excellent, but the music had a sense of familiarity that was getting worrisome.

Fortunately, on Kaleidoscope, Transatlantic have truly come into their own as a group. It’s hard to tell where one member’s influence ends and another’s begins; they have established their own unique sound, and when all the parts lock together and take off, there isn’t another band that can touch them. The DVD documenting the making of Kaleidoscope confirms the collaborative nature of the songs – I had assumed that Neal Morse was the primary creative force, but surprisingly, Mike Portnoy comes across as the main driver of the composing and arranging.

For KaLIVEascope, the boys are supported by multi-instrumentalist Ted Leonard, which frees up Roine to concentrate on his gorgeous lead guitar lines. Mike Portnoy has to be the hardest-working drummer in show business – he is indefatigable through hours and hours of incredibly complex and lengthy songs. Neal Morse is the primary lead vocalist, and in both the Tilburg and Cologne shows he again demonstrates his uncanny ability to reach out and connect with the audience. Finally, both the CD and DVD mixes give bassist Pete Trewavas the prominence he deserves. I’m a sucker for energetic and melodic basslines, and Pete does not disappoint.

Both shows open with “Into the Blue”, off Kaleidoscope. Then comes “My New World” from their debut. Their performance of this song is a revelation, as Roine sounds like a fire’s been lit under him. It’s now one of my favorite songs from their extensive catalog. “Shine” follows, which is one of their most straightforward “pop” songs. There’s a 30 – minute “Whirlwind” medley, then Neal sings a brief “Beyond The Sun” alone. They immediately segue into the epic “Kaleidoscope” which is performed exceptionally well on the Cologne DVD. A highlight is a jazzy section where Neal and Roine bring to mind the classic live work of Jan Hammer and Jeff Beck.

At this point, most bands would call it a night and leave the stage utterly spent, but there’s much more music in store. Neal and Roine perform a beautiful duet on acoustic and electric guitars. Next is the perennial crowd singalong, “We All Need Some Light”, and then the show proper concludes with an electrifying performance of “Black As The Sky”. I’ve seen all of Transatalantic’s live DVDs, and on this song they are at the absolute top of their game. (Video is below)

For encores, the Tilburg and Cologne setlists diverge: Tilburg includes “Nights in White Satin”, and Focus’ “Sylvia/Hocus Pocus”, featuring Thys van Leer himself(!). The evening finally concludes with a rousing medley of “All Of The Above/Stranger In Your Soul”. The Cologne show skips the covers, and goes straight to the medley.

Transatlantic is not a super-group; they are a cohesive unit. They are far greater than the sum of their parts, and it shows in these performances. Even earlier material sounds new; they’ve achieved that mysterious ability of gifted musicians to anticipate each others’ next move, and push themselves to higher and higher levels.

 

S.T. Karnick’s review of Transatlantic’s latest

transatlantic-kaleidoscope-box-set-cddvd-deluxe-edition-11801-MLB20049782288_022014-OOver a decade ago, American cultural critic S.T. Karnick published a seminal piece on progressive rock and its third-wave vitality in the pages of William F. Buckley’s magazine, National Review.  At the time, he noted especially the greatness of Spock’s Beard.

Karnick is always worth reading, but this (below) will be of particular interest to progarchists–a review of the latest Transatlantic album:

Although progressive rock has had a low profile in the music world since the rise of punk and disco in the late ’70s, it’s still very much alive today, even to the point that there are real stars of this musical style. Foremost among these are the members of Transatlantic, and their latest album, Kaleidoscope, is a production worthy of their major talents. Just as a kaleidoscope creates fascinating images by juxtaposing numerous bits of colors and shapes that contrast with one another, Transatlantic’s Kaleidoscope does so with sounds. Ranging from hard rock to classic rock to folk to classical, the sounds on Kaleidoscope shift and recur in patterns of real beauty.

To keep reading (and you should!), go here: http://www.stkarnick.com/blog/post/transatlantics-kaleidoscope-is-classic-progressive-rock

TUPVR #13: The Tangent, THE MUSIC THAT DIED ALONE

All artwork and design by the ever-excellent Ed Unitsky.
All artwork and design by the ever-excellent Ed Unitsky.

A 3plus minute review of one of my all-time favorite albums, THE MUSIC THAT DIED ALONE (2003) by The Tangent.  An album featuring Andy Tillison, Roine Stolt, Jonas Reingold, and Guy Manning.

Art work and design by Ed Unitsky.  Unitsky provides one of the best album covers in rock history.

Great musicians, integrity, creativity–what more could any human want???

Transatlantic: Kaleidoscope (Review)

Transatlantic, Kaleidoscope (Radiant/Metal Blade/Inside Out, 2014).

The opening few moments of Kaleidoscope transition perfectly from the band’s previous outing, The Whirlwind.  The atmospherics and sound effects cause the listener to imagine the Transatlantic blimp/starship landing in a Close Encounters sort of way.

The band, it seems, readily survived the whirlwind, and they’ve come back to tell us about their adventures.

Despite the opening few moments of transition (over six minutes, actually) from the last album, Kaleidoscope has far more in common, in terms of structure and themes, with SMPT:e and Bridge Across Forever than it does with their 2009 masterpiece.  It’s eclectic, to be sure, but . . .

. . . this is pure and glorious Transatlantic in every way.

And, what can one say about Transatlantic that hasn’t been said?  These four guys not only embody traditional symphonic prog in their music, they live it and promote it and love it and cause lots of other folks to feel the same.  A Transatlantic album is never just another offering, it’s always a moment in prog history.

***

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Cohesive Community or Autonomous Individuals?

Yet, for me, it’s hard to think of Transatlantic as a band as much as I think of them as four friends, getting together to jam next to each other.  Big Big Train, for example, always sounds like a group of brilliant individuals who have agreed to build an album while working firmly as a cohesive unit, a community without bounds.  TA, though, sounds like four very separate individuals who want to play next to and around one another.  It’s even a blast listening to TA albums, thinking, oh that’s Neal’s part, that’s Roine’s, that Mike’s, or that’s Pete’s.

Write that Mystery Board. . . let the deal go down.
Write that Mystery Board. . . let the deal go down.

One picture in the accompanying booklet even mysteriously shows a white board with the parts of each member.  Were I still sixteen, I would spend hours trying to decipher the meaning of it all in some gnostic fashion.  Sadly, that was 30 years ago, and I have no such time, though the desire remains.

While thinking of modern prog groups, BBT reminds me much more of 1973 Genesis, while TA reminds me of 1971 Yes.  Not that either is retro, as they both are their own and no one else’s, of course.

Or, to put it in military terms, BBT is an Anglo-American Marine unit and TA is a group of late medieval Berserkers, ready to challenge the enemy through individual honor.  To take this a bit further, Andy Tillison of The Tangent would be leading a cavalry charge uphill.

Ok, enough comparisons, but even the title of the new TA album is revealing, as a series of overlapping, reflecting images.  Appropriately, each song title deals with a color or a type of light.

***

 

A Beautifully-Fractured Whole

When the video of “Shine” appeared online, a number of proggers on the internet loved the song, of course (who doesn’t love TA?), but worried about the direction of Transatlantic, wondering if the whole album would have such a praise and worship feel.  Fear not!  As a song, Shine, seems like nothing else on the album.  Except, perhaps, for Neal’s one solo contribution and paean to hope, “Beyond the Sun.”  The latter, though, bleeds directly into the 32-minutes finale, “Kaleidoscope,” and serves as an effective prologue.

The first song, “Into the Blue,” doesn’t really pick up until several minutes into the song and past the atmospherics, the transition from The Whirlwind.  At 25 minutes, this is an adventure.  Rather than it building and building, it builds, falls, and builds again several times.  At moments, it sounds like pure TA, at other times, it sounds very much like a sequel to TFK’s Desolation Rose.  Even the creepy, ominous voice that appeared on TFK’s “Bavarian Skies” and “White Tuxedos” makes a cameo here on “Into the Blue.”  Very welcome, though, is the cameo vocals of Daniel Gildenloew.  Of all of the songs on the album, this is by far the most religious, lyrically, especially the references to St. Paul’s writings (Galatians and Romans).  The religion never becomes blatant, though, and it will probably seem merely a Jon Anderson-like love of the Cosmos for most listeners.

Everyone who loves TA has already had a chance to hear “Shine,” so I won’t go into details here, except to state that it 1) fits the albums; and 2) has a sitar part at the beginning I didn’t catch in the video.

My favorite track, by far, is “Black as the Sky.”  Every member of TA is in top form, but especially  good are Roine’s vocals and the rhythm and interplay of Mike and Pete.  Phew.  Amazing.  I hope they start off the concert with this.  Talk about a rocking intro, one sure to enliven the entire crowd immediately.  The song, though, did make me a little sad.  If this were still 1982, this song would absolutely dominate album rock radio in America, and TA would be one of the best selling artists and bands in music.

The fourth track, “Beyond the Sun,” the only song credited to a single member of TA, Neal, is best described as something Anderson and Wakeman could have written around 1989.  Neal’s voice, of course, sounds absolutely nothing like Anderson’s, but this track is as ABWH as it gets.

As mentioned earlier, it blends perfectly into the final track, the grand epic, Kaleidoscope.  Pure TA.  As Mike said in one concert, “nothing but epics.”  This is epic symphonic prog, to be sure, and it ends the album as well as “Into the Blue” opened it.  The difference is that the lyrics of this song are as psychological as the lyrics of the opening are religious.  Ultimately, this song deals with accepting the pains of the world and making the most of them.  The interplay of Neal’s and Roine’s vocals is especially good, and it’s rather jaw dropping when Roine’s voice, in the third movement of the song, sings “And so the king of karma lost his only son.”  It’s one of those just perfect moments that we proggers so often crave.

***

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Covered and Uncovered

The bonus cd has 8 additional tracks all covers, featuring music from Yes, Elton John, the Small Faces, King Crimson, the Moody Blues, and several others.  Clearly, Morse and Portnoy love covering their favorite tracks as so many of their albums attest.  Generally, as is usual with Morse and Portnoy, the covers are not reimaginings of old songs (think of Glass Hammer’s reimagining of “South Side of the Sky”), but truly straight-forward covers of each.  To my mind, the best covers on disk two are ELO’s “Can’t Get It Out of My Head” and “Tin Soldier” by the Small Faces.

The third disk, a DVD, has the Shine video and two vignettes.  I only received Kaleidoscope, Saturday afternoon, so I’ve not had the chance to watch these yet.  My apologies!  I will, and I’ll either post something separately or add to this review.

***

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Summa

Admittedly, I’m at a point, where there’s nothing from Stolt, Morse, or TA that I won’t buy, devour, and cherish.  So, my view is probably not as objective as it could be.  I can state this, though: this is a work of beauty, a work of four musical warriors taking on the music scene and doing so with integrity, class, and majesty.

Kaleidoscope is a more than worthy follow-up to The Whirlwind, contains some truly stunning moments, and returns us, at least in form, to the best of TA before the six-year long hiatus.  Very highly recommended.

Ave, TA!

The Fab Fourth

Mike Portnoy is excited that Transatlantic is becoming something more than just a side-project, but a great band in which all four voices are singing:

This is now our fourth album – we started in ’99, and so we’re into our 15th year. I think we’ve been promoted from side project to part-time band. In the beginning, it was this concept of mine to put together a quote-unquote supergroup of modern prog players. That was the initial thing from the get-go – it was a project.

The second album was kind of an immediate response to how successful the first one was; we wanted to do it again. Then we had a big eight or nine-year hiatus. When we got back together for The Whirlwind, it was like a big secret reunion. People didn’t know about it, so when we finally announced it, it was kind of a big deal.

Now, here we are with the fourth album, and after the reunion and the success of The Whirlwind, we feel like this can be a real part-time band, because our circumstances have changed. When we started this in the late ‘90s, I was obviously still in Dream Theater, and Neal was in Spock’s Beard. Those were our main things, and Transatlantic was definitely a side band.

But here we are in 2014: I’m no longer in Dream Theater – I’m a free agent, doing lots of different things; Neal’s a free agent and is doing lots of different things. So it gives Transatlantic as an entity a little bit more flexibility. I think that’s what’s promoted us from side project to more part-time band.

…  In Dream Theater I did most of my singing. In Transatlantic I sing lead as well as lot of background vocals – same with Flying Colors, and the same with Yellow Matter Custard, my Beatles tribute. And like I said, I did a tremendous amount within Dream Theater. I did a tremendous amount of secondary lead vocals and harmonies, and I wrote a huge amount of lyrics and melodies within the band. You’d think a lot of people would know by now, but I guess not everybody pays attention.

For me, this is one of the great things about Transatlantic, that you’ve got four people singing, four distinct voices contributing to the music. All of my favorite bands have had all four members singing. Obviously, The Beatles are a great example; maybe a lesser example is KISS. In Pink Floyd, you had three of the guys singing; Queen had three of the guys singing. I’ve always appreciated the variety in those bands.

BillyNews: Transatlantic

Transatlantic To Release New Studio Album Kaleidoscope on Jan 28, 2014
Announces World Tour Jan 31 – Mar 15, 2014
 
Cross Plains, TN – Good things come to those who wait. Transatlantic fans are accustomed to playing the waiting game, and their patience has been rewarded with the band’s fourth official studio album, Kaleidoscope. Steeped in vibrant prog rock organics, it’s a triumphant return to the band’s original creative style.
 
The beloved prog rock project featuring Neal Morse (ex-Spock’s Beard), Mike Portnoy (The Winery Dogs, ex-Dream Theater), Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings) and Pete Trewavas (Marillion), Transatlantic’s foundation was built in 1999 with the release of their debut album, SMPT:e, in 2000. A second studio album, Bridge Across Forever, solidified their position as prog’s definitive supergroup. It would be nine years before Transatlantic’s fans were rewarded with a new studio album: 2009’s The Whirlwind, the band’s most popular release to date. Following the subsequent tour, spawning two live DVDs, the band decided to record a new studio album as soon as they could.
 
“There was talk about a year ago about doing an album before we actually did it,” reveals Morse. “I was feeling it for a while. Some of the music that ended up on my Momentum album (2012) seemed like good material for Transatlantic. Roine and my schedules have a little more space in them, and Pete and Mike’s schedules finally aligned, so we were able to put this together. I’m just glad we got to do it again and I’m really happy with the way the album came out.”
 
Morse, Portnoy, Stolt and Trewavas shared equally in the songwriting, with Portnoy ultimately sifting through the material and picking out what he felt was best. For the most part, the music that fans hear on Kaleidoscope (and all of their previous albums) was created for Transatlantic. There are, of course, exceptions. “I wrote the second song on Kaleidoscope, “Shine,” before my Momentum album came out,” says Morse. “I thought about recording it for myself, but it just smelled of Transatlantic. I presented it with two other acoustic songs, and that’s the one the other guys chose, as well.”
 
The band convened at Neal’s studio in Tennessee; writing, arranging, and laying down the final drums and bass. Morse offers, “At this stage, we sketch out the house and build the foundation. Then Roine and I go off to our respective studios and do what we need to. We send those parts, including vocals, back and forth via the internet; but the writing is done together in Tennessee. We just go from the gut, and I think it’s an amazing process of trusting each other. There’s no shortage of ideas; it’s more like which ideas do we want to use?”
 
As the fans have come to expect, Kaleidoscope is also available as a Special Edition featuring eight uniquely Transatlantic cover songs. “I don’t know how it started,” Morse says of the cover song tradition. “But we’ve done it for every album. It’s a lot of fun because most of the time it’s simpler music than what we’re mainly involved with.”
 
There are points during the journey through Kaleidoscope where the listener will be reminded of artists like Yes, early Genesis, and even Styx. But in the end, the album is distinctly Transatlantic before it can be compared to anyone else.
 
“I think that comes from the different ingredients,” says Morse. “It’s the four of us from all over the world—with our different backgrounds, cultures and musical history—that makes this band totally unique.”
 
The band will embark on a six-week world tour January 31 – March 15, with an additional performance at the Sweden Rock festival June 4-7. They will be joined by Pain of Salvation’s Daniel Gildenlöw as a 5th touring member. The tour will include headlining the Progressive Nation At Sea 2014 Cruise,February 18-22, alongside 22 other leading prog acts including Adrian Belew Power Trio, Devin Townsend Project, King’s X, Anathema and Spock’s Beard. The event will also feature a special performance of Yes material by Transatlantic with legendary singer Jon Anderson on vocals.
 
Transatlantic – Kaleidoscope (75:50)
 
1. Into The Blue (25:13)
I. Overture (Instrumental) 
II. The Dreamer And The Healer 
III. A New Beginning 
IV. Written In Your Heart 
V. The Dreamer And The Healer (Reprise)
2. Shine (07:28)
3. Black As The Sky (06:45) 
4. Beyond The Sun (04:31) 
5. Kaleidoscope (31:53) 
I. Overture (Instrumental) 
II. Ride The Lightning
III. Black Gold
IV. Walking The Road 
V. Desolation Days 
VI. Lemon Looking Glass (Instrumental) VII. Feel The Lightning (Reprise) 
 
Bonus CD: 
 
1. And You And I (Yes) 
2. Can’t Get It Out Of My Head (ELO) 
3. Conquistador (ProcolHarum)
4. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Elton John)
5. Tin Soldier (Small Faces)
6. Sylvia (Focus)
7. Indiscipline (King Crimson)
8. Nights In White Satin (The Moody Blues)
 
Line-Up:
Roine Stolt – Electric guitars, vocals
Pete Trewavas – Bass, Vocals
Neal Morse – Keys, Guitars, Vocals
Mike Portnoy – Drums,Vocals
 
An Evening With Transatlantic 2014 World Tour
 
Jan 31st – Los Angeles, CA – El Segundo Performing Arts Center
Feb 1st – San Francisco, CA
Feb 2nd – Seattle, WA
Feb 4th – Chicago, IL – The Arcada Theater
Feb 5th – Quebec City, Canada – Theatre Du Capitole
Feb 6th – Montreal, Canada – L’Olympia
Feb 7th – Boston, MA
Feb 8th – Philadelphia, PA – Keswick Theater
Feb 9th – New York City, NY – Highline Ballroom
Feb 11th – Mexico City, Mexico – Teatro Metropolitan
Feb 13th – São Paulo, Brazil
Feb 14th – Buenos Aires, Argentina
Feb 15th – Santiago, Chile
Feb 18th to 22nd – Progressive Nation At Sea
Feb 27th – Madrid, Spain – La Rivera
Feb 28th – Barcelona, Spain – Razzmatazz 2
March 2nd – Milan, Italy – Alcatraz
March 3rd – Rome, Italy – Orion
March 5th – Pratteln, Switzerland – Z7
March 6th – Karlsruhe, Germany – Substage
March 7th – Munich, Germany – Muffathalle
March 8th – Berlin, Germany – Astra
March 9th – Cologne, Germany – E Werk
March 11th – Antwerp, Belgium – Trix
March 12th – London, England – The Forum
March 13th – Tilburg, Holland – 013
March 14th – Tilburg, Holland – 013
March 15th – Paris, France – Le Bataclan
June 4th-7th – Sweden Rock Festival
 
Studio Album Discography
SMPT:e (2000)
Bridge Across Forever (2001)
The Whirlwind (2009)
Kaleidoscope (2014)
 
Press Contact
Glass Onyon PR
 
Transatlantic Online:
 
Progressive Nation Cruise
 
Radiant Records

 

Transatlantic Covers a Yes Classic: And You and I

Nice to wake up to this, this morning.  A beautiful rendition of a Yes classic.  Morse’s and Stolt’s voices especially add to the atmosphere of the song.

https://soundcloud.com/officialinsideoutmusic/transatlantic-and-you-and-i/s-RbydJ

Transatlantic’s new album out late January, 2014 (Insideout).