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.
I want you all to know what’s happening with the shipping of the Transatlantic Kaleidoscope packages from Radiant. Some of the products we received on time, and some we didn’t. As of today, Tuesday, we just received the LPs. (They are AMAZING BTW) I was warned that we might not get them on the 15th as requested because they just take a long time to make and ship. But I wanted to make a vinyl anyway… I just wanted to let you know that if you ordered the transatlantic vinyl it’s just arrived here in Tennessee after being stuck in customs for a little over a week. Apparently, customs in the US is a ridiculous hassle…you wouldn’t believe the hoops we had to jump through… Ask me how I know 🙂
Also, the art books that came from Europe were delayed and we didn’t receive them til last Friday. We asked for them to get here as early as possible and apparently that was as early as they could get here.
I just wanted to make sure you all know that we are doing everything we can to get these out in the next couple days. Some of you may get them early, but others will get the packages a little later than the release date. Please be patient and I sincerely apologize for any disappointment you may have.
Also, Megan and Julie (and everyone else on the planet I can convince to help us!) are crazy busy trying to get your orders out so email responses will be slow.
The great news is that the product itself is killer! When you get it you will be in love for sure! I know I am… We finally got the artbooks and my mind is permanently blown! Oh yes, other not so good news, we cannot get any more Artbooks from Europe as they are sold out. I’ve been talking to Thomas and begging him… But he says it’s just not possible at this time unless they get any returns from the shops. So there won’t be any on the tour either unless something happens unforeseen. Again, my apologies… I thought I ordered more than I did. It was my mistake.
Anyway, we at the Radiant team are working practically round-the-clock to get you your stuff as fast as possible. We ask for your patience and your forgiveness for our shortcomings.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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)
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
AN EXCLUSIVE OFFER from Radiant Records: The first 200 people who pre-order any of the BUNDLES will receive an exclusive frameable graphic signed by the whole band! Only available at Radiant! Click here to pre-order but you may want to keep reading…
NOTE: Signatures will vary!
Inner Circle Members Only
As a way of saying “Thank You” to the Inner Circle, Neal will personally autograph any of the Transatlantic Kaleidoscope Songbooks pre-ordered by Inner Circle members. This is for ALL Inner Circle members. So, jointhe Inner Circle now and receive a signed Songbook! (Neal can sign only the songbook, or we might make mistakes.) Pssss…the January IC disc will be Neal Morse – The Early “Snow” Demos. This is what Neal sentSpock’s Beard as the 1st draft of the prog classic!
Grab CDs as low $1.99. Check out the CLEARANCE section. And take 15% off total when you order $80.00 or more. We will ship whatever you order besides the new TA right away, so order your Christmas gifts now!
(NOTE: Transatlantic VIP tickets and Inner Circle memberships are excluded. If you join the Inner Circle now when you pre-order the new TA you can receive 15% off your total, however, you will be charged normally after that.)
Transatlantic’s Kaleidoscope in all these formats:
3 DISC SPECIAL EDITION DIGI-PACK: This version comes in a lovely Digi-pack and includes the main disc, the bonus covers disc, a “Making Of” DVD documentary, and deluxe artwork.
LIMITED EDITION ART BOOK: This version is in a spectacular full-color large book with 36 pages and crazy amazing cover texturing. You have to see it to believe it! Includes the main disc, the bonus covers disc, a “Making Of” DVD documentary, deluxe artwork, and an mix in 5.1 surround of the main audio disc.
3 LP – 2 CD VERSION: 3 vinyl LPs in a deluxe package that will blow your already blown mind! Green vinyl to match the artwork. Totally cool! The LPs contain all the music on the main disc and bonus disc. Also comes with the main disc CD and bonus disc CD.
SONGBOOK: For the first time ever! A complete music book of the entire album. Includes everything you need to play this incredible album either solo or with a whole band. Includes all the melodies and themes (vocal and instrumental), riffs, lyrics, and chords. A dream come true for the musician in the house and a great collector’s item! (Mike Portnoy not included.)
BUNDLES! We have bundled all the deluxe versions with the songbook at a special price!
A friend of mine said to me—in response to my obvious glee that Rush’s Clockwork Angels Tour Blu-ray had just arrived in the mail—“it’s good to be childlike every once in a while.” Well, maybe it was the reaction of a 13-year old trapped in a 46 year-old body. Regardless, the reaction was sincere. Rush!
Three thoughts and images (images as thoughts, and thoughts as images) come to me whenever I think of Rush. Rush—brilliance. Rush—inspiration. Rush—comfort. For thirty-three years, they’ve been all of these things to me. Thank the Good Lord for that detention in seventh grade, and thank the Good Lord again for sharing that detention with Brad and Troy, the two guys who introduced me to Moving Pictures and, consequently, to Rush. That was a heady spring. I had also heard The Wall for the first time, the U.S. had just defeated the Soviets in hockey, and some idiots tried to kill the U.S. president and the Pope and came damn close to succeeding. 7th grade. Prog Rock, Dr. Who, and Dungeons and Dragons. But, most of all, Rush.
Maybe I never grew up. These are still the things I love and share with my own kids (the oldest, now 14; he proudly wears a “prog rock—all else is noise” t-shirt; he and my twelve-year old daughter will be seeing that majesty that is Transatlantic in Chicago this coming February).
Oh, fair reader, back to the subject at hand. Rush, Clockwork Angels Tour Blu-ray. Holy schnikees. Yep, God rest Chris Farley’s soul. Holy schnikees. What a work of absolute joy. Over three hours of absolute joy. A precious document of their massive tour, 2012-2013, the blu-ray captures them for a Dallas, Texas, show.
As Kev pointed out in his review of the same, there was a time when Rush fans could calculate an era by what live CD had been or was just about to be released. All the World’s a Stage for the hard prog stage; Exit Stage Left for the melodic prog stage; A Show of Hands for the synth prog stage; and Different Stages for the return to guitar/alt rock stage.
But, this was all for Rush 1.0, testing for echo.
After the horrific tragedies in Peart’s life, his purgatory and redemption (symbolically), we’re at Rush 2.0.
I would argue rather forcefully that this is a different band, a band that finally (yes, these guys are truly humble and always have been despite their driving ambition) realizes its more than a mere band. You can see this realization dawn, finally (again, finally!) on them in Beyond on the Lighted Stage and on the Colbert Show.
They have nothing to prove anymore when it comes to acceptance. They never really did, but they always thought they did. They only have to prove their excellence. And, to me, they’ve done this in spades. As one of my favorite Rush writers, Rob Freedman, wrote about a year ago (and I quote this whenever I can)
The story of Rush is a story of validation. When the band first started out, the mainstream music establishment largely ignored them. Geddy’s voice was the brunt of jokes, Alex’s guitar playing got no respect, Neil’s lyrics were pretentious and channeled a kooky Ayn Randian ideology, and he played too many drums, all of them with the passion of a mathematician. Meanwhile, musicians and music aficionados loved them, so you had this great narrative tension. Now they’re nearing their 40-year anniversary, their old critics are in nursing homes, their fans are in leadership positions in business, science, government, and the arts, and they’re looked to as elder statesmen of rock.
Amen, Rob. Amen. On this issue, I can speak from some personal experience. As I look back over my own life as a historian, a writer, and an academic, I can easily claim that Peart has had as much influence on my own thinking as any of the other greats I looks to for ideas and inspiration: Russell Kirk, Friedrich Hayek, Edmund Burke, Adam Smith, J.R.R. Tolkien, Ray Bradbury. . . . A whole generation of us can claim to be Peart’s little brothers. Like any older brother, Neil almost certainly will not agree with all of my own views, or with what I’ve done with his ideas. But, then, Neil never—in any way—sought to conform the world. One of the greatest things Neil gave to a generation was the advice to develop and hone what is best in each of us, whatever that best might be.
Not content to fade, Rush 2.0 has decided to shimmer with excellence. I can’t help but think of Neil’s words off of Signals, “Losing It.”
Some are born to move the world
To live their fantasies
But most of us just dream about
The things we’d like to be
Sadder still to watch it die
Than never to have known it
For you, the blind who once could see
The bell tolls for thee….
Rush is proving that greatness can beget greatness. As I see it, Rush’s last three studio albums have done nothing if not prove this. Vapor Trails, Snakes and Arrows, and, especially, Clockwork Angels. While building upon everything from Rush to Test for Echo, the last three Rush albums come with a confidence, not of resignation, but assertion. Nature has given us this time, I’ll be damned if I let it fly by unused and unappreciated. Indeed, one can say with the last three albums, Rush looked at the world not just with confidence, but with gratitude.
So, when the band decides to release a live album for each tour, I can only shout “hooray.” Give us as much as you can, Rush. So many of us want to keep journeying with you in any way we can.
As with the previous tour, this one is a massive production. Explosions, lasers, weird sets, and, best of all, incredible film clips add to the already stunning music. The background story for the Clockwork Angels Tour film clips—an IRS agent looking for the Watchmaker is just outstanding, drop-down, gut-wrenching funny. Geddy, Alex, and Neil appear as rather mischievous “G”nomes.
And, it’s just a joy to watch these guys perform. They obviously love each other and what they’re doing. In terms of playing, none of the members of Rush have ever been this good. They are each in top form. Watching each of them play guitar, bass, and drums is nothing if not humbling. I hope I give as much in my lectures as these guys give in their playing. Phew.
Musically, of course, what more could we want? Knowing that they’ve been releasing lots of tour material over the last decade, Rush chose to play a significant portion of their 1980s material—stuff that’s not appeared on any of their live releases in a long time. It’s worth remembering, however, that this is Rush 2.0. They bring the sensibilities of the last three albums to the previous multitude of albums. There’s not a dud in the live set, but songs that stand out in ways the originals didn’t: Force Ten; The Body Electric; and The Analog Kids. Schnikees (again, apologies to Chris Farley), these are amazing. Rocking, rocking, rocking.
It’s set two, however, that boggles the mind, the set that includes almost all of Clockwork Angels and—gasp!—a string quartet. Phew. Amazing. So much energy emerges from the blu-ray in set two, it’s actually a bit wonderfully overwhelming. YYZ is especially spectacular with the strings.
Bonus material on the blu-ray includes: Limelight, Middletown Dreams, The Pass, and Manhattan Project, as well as all of the movie clips from the tour and some documentaries.
For me, this is pretty much perfection itself. 33 years of loving this band comes down to this 3plus hour set. Yes, Geddy, Neil, and Alex, I could never thank you enough for the confidence you’ve given me, the excellence you’ve shown me, and the hope you embody. Whether you ever expected to get here or not, you are the embodiment of the best of rock, you are now the elder statesmen of culture. You have persevered, and we have as well!