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Transatlantic (International) - 2002 - "SMPT:e"
(77 min, "Metal Blade")


*****+
Track List:

1. All of the Above 30:56
2. We All Need Some Light 5:45
3. Mystery Train 6:52
4. My New World 16:16
5. In Held in I 17:21

All tracks by: Morse & Transatlantic, except:
4 - by Stolt & Transatlantic, and
5 - by PROCOL HARUM; rearranged by Transatlantic.

Line-up:

Neal Morse (of Spock's Beard, USA):
- lead vocals; keyboards; acoustic guitar
Roine Stolt (of The Flower Kings, Sweden):
- electric & acoustic guitars; Mellotrons; vocals
Pete Trewavas (of Marillion, UK):
- bass & bass pedals; vocals
Mike Portnoy (of Dream Theater, USA):
- drums & percussion; vocals

Produced by Transatlantic.
Recorded by C. Cubeta at "Millbrook" studios, New York.
Mixed by R. Mouser at "The Mouse House", USA.
Mastered by V. Meller at "Sony Music" studios, NYC.

Preamble. You may laugh at me, but I have never heard Transatlantic until now. Only after I heard and liked the latest Spock's Beard album "Snow", I became interested in the creation of this supergroup as well. Thanks to Heather Parsons at the promo department of Metal Blade, who sent me this CD at my request, I can now review it. Unfortunately, it seems that Transatlantic has recently become part of Progressive's history, as Neal Morse quit the band (as well as Spock's Beard), which, though, is known already for most, if not all, of you dear readers.

The Album. In my honest opinion, the album's opener All of the Above, done in the best progressive traditions of the 1970s, is one of the best Classic Symphonic Art-Rock epics that were created since the heyday of the genre. Highly original, complex, and truly inspired, this 30-minute song sounds like a festival of the rebirth of Progressive from the first to the last note of it. When I listened to it, I had the impression that I am hearing some unknown, yet, truly titanic band from the 1970s. About two thirds of this song are, however, covered by very diverse instrumental arrangements filled with all the possible essential features that are typical for this genre. Here, I noticed only a couple of the organ solos that are influenced by those in the music of ELP. All the other parts of various keyboards, including a few of those that were done in the vein of Jazz-Fusion, and all the other instruments, including vocals, as well, are distinctly original on All of the Above. There is a wide specter of moods and emotions on this epic, though many arrangements, and especially those where the passages of Mellotron play a prominent role, are here dramatic and full of magic. Another masterwork on the album is placed on the 'antipole' of it. Certainly, the song that I am talking about is In Held in I, even though this is a remake of one of the songs by Procol Harum. As well as on its 'album' counterpart, there are more instrumental parts on this song than vocals. Here, an instrumental palette is almost completely of dark, tense, dramatic, and, sometimes, sinister shades. While the only exception is the finale of it, the gorgeous nature of which, as I guess, should imply the triumph of good over evil. No doubt, this is more than merely an excellent track and by all means. We All Need Some Light (3) is the Classic Symphonic Prog ballad of a purely dramatic nature, which, though (and again), is much more evident in the instrumental arrangements, that are rather broadly presented here, than in the vocals. In all, this is an original, impressive, and at all points, excellent song. Both of the remaining songs (and both of them are 'side-long' tracks), Mystery Train and (especially) My New World (3 & 4) are overall about a real and very strong Classic Symphonic Progressive. So I would've rated them very high if only they would've been as original as the brilliant All of the Above, and they aren't. The first of them sounds like being the classic Spock's Beard song, while the name of the band that is the hero of this review is Transatlantic. Any original lyrics can never be even one of the main aspects that form the originality of a musical work as a whole. In that way, My New World should've been titled just My Old World. Although this song is filled with highly complex and simply incredibly masterful arrangements, most of their soloing constituents are, in fact, just borrowings from Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson, and The Beatles. The latter influence concerns the instrumental arrangements that begin straight after a brilliant Classical Music-like intro to the song and most of the vocal parts in general. Trying to make the quintessence of everything that was great in the heyday of Progressive's glory, Roine and Neal got, as a result, kind of a medley on the same subject. Fortunately, the solos of bass guitar and the parts of drums remain highly original and amazingly inventive throughout the album. Furthermore, all the parts that Pete Trewavas and Mike Portnoy play 'under the banner of Transatlantic' are way different even from those that they usually do within the frameworks of their native bands, Marillion and Dream Theater, respectively. I know that it is a bit easier to be one of the arrangers of the work than the only composer of it, but anyway: Thanks to the remarkable performance from the direction of the band's rhythm section, Mystery Train and My New World can be regarded as very good songs of the Classic Symphonic Art-Rock genre.In my honest opinion, the album's opener All of the Above, done in the best progressive traditions of masterwork on the album is placed on the 'antipole' of it. Certainly, the song that I am talking about is In Held in I, even though this is a remake of one of the songs by Procol Harum. As well as on its 'album' counterpart, there are more instrumental parts on this song than vocals. Here, an instrumental palette is almost completely of dark, tense, dramatic, and, sometimes, sinister shades. While the only exception is the finale of it, the gorgeous nature of which, as I guess, should imply the triumph of good over evil. No doubt, this is more than merely an excellent track and by all means. We All Need Some Light (3) is the Classic Symphonic Prog ballad of a purely dramatic nature, which, though (and again), is much more evident in the instrumental arrangements, that are rather broadly presented here, than in the vocals. In all, this is an original, impressive, and at all points, excellent song. Both of the remaining songs (and both of them are 'side-long' tracks), Mystery Train and (especially) My New World (3 & 4) are overall about a real and very strong Classic Symphonic Progressive. So I would've rated them very high if only they would've been as original as the brilliant All of the Above, and they aren't. The first of them sounds like being the classic Spock's Beard song, while the name of the band that is the hero of this review is Transatlantic. Any original lyrics can never be even one of the main aspects that form the originality of a musical work as a whole. In that way, My New World should've been titled just My Old World. Although this song is filled with highly complex and simply incredibly masterful arrangements, most of their soloing constituents are, in fact, just borrowings from Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson, and The Beatles. The latter influence concerns the instrumental arrangements that begin straight after a brilliant Classical Music-like intro to the song and most of the vocal parts in general. Trying to make the quintessence of everything that was great in the heyday of Progressive's glory, Roine and Neal got, as a result, kind of a medley on the same subject. Fortunately, the solos of bass guitar and the parts of drums remain highly original and amazingly inventive throughout the album. Furthermore, all the parts that Pete Trewavas and Mike Portnoy play 'under the banner of Transatlantic' are way different even from those that they usually do within the frameworks of their native bands, Marillion and Dream Theater, respectively. I know that it is a bit easier to be one of the arrangers of the work than the only composer of it, but anyway: Thanks to the remarkable performance from the direction of the band's rhythm section, Mystery Train and My New World can be regarded as very good songs of the Classic Symphonic Art-Rock genre.

Summary. How talented these guys are! However, I don't understand the typical tendency of today's bands when they try to fill as much of a CD's 'playing space' as possible, which, often, causes damage an album as a whole. Indeed, almost all of the albums that we presently regard as Progressive's gold stock last from 35 to 50 minutes. If "SMPT: e" would have consisted of the following three songs: All of the Above, We All Need Some Light, and In Held In I, a total playing time of which is equal to 53 minutes, it would've been on par with many of the gold-stock albums. Certainly, the same conclusion would have 'crowned' this album if there were only the first two of the said tracks on it. I sincerely regret that I have to rate "SMPT: e" as it is. While in its 'official' entirety, this is, overall, more than an excellent album, yet, not a masterpiece.

VM: November 7, 2002


Related Links:

"Metal Blade Records": http://www.metalblade.com/


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