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) (

TRANSATLANTIC announce mammoth ‘Live at Morsefest 2022: The Absolute Whirlwind’ release

TRANSATLANTIC – the Prog Supergroup of Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, Roine Stolt & Pete Trewavas – have announced the release of ‘Live at Morsefest 2022: The Absolute Whirlwind’ for the 26th April 2024. This mammoth Limited 5CD + 2 Blu-ray Artbook set features both sets from Morsefest in their entirety, with nearly 4 and a half hours of music in total. 

To coincide with the announcement, the band have launched a live clip of the track ‘Can You Feel It’, taken from night 2, and you can watch that video here:

Pre-order the album as a Limited 5CD + Blu-ray artbook, featuring an extensive 36-page booklet including photos and liner notes, here:

Transatlantic – Can You Feel It (Live at Morsefest 2022) (

Mike Portnoy comments:

“Not to be confused by last years live release of our last show in Paris, THIS release of TA at Morsefest 2022 represents the most epic and mammoth of all TA Live releases! 

2 Nights, 2 completely different sets, 2 TA concept albums done in their entirety…accompanied with Strings, Horns, Percussion, Female Vocals, etc…Transatlantic has always been about “More Never Is Enough”, but no live TA release has ever been more EPIC than this one…It’s the ULTIMATE Live TA experience!” 

Neal Morse adds:

“At long last, a musical dream come true in true epic fashion! To play The Absolute Universe, The Whirlwind, and other great pieces of music with Transatlantic, along with an amazing string section, background singers, etc. What more could any musician ask for? This is the very best of the very best in my view. I hope you all enjoy experiencing this as much as we enjoyed performing it!“

Roine Stolt comments: 

“Playing Morsefest was quite a task, learning all the different material for the 2 different shows.  

We even got a chance to play that Procol Harum tune, that is dear to me & takes me back to my teenage years, just getting to know what prog is/was. The addition of the strings and choir at Morsefest, plus Philip adding percussion lent a different and perhaps more of an orchestral side. That worked really well and made these 2 nights very special.”

 Pete Trewavas comments:

“To play Morsefest 2022 was an absolute pleasure for me and gave us a natural break at the end of the North American leg of The Absolute Universe tour, where we regrouped at Neal’s to rehearse for the two shows, back where we had rehearsed for the tour some four or five weeks earlier.

We had 3 days I think it was to refresh The Whirlwind full version and learn ‘In Held T’was In I’. The festival was an absolute blast. We were all super relaxed and enjoying ourselves probably due to the little break from touring back to rehearsing. 

Neal had been wanting to get Transatlantic at MorseFest since we released Whirlwind and it never panned out for various reasons, so it felt fitting that we got it all together for The Absolute Universe tour.”

Morsefest, the festival put on by Neal Morse annually in Nashville, Tennessee has been in existence since 2014. Typically, the weekend-long event celebrated music from Neal’s solo work and other bands from his career.  But with each passing Morsefest, there had been one question lingering among the faithful audience that returned every year…when will Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, Roine Stolt & Pete Trewavas perform at Morsefest?  In 2022, at the 9th Morsefest, it finally happened and in epic Transatlantic fashion.  

In 2021, Transatlantic released The Absolute Universe, the band’s 5th album since forming in 2000. However, as the band’s motto is “More Is Never Enough,” ‘The Absolute Universe’ was released as two different versions – ‘The Breath of Life (Abridged version)’, and ‘Forevermore (Extended version)’.  In addition, the band combined those two versions for an Ultimate Edition of the album. With touring restrictions due to the pandemic finally lifted, the band finally started their tour in April 2022 ending up at Morsefest on the weekend of April 29th and 30th. 

The weekend at Morsefest provided 2 nights of shows.  For night one, the band performed their classic album ‘The Whirlwind’ in its entirety, the first time they had done so in 10 years.  The evening also added “Into the Blue” and “Shine” from the band’s 4th album ‘Kaleidoscope’ as well as the classic ballad “We All Need Some Light.” As a surprise, the band played a song they’ve never performed live before – their cover of the Procol Harum classic “In Held ‘Twas In I” from the first Transatlantic album ‘SMPTe.’ 

Night 2 saw the full performance of The Absolute Universe – The Ultimate Edition, combining all of the tracks from the 2 versions of the album.  The night closed with a medley of tracks from the band’s first two albums including “All of the Above,” “My New World,” and “Stranger In Your Soul.” 

For the first time, the band performed alongside a choir and string section, making these shows truly special for those who were in attendance.  Now, you can experience these incredible performances for yourself with the release of this Limited Deluxe 5CD+2Blu-ray artbook, featuring an extensive 36-page booklet with photos, contained within a hardcover.  

Night 1 Tracklisting: 

1. Into The Blue 

2. In Held (‘Twas) In I 

3. Shine 

4. We All Need Some Light 

5. Overture/Whirlwind 

6. The Wind Blew Them All Away 

7. On The Prowl 

8. A Man Can Feel 

9. Out Of The Night 

10. Rose Colored Glasses 

11. Evermore 

12. Set Us Free 

13. Lay Down Your Life 

14. Pieces of Heaven 

15. Is It Really Happening? 

16. Dancing With Eternal Glory/Whirlwind (Reprise)

Night 2 Tracklisting: 

1. Overture 

2. Reaching For The Sky 

3. Higher Than The Morning 

4. The Darkness In The Light 

5. Take Now My Soul 

6. Bully 

7. Rainbow Sky 

8. Looking For The Light

 9. The World We Used To Know 

10. The Sun Comes Up Today 

11. Love Made A Way (Prelude) 

12. Owl Howl 

13. Solitude 

14. Belong 

15. Lonesome Rebel 

16. Can You Feel It 

17. Looking For The Light (Reprise) 

18. The Greatest Story Never Ends 

19. Love Made A Way 

20. Bridge Across Forever

21. The Final Medley