Review – Transatlantic – Morsefest 2022 The Absolute Whirlwind – by John Wenlock-Smith

When this first came into my orbit I’ll admit that I was reluctant to review it, partly because I reviewed the ‘Final Flight’ set last year and I wondered what could be different this time and did we really need another outing for albums that have pretty much been done to death with multiple releases and versions?

So what changed my mind then ?

I’ll tell you, it was the very heartfelt and emotional tribute to Paul Hanlon that opens the song Shine, a song written by Neil Morse about Paul in 2015. This touching tribute is a glorious celebration and tribute to a man who suffered terrible disability and yet faced life with bravery and dignity, always allowing his strong faith to sustain him. It is this facet that made him Shine in Neal’s eyes, hence the deeply moving song. On the live DVD they show a screenshot of Paul at Morsefest in earlier years, and a well observed tribute it is too. I’d been with Paul at a transatlantic show for the ‘Kaleidoscope’ tour where Neal had come offstage to embrace Paul in a spontaneous moment of brotherhood leaving barely a dry eye in the crowd, so this tribute is sincere and gracious and very heartfelt and emotional.

Another thing that caught my attention was the sole live performance of In Held (‘Twas) In I, originally by Procul Harum in 1967, which is a faithful and strong take on the song. In fact, it has made me revisit the original Procul Harum version afresh to enjoy and compare to the Transatlantic take, which is an authentic and solid version. There is also a looser version of We All Need Some Light that most definitely impresses greatly.

So, in the opening four tracks you are already fifty-five minuets plus before you even get to the main event, which is night one of the 2 day Morsefest, a run through of the full ‘Whirlwind’ album in all its glory, an album I own but have never really got to grips with in any significant way. Well, I have to say that here it is a revelation, maybe the passage of time has imbued the album with more gravitas or maybe I am more open to its charms now but, I have to acknowledge that Transatlantic have definitely given this old album a fresh new sparkle. The addition of strings and a choir adding hugely to the beauty and dignity of this album.

I Really enjoyed this rendering of this album. Yes, it’s long, possibly overlong, and definitely overblown and pompous but, hey, the prog world welcomes excess and pomposity with open arms and few deliver that better than this particular troupe. So, revel in its glory, and the recurring melody of ‘The Whirlwind’.

Now hopefully you are already acquainted with the ‘Whirlwind’ album that I barely need to say much about it, except for the fact that they deliver a polished recital of the album, taking in its highs and themes with a splendid sound and vitality that enlivens the material handsomely. Especially noteworthy is Is It Really Happening which has significant snap, crackle and pop, as does the end track Dancing With Eternal Glory / Whirlwind which concludes day one of the festival.

It is actually the latter part of the album that worries me, In that, whilst everything is certainly up to the usual Transatlantic standard, the question really is simply: why? Do we really need a further version of an album that has seen at least three different versions and a live “Final” edition? Why would anyone, except completists, want yet another, albeit well delivered, version of an album that was somewhat inconsistent and overblown/overlong already?

Yes, it may be nice to have but, for me, this feels like milking your audience and, despite the sweeteners of a hitherto unrealised live version of a deep cut from their earliest days and a new final encore that encompasses the ‘Bridge Across Forever’ album this, for me is a step too far and somewhat unnecessary even. Okay, I know Morsefest is a somewhat special gathering to Neal and his followers, but this in itself doesn’t really warrant such a colossal box set of 6 CD’s and 2 DVD’s or maybe it does and I’m wrong?

For me I think it isn’t really a valid reason for such excess, nice to have for fans and completists but, for the rest of us, not really needed and superfluous to requirements, you’ll have to decide for yourself here…

Released 26th April, 2024.

Order here:

Transatlantic – Lay Down Your Life (Live at Morsefest 2022) (

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