Radiant Records News

Radiant Records

Greetings from the Radiant Team!

It’s time for our Weekly Featured Product! This week, our featured item, is Songs From November, the latest solo album from Neal Morse! This week ONLY, you can get Songs From November for just $9.99 (regular price – $13.99).  As one reviewer put it, “Songs From November may be [Neal’s] bravest outing to date. Musically, creatively, and production-wise, it’s like nothing he’s ever done. The final 11 songs are among the best that Neal has ever composed.”  Get it today for only $9.99!

Neal Morse

Songs From November

 $9.99 this week only!

Other Items We’re Loving Right Now

 
March ’15 Inner Circle Release,
More Songs From November, 
Neal Morse
FREE to IC members
Transatlantic
Kaleidoscope
3 Disc SE Digipak
$27.99

Stay tuned for more Featured Products coming every Monday!

Is 2014 Over Already?

Time flies when you’re having fun listening to great music! 2014 brought in a bumper crop of excellent music in general, and prog in particular. Here are my favorites of the year:

Robert-Plant-lullaby-and-The-Ceaseless-Roar_638

10. Robert Plant: Lullaby And …The Ceaseless Roar

Mr. Plant returns to his folk roots of Britain, and delivers a thoroughly enjoyable set of songs. A couple rock out, but this is mostly an acoustic tour de force that transcends any musical trends of the day.

WOAFB-cover

  1. Lunatic Soul: Walking On A Flashlight Beam

This album didn’t garner the rave reviews of his first two, but I still think anything Mariusz Duda produces is far better than 90% of anything else out there. “Treehouse” may be my favorite song he’s ever recorded.

So much greater than a muppet.

  1. John Bassett: Unearth

This album opened my eyes to entirely different side of Mr. Bassett’s talent, and I love it. I hope he does more music in this vein – thoughtful, melodic, acoustic pearls.

Disconnect-cover

  1. John Wesley: Disconnect

Mr. Wesley has been Porcupine Tree’s secret weapon when they play live, and on the side he has been quietly making extraordinary music of his own. Disconnect is his best ever, and it features the inimitable Alex Lifeson on “Once A Warrior”.

Demon-300x300

  1. Gazpacho: Demon

It took me awhile to get into this album, but it was definitely worth the effort. It is a beautiful package, from the artwork and lyrics to the music itself. The subject matter is very dark, but listening to the entire album is a cathartic experience. It also has Jan-Henrik Ohme’s strongest vocals to date.

nao cover THE THIRD DAY

  1. North Atlantic Oscillation: The Third Day

Their third album, and the third one to make one of my best-of-the-year lists. Soaring vocals, gorgeous string arrangements, a wall of sound that is indescribably exhilarating. If Brian Wilson produced Catherine Wheel, it might sound as good as this.

Stunning album cover.  A progged-out version of Dolby's GOLDEN AGE OF WIRELESS.  Brilliant.

  1. Cosmograf: Capacitor

A marvelous steampunk trip through metaphysical dimensions. Robin Armstrong’s imagination knows no bounds, and his musical talent matches it.

Second Nature

  1. Flying Colors: Second Nature

Wow. No “sophomore slump” for this band. One of the many Neal Morse/Mike Portnoy projects that are active these days, Second Nature is an outlet for the more melodic side of their talents. Throw in the genius guitar work of Steve Morse, and this is an irresistible set of songs.

Restorations_by_Haken

  1. Haken: Restoration

Their Mountain album was my favorite of last year, and the only reason this isn’t number one is because it’s only 34 minutes long. I admit it – I’m greedy for more Haken music!

transatlantic-kaleidoscope-box-set-cddvd-deluxe-edition-11801-MLB20049782288_022014-O

  1. Transatlantic: Kaleidoscope

With Kaleidoscope, Stolt, Morse, Portnoy, Trewavas finally become a real group. On earlier works, you could tell which bits were Neal’s, which were Roine’s, etc. Every song on Kaleidoscope is stamped with Transatlantic’s distinctive sound, and it is a glorious one.

Bryan’s Best of 2014

Without a doubt, 2014 has been a great year for Prog. It seems as if we have been barraged by great music from all sides.  The string of excellence continues. This list is my arbitrary ordering of what I liked best from this year. I’m really not a huge fan of “best of” lists because I don’t think you can really judge art in that way. So, consider this a list of what I enjoyed. The order of numbers 10-3 is relatively interchangeable.

10. Dream the Electric Sleep – Heretics 8530215

I should have reviewed this album when it came out back in January, but I’m lazy. This was a fantastic sophomore release by the Lexington, Kentucky prog outfit. Their first album, Lost and Gone Forever, was an excellent concept album. These guys do a fantastic job of combining classic prog influences with a harder rock edge. The beginning of the album sounds almost Pink Floydian, and there are definite nods to The Wall. The singer also sounds a bit like Roger Waters. Heretics is another concept album, and it clocks in at over 70 minutes in length. Check these guys out – they are ascending as a band and are making some great music.

http://www.dreamtheelectricsleep.com

9. Cosmograf – CapacitorCapacitor

Robin Armstrong’s latest offering, combined with the efforts of such wizards as Andy Tillison, Nick D’Virgilio, and Matt Stevens, is a fresh take on prog rock. As of right now, I haven’t listened to any other Cosmograf albums, but this one is quite good. I’m sure there are others here at Progarchy that could tell you more about the band, and I’ll wager they would be more than happy to. Capacitor is definitely worthy of any 2014 “top 10” list.

http://www.cosmograf.com

8. Bigelf – Into the Maelstrom Into the Maelstrom

Three words – Mike freaking Portnoy. He teamed up with Bigelf to drum on their latest album, and it was insane. He has to be the hardest working musician in prog. This isn’t the last we shall hear from him on this list.

Bigelf’s breed of prog metal is unlike anything I have heard before. Maybe it’s lead singer Damon Fox’s awesomely bizarre vocals, or their fantastic combination of metal and classic rock, or maybe it’s Portnoy. Or all of the above. Whatever it is, Bigelf has created something special with Into the Maelstrom. They have been around since the early 1990s, have four studio albums, and have toured with Dream Theater, so they know their way around the business. Certainly worth the time for any Mike Portnoy fan, as well as any fan of prog metal.

https://www.facebook.com/bigelfmusic/info?tab=page_info

http://www.bigelf.com

7. The Gift – Land of Shadowscover

London’s The Gift masterfully combine prog metal with symphonic metal and Gabriel-era Genesis prog. This album is refreshing in its tonal clarity and its thematic prowess. It is definitely an album worth listening to over and over again through the years. Here’s my review of it from several months back:

https://progarchy.com/2014/07/20/the-gift-land-of-shadows/

http://www.thegiftmusic.com/index.php

 

6. Voyager – Vimage013

Australian prog metal outfit Voyager have released a very solid album this year. While I feel like it could have been more tightly constructed and some of the songs featured unnecessary repetition, there are some awesome riffs to be found here. This band rocks, and they rock hard. Many comment that the second half of the album is a let down, but I think it is just the opposite. Voyager ventures into the wonderful void of prog in the second half of V, including some softer songs. Time Lord wrote a very nice review of the album earlier this year:

https://progarchy.com/2014/07/05/voyager-v/

http://voyager-australia.com

5. Transatlantic – Kaleidoscope Kaleidoscope (Kaleidoscope)

I told you Mike Portnoy would be heard from again on this list. Supergroup Transatlantic cranked out a fantastic album this year. Made up of Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, Roine Stolt, and Pete Trewavas, Transatlantic has several albums under their belt, and they continue to impress. Kaleidoscope was my first introduction to Transatlantic, and it was an excellent first impression. The cover songs found on the accompanying special edition are all excellent. Anyone who can cover Yes, King Crimson, Elton John, Focus, Moody Blues, and a few others while still sounding entirely unique deserves immense respect. The live album, KaLIVEoscope, that came out in October, was equally brilliant, with three hours of musical genius. The collective talent in this band is shocking, and it clearly shows on Kaleidoscope.

http://www.transatlanticweb.com

4. Chevelle – La GárgolaLaGargola

No, this isn’t a prog album. However, Chevelle released one of the best albums of their career with La Gárgola. Their heavy, yet not overly heavy, style of metal has been a staple of contemporary hard rock over the past 15 years. Their excellent vocals, steady bass, clear guitar, proficient drumming, and haunting lyrics makes Chevelle one of the most interesting metal bands of the 21st Century. I found this album to be an excellent return to their heavier beginnings, while simultaneously exploring new and more complicated territory.

http://getmorechevelle.com/home.php

https://progarchy.com/2014/08/26/chevelle-la-gargola/

3. Pink Floyd – The Endless RiverThe Endless River

Is Pink Floyd even capable of making an album that isn’t good? Their latest (and final) album combines extra recordings from The Division Bell with recordings from David Gilmour and Nick Mason, as well as studio musicians. Mainly instrumental (only one song has singing), this album hearkens back to the instrumentation found in Wish You Were Here and Animals. The one thing missing, in my opinion, is Roger Waters’ bass. I feel like his involvement in this album would have made it even more spectacular, as well as thrill millions of fans. Even so, this is clearly Pink Floyd, and any fan of psychedelic prog will love this album. The album serves as a worthy sendoff for Richard Wright.

http://www.pinkfloyd.com/index2.php

http://www.pinkfloyd.com/theendlessriver/

2. Vanden Plas – Chronicles of the Immortals – Netherworld397022

Vanden Plas’ latest album might very well be the best progressive metal album I have ever heard, with no disrespect to Dream Theater’s Images and Words. It is just that Netherworld so beautifully captures the intricacies of metal, “high prog,” and magnificent story telling. There have been some excellent albums released this year, but few reach the brilliance of Vanden Plas. Having listened to some of their previous work, this album is not out of the ordinary for them. One of the nicest things about this band is the vocals are not your traditional “metal” vocals – there is no screaming, yelling, whining, etc. Andy Kuntz’s voice is beautifully melodic and mysterious, and it is perfect for this album. Vanden Plas perfectly crosses over between the worlds of full-on head banging metal riffs and quieter, classic progressive rock. This album also has one of the best beginnings and endings of any album I have ever heard. There is a clear and definite start and resolution – you aren’t left hanging or wishing there was more. It is perfect just as it is.

Check out Gianna’s and Time Lord’s reviews of Chronicles of the Immortals – Netherworld.

http://www.vandenplas.de

1. Flying Colors – Second NatureSecond Nature

Mike Portnoy again. The guy sure does get around. Neal Morse again too. Go figure. Also in the band are Steve Morse, Casey McPhersen, and Dave Larue.

Second Nature is one of the best albums I have ever heard. Flying Colors combine prog rock and pop rock in a way not seen since the glory days of Styx and Kansas. Seeing them live merely solidified my position on the matter. Catchy yet complicated riffs abound, as well as thoughtful lyrics. If prog wants to become mainstream and popular again, then bands need to take note of Flying Colors.

Check out my review of Second Nature, as well as my review of their live show.

http://flyingcolorsmusic.com

***

Well, there’s my top 10 of 2014. A fair mixture of metal, prog metal, and straight up prog. Honorable mention should go to Ian Anderson’s Homo Erraticus, Fire Garden’s Sound of Majestic Colors (which I thought had far too much of a “garage band” mixing to make my top 10 list), Fractal Mirror’s Garden of Ghosts, Salander’s STENDEC, and Glass Hammer’s Ode to Echo. Special mention goes to Haken’s recent EP, Restoration EP. Had this been an album, I would have placed it in my top 5. Dishonorable mention goes to Yes’ Heaven and Earth.

Top concert of the year goes to Dennis DeYoung. His voice has not changed in 40 years, and his backup band and vocalists are better than Styx. He also has a singer who sounds better than Tommy Shaw did 40 years ago. Runner up for best show goes to Flying Colors, from their brief Second Nature tour. The reason I’m not placing them as best live show of the year is because of the audio problems they had during the show. The sound system for Dennis DeYoung’s show was superb, with no feedback issues during the show. I also had a wonderful time at the B.B. King concert, as well as seeing the CSO perform the music to Return of the King live. It was a great year for concerts!

I would also like to mention Dream Theater’s self-titled album as one of my most listened to albums of 2014. Everything about this album was fantastic, including the live album on Blu-Ray they released a few months back. From the metal virtuosity to the lyrics, this album will be on the rotation for years to come.

2014 has been another fantastic year for prog, and I look forward to more of the same in 2015. Neal Morse’s next project, The Neal Morse Band The Grand Experiment, comes out in February. Take a wild guess at who the drummer is. Muse will also be releasing an album in 2015, one which they claim will return to their rockier roots. There is also talk of a Rush 41st anniversary tour (I think there is, anyways). Much to look forward to in the coming year, and much to appreciate from 2014.

Prog on, Progarchy!

 

Transatlantic — Kaleidoscope (Best Prog Albums of 2014 — Part 1)

My Top Ten Prog Albums of 2014 began in January with Transatlantic’s Kaleidoscope. As I listened to it, I knew that this was instantly one of the best albums of this year — or of any other year. “Shine” and “Beyond the Sun” are for me the two lesser transition tracks, coming as they do between the prog epicness of “Into the Blue” and “Black as the Sky” and “Kaleidoscope.” But it’s all together a perfectly realized whole, and I cannot describe how much enjoyment I derived from listening to this album this year. It’s a spectacularly ecstatic prog experience with endless streams of happiness.

The band also blew our minds by adding an extra disc of cover tunes. My favorite on it became their cover of “And You and I,” which you think it would be impossible to cover, but hey — Transatlantic specializes in the musically impossible. They incarnate musical excellence at every turn, so give this extra disc a spin too and celebrate the prog renaissance year of 2014.

Stay tuned, dear Progarchists, as I complete my Top Ten Prog Albums of 2014 over the next nine days. This Kaleidoscope is just the first entry.

Then, when I am done, I will also reveal a bonus Top Ten list of Top Ten Rock Albums of 2014 — stuff that wasn’t proggy enough for my main list, but which is still exemplary and thereby ended up being listened to by me in heavy rotation nonetheless over the course of the year.

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.

 

New TransAtlantic Video and the Elegance of Second Nature

Radiant Records posted this just today.  Well worth watching and admiring.

***

Album cover of the year?  Rivaled only by Cosmograf's Capacitor.
Album cover of the year? Rivaled only by Cosmograf’s Capacitor.

Also, though I will offer a proper review soon, let me take this moment to praise the new Flying Colors’ album, Second Nature.  I thought the first album was a great AOR album.  It’s become my oldest son’s favorite album (all of the Birzers love everything Morse does, to be completely honest).  For me, it was amazing, but it should’ve and could’ve been a bit more so.

Not only is Second Nature “a bit more so,” it’s a HUGE bit more so.  I’m not even sure quite how to label it except as proggy-AOR or gospel AOR.

The song writing is excellent, but what really makes the album is the intertwining of McPherson’s and Morse’s vocals.  They seemed a bit stilted as a team on the first album.  On this album, they’ve clearly discovered how to play off of each other, to better the other.

The end result of Second Nature is something that can only be described as elegant.

Top Ten Prog Over Ten Minutes Long ★★★★★

In order to meet the challenge of listing my own Top Ten Prog Albums EVER, I imposed upon myself an additional requirement over and above the ones Brad specified.

Each album on the list, I insist, must contain at least one song that is over ten minutes long.

And so, given that sonnet-like constraint, here is my list:

★★★★★

Big Big Train — The Underfall Yard (H/T: “The Underfall Yard” [22:54] and “Victorian Brickwork” [12:33])

Kate Bush — Hounds of Love (H/T: “The Ninth Wave” [= Side Two of the LP, clocking in at 27 minutes])

Flying Colors — Flying Colors (H/T: “Infinite Fire” [12:00])

Genesis — Foxtrot (H/T: “Supper’s Ready” [23:06])

Haken — The Mountain (H/T: “Pareidolia” [10:51] and “Falling Back to Earth” [11:51])

King Crimson — Red (H/T: “Starless” [12:26])

Rush — A Farewell to Kings (H/T: “Xanadu” [11:12] and “Cygnus X-1” [10:26])

Sound of Contact — Dimensionaut (H/T: “Möbius Slip” [19:36])

Transatlantic — The Whirlwind (H/T: The entire album is one song 78 minutes long! Or take “Dancing With Eternal Grace” [12:04])

Yes — Fragile (H/T: “Heart of the Sunrise” [11:33])

★★★★★

If I were allowed doubles then maybe I would substitute Yes’ Close to the Edge for the Haken and Big Big Train’s Far Skies Deep Time for the Sound of Contact.

But can I instead invent a new challenge?

How about the “Top Ten Rush Albums EVER”, ranked not alphabetically but in order of preference?

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

Brendan Foht at First Things: Neal Morse, Prog, and Christianity

First Things, a moderate to rightish Roman Catholic periodical, has a nice piece on Neal Morse, progressive rock, and Christianity this morning.  Foht is a great writer, and he certainly offers much to think about.

On February 9, I had the pleasure of finally seeing one of my favorite bands for the first time—a progressive rock supergroup called Transatlantic. Because all of my friends are too respectable for such things, I made my journey to the concert alone. For a progressive rock supergroup, however, Transatlantic has an excellent pedigree: The band was founded in 1999 as a side project of four progressive rock musicians from America and Europe (hence the name Transatlantic): Neal Morse, then of Spock’s Beard; Mike Portnoy, then the drummer for Dream Theater; Roine Stolt, the lead guitarist of The Flower Kings; and Pete Trewevas, the bassist from Marillion.

Neal Morse represents part of the growing movement of Christian progressive rock, having converted to Christianity (of a sort) in 2002. The overall terrible quality of Christian rock is well-known, and since progressive rock is already a somewhat disreputable genre, you might think Christian progressive rock is the worst of both worlds. But you also might be wrong.

To keep reading, go here: http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2014/02/progressive-rock-redeemed