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Transatlantic: Kaleidoscope

Four years after The Whirlwind comes Kaleidoscope, the latest from progressive rock super-group Transatlantic. Generally, when Mike Portnoy, Neal Morse, Roine Stolt, and Pete Trewavas take time away from their other bands & projects and reconvene, we usually can expect some stellar results, and once again that is the case here. With five tracks, two of which clock in at over 25-minutes long, you can expect more bombastic, symphonic prog from these veterans, whose history includes time spent in Dream Theater, Spock's Beard, The Flower Kings, Marillion, Winery Dogs, Adrenaline Mob, Kaipa, and others.

Describing Transatlantic to someone who has never heard the band before usually entails 'imagine a cross between Dream Theater, Fish-era Marillion, Spock's Beard, and The Flower Kings, with a little Yes, Gentle Giant, and Genesis thrown in for good measure', and of course, that's still the case. The styles of all four musicians comes through in each song on Kaleidoscope, from the soaring, symphonic prog opener "Into the Blue", which fluctuates from muscular heaviness punctuated by Stolt's riffs, Portnoy's crashing drums, and Morse's raging Hammond organ, to soothing, Mellotron drenched progressive rock, with Neal's alluring vocals battling Roine's more charming delivery every step of the way. As a lengthy epic, this one works and doesn't disappoint.

The middle part of the CD contains shorter, more direct pieces. "Shine" is a lush, acoustic based number that's all about Morse's soaring melodies, while "Black as the Sky" is a upbeat rocker driven by Portnoy's powerful drumming and some effective lead vocals from Stolt, with Morse & Trewavas providing some expert backing vocals as well. Nice keyboard lines from Neal too, and he weaves some wild lines around Roine's searing lead guitar while Pete's bass rumbles underneath. The acoustic guitars, piano, and pedal steel come out for the emotional, pastoral "Beyond the Sun", complete with another great vocal from Morse.

That brings us to the grand finale, the near 32-minute title track...I mean, come on, when does Transatlantic NOT crank out a near half hour song on their albums? Here, they deliver two! The opening 'Overture' section sees the band throw every Yes/Gentle Giant/Genesis trick (of the tail!) in the book at the listener for a wild, acrobatic instrumental prog tour de force, with guitars a blazing, Mellotrons & Moogs creating waves, and the rhythms super charged. From there we move into the vocal parts of the song, with lyrics about soul searching, as the band takes you through many twists & turns, all of it engaging, especially the 'Ride the Lightning' and 'Desolation Days' parts. Tons of wonderful keyboard tapestries from Morse, and his vocals are top notch on his parts, as well as from Trewavas, Portnoy, & Stolt. Yeah, it's long, but otherwise this epic is a lot of fun.

There you have it-another winner from the guys that call themselves Transatlantic. It's actually kind of nice that the band have managed to keep this thing going, not overstaying their welcome, but popping up every few years and dropping some wonderful, epic symphonic prog in our laps. Let's hope they keep it going for years and years to come.

The special edition comes with a CD full of cover tunes, which we didn't get to review, but looks to be worth seeking out.

Track Listing
1) Into the Blue (25:11)
2) Shine (7:26)
3) Black as the Sky (6:43)
4) Beyond the Sun (4:29)
5) Kaleidoscope (31;53)

Added: February 14th 2014
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 5564
Language: english

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Transatlantic: Kaleidoscope
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2014-02-02 12:34:21
My Score:

Basically if you don't know who Transatlantic are, then there's fair chance that you've stumbled onto this site in the hope of finding out more about the ridges and valleys on the moon, rather than the latest recommendations for what's hot in the world of music. So with that premise, let's just say that Kaleidoscope is the fourth studio album from this Progtacular supergroup and that it easily lives up to high expectations. The album is bookended by two long (25 minutes plus) epics which really set out what this quartet are all about; three shorter, less expansive excursions comfortably sitting in between. "Into The Blue" careens into view, riff pounding, keys swirling, bass booming, drums begging for mercy and while you'd expect no less from this outfit, the sheer in-your-faceness of it all is still enough to take the breath away. For many Prog bands, what's contained here would be more than enough to fill three albums, with manic guitar solos, sweat inducing percussive masterclasses and cavorting, controlled keyboard chaos. However sublime and beautiful restraint, melody and hooks are also placed at clever intervals. Roine Stolte, Neal Morse and Mike Portnoy (and possibly Pete Trewavas too) all contribute vocals, creating sublime harmonies and banks of sound, ably taking the solo limelight when the need arises. As an opening salvo, this is incredible; ambitious, stretching, involving, intense and intricate. However possibly the greatest achievement is just how quickly you take it all in and digest what is going, allowing the motifs and melodies to settle, while never becoming over familiar. The very fact that on my first encounter I was more than 22 minutes into this song before I even realised its sheer length illustrates just how engrossing it all is.

The title track closes things out in similar fashion, segueing from idea to idea, revisiting themes and sounds to keep you hooked, while highlighting amazing songwriting skills and superb musicianship. So many Prog touching points are referenced, nodded to, or glanced at, that actually listing them becomes pointless, instead be safe in the knowledge that if Prog from the 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s, or 10s has captivated you, then I'd be shocked if you don't find much of interest in these two tracks. However with a stunning mix and clarity of production, the other thing that stands out is just how current it all sounds.

The shorter tracks are no make weights though, "Shine" neat and accessible on an acoustic framework, reminding of a less glossy, flashy Flying Colors, "Black As The Sky" bulging and pompous on the back of soaring keys and a keen beat that drives the song on at a surprising lick, "Beyond The Sun" a slow and string infused slice of melancholy which tempers the more outlandish outbursts perfectly.

Ambitious as ever, impressive as hoped, memorable as wished for and as much fun as possible, Transatlantic prove once more that some supergroups really can be even greater than the sum of their parts and in this case, that's really saying something.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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