Transatlantic – “Kaleidoscope”


Kaleidoscope (2014)Music is such a conversational piece and is able to bridge many gaps and cultures with its varying styles of expression, and like love, often succeeds where some things might fail. Its like watching a movie, and how powerful a scene is, not because of the acting or FX effects, but because of the accompanying music which without, that scene would have little or no impact at all. The right kind of music can orchestrate the right kind of mood for a specific experience or emotion.

Over the years there has grown an ever increasing variation of music some worthy of earplugs, whilst others worthy of stand up ovations, and more and more a cross over theme of genre’s are coming into acceptance that create original pieces that deserve recognition and a tip of the hat too. It does not mean they always going to be a popular choice or something you’ll choose to listen to every day, but  you would agree it’s good music.  Likewise some music is better experienced live than on a cd, and no matter how good your hi-fi system is, there are some music that can never really be captured in truth or its energy like when the band plays live. Some music is only meant to be enjoyed in a live setting even if they are able to slam dunk it on a cd.

The progressive music scene is an interesting one, I have always been a fan of progressive jazz, and can spin progressive jazz albums on my record player for hours, and in general the progressive music scene whether rock, jazz or whatever make for a thrilling and entertaining live experience that almost always over shadows their cd expression of the music experience.

Its taking me a while to write this review because I have had to really try and take in this music, dragging up live footage from YOUTUBE to get a better scope of what they are like. At a glance I can hardly sit down and listen to a 8 minute song, let alone a song that runs into 20 minutes, but watching a band like this perform a song like that in a live setting adds so much more perspective to the music and a deeper respect for the ability, albeit that the songs might never really feature as a top 20 hit on popular radio.

Transatlanic have released their fourth album, “Kaleidoscope” this year. In many respects Transatlantic is a multinational progressive rock supergroup consisting of Neal Morse (ex-Spock’s Beard), Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings), Pete Trewavas (Marillion) and Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater). They formed in 1999 as a side project to their full-time bands, but disbanded in 2002. They then reunited in 2009. The name of the group was originally planned to be “Second Nature”, but was changed to Transatlantic on suggestion by the cover artist Per Nordin.

Despite not being an official member and not appearing in the studio albums, Daniel Gildenlöw (Pain of Salvation) has traditionally joined the band during live shows. However, due to illness, Ted Leonard has stood in for him during the 2014 tour.

The album consists of a volume of 5 tracks. Don’t be misled by the number of songs on the cd, as these songs are long and you’ll more than get your monies worth just on the length of the album. I don’t think you will have eye brows raised at you if you did not get through the album in one seating.

Also like most high quality wines this is to be savoured and not drunk in massive gulps. You’ll discover that their songs carry a wide range of diversity and progressions throughout, painting a broad kaleidoscope of musical pleasure and ecstasy. The musicians all have incredible skills that they display  through their unique  way of  conveying a range of different genre’s within each song, with seemingly effortless ability and mastery.

Now apparently on their 3rd release in 2009 entitled “Whirlwind” they had a song that was 77 minutes long. The fact that they now have 3 songs under the eight minute mark might have one thing they are going ‘commercial’ haha. But just in case if you think this is a more commercial avenue for them, they whip out a 25 minute song out from under their belt, as a laugh in the face of commerciality.

I think it’s good that progressive rock is making a return, and such high quality like Transalantic can only help the genre build momentum back to the top of the rock music mountain.

The open the album with ‘Into the Blue’, at 25 minutes its a long number by anyone’s standards but it’s also a phenomenal piece of music, that steals the show. It is one of the most progressive songs I have ever heard, rising falling through the various progressions and genre’s. Its a wonderful melodic piece, beautifully and seamless throughout. It’s epic without deliberately trying to be epic and the musicians seem focused and one on this song. Making a 25 minute song not come across repetitive or lose steam must be a hard thing to do, and Transatlanic effortlessly cast a triumphant musical experience on this song that does not lose any of its heart beat throughout the length of the song.

is for me the most complete piece of music on the album. Clocking in at 25 minutes it starts off gently and rises and falls through a progression of various themes, sometimes featuring quiet sections of stuttering instrumentation but mostly flowing along with lush keyboards dominating the sound. This is more of a beautifully melodic and often understated piece that happens to naturally lend itself to being a long piece of music rather than coming across as a deliberate attempt to be epic.

‘Shine’ comes up second, a very commercial sounding song despite its 7 ½ minutes.  I think one cannot even see the length of the song as a commercial disability because the song is so strong and powerful, time flies by one pretty much unnoticed. It’s one of those long songs that just screams out for radio play.

‘Black As The Sky’ is a more energetic song in some way does not have as a big impact or presence on the album as the other songs do, it’s not that it can be discarded, it just does not work with the rest of the album, and is a little forgettable.  I know a lot of guys like the track, but for me it does not sit well with the rest of the album in my opinion. That is the problem sometimes with a very strong album, a  track that may seem weaker can seem really out of place, and can be a real sore thumb to the rest of the album. It is not that I say that this is a sore thumb song, but it certainly sticks out as a lesser song on the album.

‘Beyond The Sun’ for all due purposes is a ballad in comparison. where it succeeds where ‘Black As The Sky’ fails is that it has huge, lush keyboards use  and injected with plaintive, emotional vocals  that helps make the song work  much better.

“Kaleidoscope” has some nice parts to it, and overall is a good song and features as one of the stronger songs on the release. Though ultimately this band is as I said a progressive band, changing tempo’s and adding different types of genre’s to a song, and having long extended songs does not mean its progressive. Progressive is telling a good story with music, and the parts have to all fit right to be a good story, right? They do succeed in many ways with it, but it’s not as a whole some of their best work.

Overall the album is a good album that will find favour with many who love good technical music with a progressive edge.  Addition to the new release is a bonus disc of 8 cover songs done in the same fantastic  Transatlantic fashion one would no less expect from them. “Kaleidoscope”  is a step away from the usual radio nonsense that dumbs one out now days. It’s a band that still has much to give and try to continue to amaze and set new standards of quality rock that has no expiry date attached.

Rating: 8.5/10

Written by Donovan de Necker

1. Into The Blue (25:13)
2. Shine (7:28)
3. Black As the Sky (6:45)
4. Beyond The Sun (4:31)
5. Kaleidoscope (31:53)

CD2 (Bonus CD on special edition):
1. And You And I (Yes cover) (10:45)
2. Can’t Get It Out Of My Head (ELO cover) (4:46)
3. Conquistador (Procol Harum cover) (4:13)
4. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Elton John) (3:20)
5. Tin Soldier (Small Faces cover) (3:22)
6. Sylvia (Focus cover) (3:49)
7. Indiscipline (King Crimson cover) (4:45)
8. Nights In White Satin (The Moody Blues cover) (6:13)

Line-up / Musicians
– Neal Morse / vocals, keyboards, acoustic & electric guitars
– Mike Portnoy / drums, vocals
– Roine Stolt / vocals, acoustic & electric guitars, mellotron, percussion
– Pete Trewavas / bass, bass pedals, vocals
– Chris Carmichael / cello
– Rich Mouser / pedal steel guitar
– Daniel Gildenlow

Studio albums

SMPT:e (Regular release and limited edition with bonus disc) (2000)
Bridge Across Forever (Regular release and limited edition with bonus disc) (2001)
The Whirlwind (Regular release, special edition with bonus disc, and deluxe edition with bonus disc and DVD) (2009)
Kaleidoscope (2014)

Live albums
Live in America (2001)
Live in Europe (2003)
Whirld Tour 2010: Live in London (2010)
More Never Is Enough: Live In Manchester & Tilburg 2010 (2011)

Other albums
Bridge Across Europe Tour 2001 (2001)
Transatlantic Demos by Neal Morse (2003)
SMPT:e – The Roine Stolt Mixes (2003)

Record Label: Inside Out Music, Jan. 2014

Buy the album here:
First Paradox
Norway: Nordic Mission
Metal Helm

Weblinks: Website / Facebook

Video below  ‘Kaleidoscope ‘

Video below ‘Indiscipline’ [Mike Portnoy Drum & Vocal Cam]

Video below ‘Shine’

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