2022 Progradar’s Best Of The Year – John Wenlock-Smith’s Top 20

Yesterday saw the editor’s top twenty albums of 2022, today we see what made respected contributor John Wenlock-Smith’s list….

John says, “It’s been a great year for music, especially prog, with many fine releases from established and also newer acts. Here are twenty that really struck a chord with me, in no particular order but all worthy of inspection and consideration.”

D’VIRGILIO, MORSE, JENNINGS – TROIKA

In which well known prog aficionados beguile us with their inner CSN&Y. It’s all acoustically in the main but a very strong collection of songs that must warrant a second visit – here’s hoping so at least!

Hats of Gentlemen It’s Adequate – The Confidence Trick 

A wonderful and diverse set of songs around the concept that we are being led by arrogant fools whose overconfidence is actually severely dangerous, examples being Trump, Johnson and, more recently, Liz Truss whose overconfidence nearly destroyed any chance of economic growth.

Stuckfish – Days of Innocence 

A simply marvellous album that impressed many with its thoughtful lyrics and excellent music.

SiX By SiX – Self Titled

A bit of Saga, a bit of Saxon, add Robert Berry’s muscular bass and you have a blistering rock album with very progressive elements and leanings. Again this one impressed greatly.

Kaipa – Urskog

The long established Swedish folk-proggers delivered a truly graceful album with several epics and more than a touch of vintage Yes, a great set of songs.

Derek Sherinian – Vortex 

In which the ex-Dream Theater keyboard man delivers a captivating, electric set of tracks supported by several big name friends including Steve Stevens, Nuno Bettencourt, Bumblefoot and Joe Bonamassa, to name a few. Blistering in parts and excellent overall.

The Mighty Ra – All Secrets Known 

A new band of mainly Welsh prog musicians who began writing together with this rather fine album being the result. An excellent new album with great promise.

Verbal Delirium – Conundrum

This was new to me but what a find! A very classy album with a great vocalist, strong songs and great playing from all, definitely one to discover.

Arc Of Life – Don’t Look Down

The second album from Yes spin off Arc of Life. Jon Davison and Billy Sherwood delivering the album that Yes maybe should have. Epics like Real Time World and Arc of Life were standout tracks in an album of importance and strength.

The Bardic Depths – Promises Of Hope

Literature loving progressive band deliver a fine second album about suicide via a fictional tale of a suicidal queen whose death is prevented by the Gods. Enthralling and with many guests in tow.

Tribe of Names – Evolver 

Evolutionary album from ex-Tinyfish man Simon Godfrey & colleagues that sees them stretching their legs musically. There’s a welcome strong Rush influence throughout and its a superb album overall. 

Phi Yaan Zek – Interdimensional Garden Party

This very strange but satisfying album occupies a realm the sadly departed and much missed Frank Zappa would have graced with its blend of instrumentals and strong songs. Wonderful weirdness is obligatory with such stunning tracks as Wickety Wickety being enough to make anyone smile. A seriously good album that warrants investigation.

John Holden – Kintsugi 

John lives close to me and he delivers a strong fourth album of various pieces with a stellar assembly of guests, a highly varied and ultimately satisfying and enjoyable album.

Pattern Seeking Animals – Only Passing Through

This is the third album from Spock’s Beard writer and contributor John Boegehold. With excellent support from existing members of the band, strong songs and catchy hooks abound.

Red Bazar- Inverted Reality 

Another unexpected pleasure with a harder edged sound and excellent vocals from Peter Jones, this was very welcome indeed.

Dave Brons – Return to Arda 

Simply divine and beautifully melodic Celtic-tinged music from Dave Brons and friends with a concentration on melody with moments of shredding brilliance. Totally sublime and utterly captivating. 

Ghost Of The Machine – Scissorgames

A triumphant debut from ex-This Winter Machine men who, along with sublime vocalist Charlie Bramald, fuse melody and muscle in a devastating combination. Truly awesome, well received by many and rightly so too!

Clive Mitten – Tales From A Misspent Youth Volume 1

Entirely orchestral versions of songs that inspired Clive whilst growing up. His take on key songs from Pink Floyd, Genesis, Supertramp and Rush really are a must to hear. How he brings out hitherto hidden beauties to much loved pieces is gorgeous.

Evership – The Uncrowned King Act 2

The final part of the tale is a sobering statement of intent from fine US proggers Evership and the additional vocals from Saga’s Michael Sadler impress greatly.

David Longdon – Door One

Posthumously released after David’s unexpected death in 2021, this telling collection reveals his continued evolution as a writer and, whilst short, this bittersweet album reminds us of of the great man we lost last year.

So, there you have it, that’s it for 2022 from John and myself, see you on the other side…

TRANSATLANTIC announce ‘The Final Flight: Live at L’Olympia’ for release 17th February 2023

TRANSATLANTIC – the Prog Supergroup of Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, Roine Stolt & Pete Trewavas – are pleased to present a new concert set entitled ‘The Final Flight: Live At L’Olympia’. It was recorded and filmed in France on the last stop of a tour to promote the band’s fifth and most audacious album to date, ‘The Absolute Universe’. This was the multinational group’s first outing in eight years. 

Watch the band performing ‘Owl Howl’, a highlight from ‘The Absolute Universe’ album, here:

Released in February 2021 to unanimous praise, ‘The Absolute Universe’ came in two alternate formats; an abridged 64-minute record known as ‘The Breath Of Life’, and a companion piece entitled ‘Forevermore’ that added a further four songs, clocking in at an hour and a half. Though the foundations of both were shared, each format featured lyrics and music independent of the other. 

However, when Transatlantic finally hit the road they opted to perform a third format of the album, a full-bells-and-whistles, 96-minute Blu-ray culmination of both takes known as ‘The Ultimate Edition’ that had been released in 5.1 surround sound. Following that segment of the show Transatlantic took a short intermission and returned to the stage for a rollercoaster trawl through the remainder of their lavish catalogue. From the first note of ‘Overture (The Absolute Universe)’ through to the medley based around the first two Transatlantic albums that closes the evening, the performance comprised 3 hours of music in total.

“Ever since the start of this band we have played for three hours, so that’s something we’re all used to,” states drummer Mike Portnoy, who grins whilst describing his own experience as “butt-numbing”. However, Roine Stolt is ready to admit that this time felt very slightly different. 

“It was a great tour,” acknowledges the guitarist and multi-musician, “but when you include our spot at Morsefest [where besides performing ‘The Absolute Universe’ the band also revisited their 2009 album ‘The Whirlwind’ and revised a cover of Procol Harum’s ‘In Held (’Twas) In I’ that had featured on their debut from 2000, ‘SMPTe’] I felt the challenge of learning, or re-learning, three-and-a-half hours of music before leaving Sweden. Now that I am getting slightly older, I was a little worried about playing for that long – it requires a lot of concentration: ‘Is this one in 7/8 or 9/8? Maybe we’ll play it in 13/8 and in a different key?’ But of course, once we got out there onto the stage, those thoughts went straight out of the window.”

With a chuckle, vocalist and keyboard wizard Neal Morse reveals that as the tour found its feet Transatlantic threw an additional curveball. “We started playing songs slightly differently to the way you’ve heard them on ‘The Ultimate Edition”, he grins. “So what you get with this live album is similar, but essentially it’s a fourth version [of the record]. When you play live, from night to night it helps to keep things fresh by jamming a bit and changing things up as you go. There are a few examples of that, for instance, the beginning of the last section that starts with ‘Belong’ is quite different than the record – partly because we couldn’t remember it! So we made up a new structure.”

“We’re always as well prepared as we can be but in a way Transatlantic is kind of a show band” points out bassist Pete Trewavas. “Playing alongside Mike who is a powerhouse on the drums, there is this raw power. If he wants to raise the energy that’s what we do. We’re all taking solos here and there, though we get the songs across we’re all showing off as much as we can”.

Filmed by Paul Green (who also shot their ‘Whirld Tour 2010: Live in London release), and mixed by longtime collaborator Rich Mouser, this set will be available as a Special Edition 3CD+Blu-ray Digipak (incl. 5.1 surround sound) & as a Gatefold 180g 4LP release. Both feature artwork by Thomas Ewerhard & photos by Nidhal Marzouk. Pre-order now here: https://Transatlantic.lnk.to/TheFinalFlight-LiveAtLOlympia

Tracklisting:

1. The Absolute Universe Intro

2. Overture

3. Reaching For The Sky

4. Higher Than The Morning

5. The Darkness In The Light

6. Take Now My Soul

7. Bully

8. Rainbow Sky

9. Looking For The Light

10. The World We Used To Know

11. MP Intro

12. The Sun Comes Up Today

13. Love Made A Way (Prelude)

14. Owl Howl

15. Solitude

16. Belong

17. Lonesome Rebel

18. Can You Feel It

19. Looking For The Light (Reprise)

20. The Greatest Story Never Ends

21. Love Made A Way

22. The Whirlwind Suite

23. NM & RS Intro

24. We All Need Some Light

25. The Final Medley

Line-Up (on this recording):

Neal Morse – Keyboards, Acoustic Guitar & Vocals

Mike Portnoy – Drums & Vocals 

Roine Stolt – Guitar & Vocals 

Pete Trewavas – Bass & Vocals

With:

Ted Leonard – Guitar, Keyboards, Percussion & Vocals  

Review – D’Virgilio, Morse & Jennings – Troika – by John Wenlock-Smith

Neal Morse is a highly creative chap with his fingers in many different pies and always has something that he is working on for future release. He loves to have a project in the works and now he has crafted a different colour and sound palette of music for all to enjoy although ‘Troika’ is a bit different in that it a very song based album, mostly acoustic guitar led with occasional hand held drums. He is joined by former Spock’s Beard, and current Big Big Train, drummer/vocalist Nick D’Virgilio and Ross Jennings from prog metallers Haken.

The music is very vocal led, Crosby Stills & Nash are a good reference point for the sound the trio make together, they really bring the songs to life, getting it right by offering strong songs with simple but sympathetic playing and this really brings dividends. In addition, the vocals are all clean with the lyrics being very clearly heard, the lead vocals being shared between the three, which also really drives home the strength of the material that the trio offer.

This is another product from lockdown and on that has used the time to favourable effect. The music is relaxed and yet melodic with delicate guitar lines and keyboards in the mix and an overarching requirement for the songs themselves to be the main emphasis and focus of the album. This is a bold decision for these men to take but this vein they mine here really is something both different and unexpected with fine and good musical moments. The combination of voices is both magical and musical and a high point for each of them. The fantastic percussive opening to Everything I Am sets their stall out well, as does the delicate piano during Julia and the acoustic guitar frenzy at the end of the song that closes out the song.

Some will say the songs are not really ‘proggy’ but that does not really matter when the material is as strong as this. The whole album bristles with energy and excitement and this is a spectacular set of material. In fact, this is such a positive and uplifting album to listen to and the more you hear it the more you can appreciate the craft that these people have invested into this project and you see how special this album really is. In days when the news is bad, and everyone is ‘down’ this album is a real Tonic for that condition. On any level this is a fine album, there is so much to enjoy in each performance, the more I hear it the more I want to hear it again, it really is that good!

This is one album that you need to listen too, preferably in an open top car cruising down the road by the coast as this distils summer and sunny days into a musical companion, it evokes that kind of mood and is an album to treasure and to return to repeatedly. I take my hat off to these three remarkable artists who between them have delivered what will certainly be on my albums of the year list, no mean feat for an album only released in February!

Let us have a closer look at what makes this album so good;

I think, for me, it is the sheer unbridled joy that emanates from these grooves that make you feel so happy and that really works so well, as does the way in which the harmonies all gel together so remarkably, like three old friends reuniting. The albums strength lies in its simplicity really. This is not some multi-faceted soundscapes of music, this is music stripped down to its barest components, voice, acoustic guitars and percussion. Although there are keyboards on some tracks, this is certainly a less is more approach that the trio have taken here and that is an approach that pays big dividends, understatement being key as it leads you to focus on the fantastic voices of the three men.

Julia is a stand out track, an absolute corker, with delicate harmonies and clever backing vocals and counterpoint lines from the delicate piano of Neal Morse, this song really shows the depth of vision the trio possess and offer, this is gorgeously performed and delivered by the three. It’s a standout performance and when you consider that this was all recorded remotely, even more impressive really! You Set My Soul On Fire is also another excellent piece of music, one in which the trio offer enough space within the track to really allow the song to breathe, most fabulously.

I cannot recommend ‘Troika’ highly enough, this is an album that is most worthy of your time and attention and you too will discover this masterpiece for yourself, it is fabulous, it really is.

Released 25th February, 2022.

Order from Burning Shed here:

Troika (burningshed.com)

Nick D’Virgilio, Neal Morse & Ross Jennings share first single and video for “Julia” from debut album

Nick D’Virgilio (Big Big Train, ex-Spock’s Beard), Neal Morse (Transatlantic, NMB, ex-Spock’s Beard), and Ross Jennings (Haken, Novena) are pleased to announce their debut album titled ‘Troika’ will be released on Feb 25th, 2022.

The album is now available for pre-order here:

D’Virgilio, Morse & Jennings – Julia (lnk.to)

Today, the band is also sharing the album’s first single “Julia”.  You can watch the video by Christian Rios here:

Ross had this to say about the track:

“With my original demo clocking in at around the 8-minute mark and possibly leaning too close to ‘prog epic’ than the singer/songwriter vibe we were attempting to present on this record, Neal arranged my lengthy ballad into something more concise, in-keeping with the album’s essence and writing in a powerful new chorus in the process!

“This one was all about the 3-part vocal harmony interplay and ‘pull-at-the-heartstring’ lyrics which deals with themes of regret and forgiveness in the context of a broken father-daughter relationship.”

– Ross Jennings

Tracklisting:

1.Everything I Am (5:43)

2. Julia (6:07) 

3. You Set My Soul On Fire (3:22) 

4. One Time Less (4:53)

5. Another Trip Around The Sun (4:39) 

6. A Change Is Gonna Come (4:24) 

7. If I Could (4:02) 

8. King For A Day (5:47)

9. Second Hand Sons (4:43)

10. My Guardian (3:43)

11. What You Leave Behind (4:16)

 ‘Troika’ will be available as Ltd. CD Edition / Gatefold 2LP+CD / Digital Album. Each format includes a bonus alternative version of the track ‘Julia’ and is available for pre-order here: https://dvirgiliomorsejennings.lnk.to/Troika

Recorded during lockdown, the process began with Neal Morse writing some acoustic songs that he thought would be enhanced by strong vocal harmonies. He already knew how well his voice blended with former Spock’s Beard band-mate and Big Big Train drummer/ vocalist, Nick D’Virgilio who came on board and, considering a third man, the Americans sought out Haken’s Ross Jennings from the UK to complete the trio. All three found they had songs that would benefit from the three part harmonic blend, and so they pooled their resources, inputting creatively into each others compositions. 

Neal comments: “What a great pleasure it’s been to work on this album with these amazing artists! It was kind of funny… We had been working on the songs remotely for several months before I finally heard all of us singing together at the same time. The first time I brought the faders up, I knew we had the magic!“ 

Nick adds: “I’ve known and worked with Neal for over 30 years and I’ve been a big fan of Ross and the music he makes for a long time. I felt confident right away that this would be a fun project to be a part of. I was so right.”

Ross comments: “Receiving ‘The Call’ from Neal to participate in this project was somewhat of a prayer answered… As a long time fan of their work, I’ve been singing along to Neal’s & Nick’s records for years, so it felt really natural for my voice to slot right in.”

The tracks took shape with the musicians recording all of the music and vocals separately, yet the eclectic performances burst with the energy and excitement of the collaboration. Acoustic anthems, charged rockers and sensitive ballads are all part of the mix, and the unique blend of Ross, Neal and Nick’s voices and styles have created an album in which you will encounter these musicians in a way you’ve never heard before.

TRANSATLANTIC reveal ‘The Absolute Universe’ 2022 Tour Dates for North America & UK/Europe!

TRANSATLANTIC – the Prog Supergroup of Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, Roine Stolt & Pete Trewavas – are pleased to announce tour dates for North America and UK/Europe to take place in 2022.  The tour will be in support of the group’s epic release ‘The Absolute Universe’ which was released earlier this year in multiple versions.  The North America dates kick off April 15th in Glenside, PA and concludes with performances at Morsefest 2022 and Cruise to the Edge.  Meanwhile, the Europe/UK dates take place in July beginning with the ARTmania festival in Romania.

Mike Portnoy had this to say about the upcoming tour:

“Between releasing our latest album in the middle of a worldwide pandemic & shutdown, and the already difficult task of trying to align our different schedules even in the most normal of circumstances, it was uncertain if Transatlantic would ever get to play any shows in support of The Absolute Universe. 

“But now with the world slowly re-opening and the band already committing to a few one-off appearances in 2022 (Cruise To The Edge, Morsefest and a Festival in Romania), we’re excited to announce we were able to wrangle up some headlining shows surrounding these one-offs! (April in North America and July in EU/UK) 

“These are the ONLY shows we will be doing in support of The Absolute Universe so if we can’t make it to your area, it may be worth traveling to come see us and share these special shows with us. While we wish we could do a full proper tour, getting to play ANY shows for this album is an unexpected treat that we weren’t sure would ever happen…so better late than never!” – Mike Portnoy. 

North America dates:

April 15th • Glenside, PA – Keswick Theater

https://www.axs.com/events/409822/an-evening-with-transatlantic-tickets

April 16th • Montclair, NJ – Wellmont Theater

https://www.ticketmaster.com/event/02005AFEFC0F7014

April 18th • Quebec City, Quebec – Palais Montcalm

https://palaismontcalm.tuxedobillet.com/main/transatlantic

April 19th • Montreal, Quebec – M Telus

https://www.ticketmaster.ca/event/31005B03CBCC1934?lang=en-ca&brand=mtelus

April 21st • St Charles, IL – Arcada Theater

https://www.etix.com/ticket/p/4311193/transatlantic-stcharles-the-arcada-theatre?_ga=2.14751414.123937637.1628201559-79101957.1628201559

April 23rd • Los Angeles, CA – Belasco Theater

https://www.ticketmaster.com/event/09005B05AF17211D

April 24th • Berkeley, CA – UC Theatre

https://www.etix.com/ticket/p/4360146/an-evening-with-transatlantic-berkeley-the-uc-theatre

April 29th & 30th • Cross Plains, TN – MorseFest 2022

May 2nd to 7th • Cruise To The Edge 2022

https://cruisetotheedge.com/book-now/

UK/Europe dates:

July 22nd – Sibiu, Romania – ARTmania Festival 

July 24th – Cologne, Germany – E Werk

https://www.myticket.de/de/transatlantic-the-absolute-universe-2022-tour-tickets

July 25th – Tilburg, Netherlands – 013

https://www.ticketmaster.nl/event/272933?CAMEFROM=013&brand=nl_013web

July 27th – London, England – O2 Forum Kentish Town

https://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/event/1F005AFE183A8DE7

July 28th – Paris, France – Olympia (ON SALE ON AUG 18TH)

www.olympiahall.com/evenements/transatlantic/

Representing the band’s first new music since 2014’s ‘Kaleidoscope’, with ‘The Absolute Universe’ the band have done something unique and created two versions of the record: ‘The Absolute Universe: The Breath Of Life (Abridged Version)’ & ‘The Absolute Universe: Forevermore (Extended Version)’.

The Absolute Universe: The Breath Of Life (Abridged Version)’

Available as:

Single CD Edition, Gatefold 2LP+CD, or Digital Album 

 ‘The Absolute Universe: Forevermore (Extended Version)’
Available as:
2CD Edition, 3LP+2CD Boxset, or Digital Album 

The full list of formats is below, and you can order now here: https://transatlantic.lnk.to/TheAbsoluteUniverse 

Watch the previously released video clips for the album below:

‘Looking For The Light’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvhvY-vUkLI

‘The World We Used To Know’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xULvfo6rpvE

‘Overture/Reaching For The Sky’: https://youtu.be/SP5HwWbCQvg   

‘The Absolute Interview’ series was also launched, which saw each member of Transatlantic interviewed by one of their musical peers, with Ross Jennings (Haken), Ted Leonard (Pattern-Seeking Animals, Spock’s Beard, Enchant), Nad Sylvan & John Mitchell (It Bites, Lonely Robot, Frost*) taking part. Watch the full series here: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLfMBXSLZAyyf9kipocjOullLWwQyRX8Cw

Watch a short snippet from the making of documentary here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=964kfA1EX4s 

NMB – release video for “Do It All Again” the first single from the upcoming album ‘Innocence & Danger’

Pre-order starts today / Tour Dates revealed for US and Europe

NMB recently announced their much-anticipated fourth studio album ‘Innocence & Danger’, to be released on August 27th, 2021. Today, the band are sharing the first single and video from the album for the opening track “Do It All Again.”  

Watch the video for “Do It All Again,” created by Christian Rios:

Mike Portnoy says this about the track, “This was the first song we wrote when we reconvened for the sessions for this album. It rooted from an idea Bill Hubauer brought in and we built off it from there. Like most NMB songs, I love the sharing of lead vocals…Neal Morse on the verses, Bill on the B section and an amazingly catchy 3-part harmony chorus with Eric Gillette taking the lead.”

‘Innocence & Danger’, featuring artwork by Thomas Ewerhard (Transatlantic), will be available as:

• Limited 2CD+DVD Digipak (featuring a Making Of documentary)

• Standard 2CD Jewelcase

• Digital Album

• 3LP+ 2CD Boxset

And is available for pre-order now here:

https://thenealmorseband.lnk.to/InnocenceAndDanger

NMB are also happy to announce tour dates for ‘An Evening of Innocence & Danger’ across US and Europe. 

USA 2021 

Oct 8th & 9th – Cross Plains, TN – Morsefest 2021 – www.radiantrecords.com  

Oct 12th – Seattle, WA – The Triple Door – https://tickets.thetripledoor.net/eventperformances.asp?evt=1830

Oct 14th – St Charles, IL – The Arcada – https://www.etix.com/ticket/v/12589

Oct 15th – Pontiac, MI – The Crofoot Ballroom – https://www.ticketweb.com/event/the-neal-morse-band-the-crofoot-ballroom-tickets/11136425?pl=crofoot

Oct 16th – Ft Wayne, IN – Pieres – https://www.etix.com/ticket/v/18520/pieres-entertainment-center

Oct 17th – Cleveland, OH – The Beachland Ballroom – https://www.ticketweb.com/event/the-neal-morse-band-an-beachland-ballroom-tickets/11128265?pl=beachland

Oct 19th – Glenside, PA – The Keswick Theater – https://www.axs.com/events/405348/the-neal-morse-band-tickets

Oct 20th – Baltimore, MD – Soundstage – https://www.ticketmaster.com/event/15005ACE0DA1334C 

Oct 21st – Boston, MA – The Sinclair – https://www.axs.com/events/405764/the-neal-morse-band-tickets?skin=sinclair

Oct 22nd – New York City, NY – The Sony Theater – https://www.ticketmaster.com/sony-hall-tickets-new-york/venue/1475

Europe 2022

May 28th – Madrid, Spain – Teatro Kapital

https://www.madnesslive.es/es/inicio/726-neal-morse-band-featuring-mike-portnoy-madrid.html

May 29th – Barcelona, Spain – Apolo

https://www.madnesslive.es/es/inicio/727-neal-morse-band-featuring-mike-portnoy-barcelona.html

May 30th – Milan, Italy – Live Club

http://www.vertigo.co.it/it/neal-morse-band

May 31st – Pratteln, Switzerland – Z7

http://www.z-7.ch/event.php?eventid=1908

June 2nd – Tilburg, Netherlands – 013

https://shop.eventix.io/1d82d0a4-563c-44ca-96c9-302a843e7abc/tickets

June 3rd – London, England – Shepherds Bush Empire

https://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/event/1F005AD083C7358E

June 4th – Paris, France – Trianon

https://www.letrianon.fr/fr/programme/the-neal-morse-band

June 5th – Esch Sur Alzette, Luxembourg – Rockhal – https://www.etix.com/ticket/p/6465213/neal-morse-band-eschalzette-rockhal-luxembourg

June 7th – Cologne, Germany – Live Music Hall

https://www.myticket.de/de/hank-von-hell-live-2022-tickets/

June 9th – Brno, Czech Republic – Sono

https://goout.net/cs/an-evening-of-innocence-and-danger-2022-the-neal-morse-band/szrjjlr/

June 10th – Krakow, Poland – Studio Club

https://rockserwis.pl/products/215847

June 11th – Warsaw, Poland – Progresja

https://sklep.knockoutprod.net/pl/eventinfo/399/neal-morse-band

June 13th – Hamburg, Germany – Markthalle

https://www.myticket.de/de/hank-von-hell-live-2022-tickets/

June 15th – Copenhagen, Denmark – Amager Bio

https://www.ticketmaster.dk/event/AMA1506A?language=da-dk

June 16th – Gothenburg, Sweden – Pustervik

https://www.tickster.com/sv/events/wyvkch5k9kl4hcb

June 17th – Oslo, Norway – Cosmopolite

https://hurumrock.no/konserter.html

June 18th – Stockholm, Sweden – Lilla Cirkus

https://www.ticketmaster.se/event/595757?

*** 

With NMB’s previous two releases being concept albums, it’s perhaps remarkable that Innocence & Danger is a series of unrelated songs, but drummer Mike Portnoy says “After two sprawling back to back double concept albums in a row, it was refreshing to get back to writing a collection of unrelated individual songs in the vein of our first album.”

Indeed, making this album came easy to the band; while the initial inspiration came particularly from Bill Hubauer (keyboards) and Randy George (bass), the ideas flowed from everybody from there on, as George recalls: “I am excited about the level of collaboration that we achieved on this one. We even went in with a lot of ideas that weren’t necessarily developed, and I think in the end we have something that represents the best of everybody in the band.”

In fact – like its two acclaimed predecessors – Innocence & Danger is a double album by inspiration, rather than design, as Portnoy explains: “As much as we wanted to try and keep it to a single album after having just done two double albums, we wrote so much material that we found ourselves with our third double album in a row! That’s pretty prog!”

There is also plenty in Innocence & Danger to excite those prog fans who have a thirst for epics, as Neal Morse explains: “There’s one half hour epic and another that’s about 20 minutes long. I really didn’t realize that they were that long when we were recording them, which I guess is great because if a movie is really good, you don’t realize that it’s three hours long! But there are also some shorter songs: some have poppier elements, some are heavier and some have three part acoustic sections. I’m excited about all of it, really.” 

NMB (Neal Morse Band) is 

Neal Morse (vocals, keyboards and guitars) 

Mike Portnoy (drums, vocals)

Randy George (bass)

Eric Gillette (guitars, vocals)

Bill Hubauer (keyboards, vocals)

Neal Morse Band – announce fourth studio album ‘Innocence & Danger’ for release this August

Neal Morse Band are pleased to announce the release of their much-anticipated fourth studio album ‘Innocence & Danger’ on the 27th August 2021. 

With NMB’s previous two releases being concept albums, it’s perhaps remarkable that Innocence & Danger is a series of unrelated songs, but drummer Mike Portnoy says “After two sprawling back to back double concept albums in a row, it was refreshing to get back to writing a collection of unrelated individual songs in the vein of our first album.”

Indeed, making this album came easy to the band; while the initial inspiration came particularly from Bill Hubauer (keyboards) and Randy George (bass), the ideas flowed from everybody from there on, as George recalls: “I am excited about the level of collaboration that we achieved on this one. We even went in with a lot of ideas that weren’t necessarily developed, and I think in the end we have something that represents the best of everybody in the band.”

In fact – like its two acclaimed predecessors – Innocence & Danger is a double album by inspiration, rather than design, as Portnoy explains: “As much as we wanted to try and keep it to a single album after having just done two double albums, we wrote so much material that we found ourselves with our third double album in a row! That’s pretty prog!”

There is also plenty in Innocence & Danger to excite those prog fans who have a thirst for epics, as Neal Morse explains: “There’s one half hour epic and another that’s about 20 minutes long. I really didn’t realise that they were that long when we were recording them, which I guess is great because if a movie is really good, you don’t realise that it’s three hours long! But there are also some shorter songs: some have poppier elements, some are heavier and some have three part acoustic sections. I’m excited about all of it, really.”

The album will be released as a Limited 2CD+DVD Digipak (featuring a Making Of documentary), 3LP+2CD Boxset, Standard 2CD Jewelcase & Digital Album, featuring artwork by Thomas Ewerhard (Transatlantic). Pre-orders start on the 18th June, and the full track-listing is below:

CD 1 (Innocence):

1.    Do It All Again 08:55

2.    Bird On A Wire 07:22

3.    Your Place In The Sun 04:12

4.    Another Story To Tell 04:50

5.    The Way It Had To Be 07:14

6.    Emergence 03:12

7.    Not Afraid Pt. 1 04:53

8.    Bridge Over Troubled Water 08:08 

CD 2 (Danger):

1.    Not Afraid Pt. 2 19:32

2.    Beyond The Years 31:22

The Neal Morse Band (now NMB) was formed in 2012, featuring long-time collaborators Neal Morse (vocals, keyboards and guitars), Mike Portnoy (drums, vocals) and Randy George (bass), as well as Bill Hubauer (keyboards, vocals) and Eric Gillette (guitars, vocals). The band’s first album, The Grand Experiment, showed both a freshness and maturity that was further developed in 2016’s The Similitude Of A Dream, 2019’s The Great Adventure and 2021’s Innocence & Danger.

Look for NMB on tour in North America in October 2021 and in Europe throughout May/June 2022. Tour dates coming soon!

Review – Transatlantic – The Absolute Universe: Forevermore (Extended Version) by John Wenlock-Smith

This February sees a new album from the Neal Morse/Mike PortnoyTransatlantic realm of progressive activity entitled ‘The Absolute Universe’. This is a little different though in that this album exists in two main versions, this review covering ‘The Absolute Universe – Forevermore (Extended Version)’.

We are informed that each of the albums are different entirely. Rather than being just extended versions, these are different animals that share the same DNA. So it will be interesting to do what we used to do in English at school i.e., compare and contrast them.

This 2CD or 3 vinyl version has more tracks and an additional 30 minutes running time over the single CD/2 vinyl version titled ‘The Absolute Universe – The Breath of Life (Abrdiged Version), both are housed in Digipak sleeves with seriously impressive artwork and graphics. For Transatlantic money is apparently no object, seeing as they are a flagship group for InsideOut, one of their ‘jewels in the crown’ and a proven seller. This album will probably sell in copious amounts and I’m sure both versions will be highly sought by the faithful.

The album starts strongly with Overture, a thunderous 8-minute mini saga all on its own. Unsurprisingly it is everything that you would want and expect, it certainly impressive sounding and a good set up for all that follows. The album has several themes, Neal Morse states that some of it is autobiographical about his own ego in his early years and also comments about the state of America, along with thoughts about how the world is handling the current pandemic.

Heart Like A Whirlwind is a sprightly little number with a jaunty keyboard sound and some sweet guitar embellishments from Roine Stolt. Transatlantic really bring their choruses to life here and Neal Morse is also on great form, in fine voice and really belts this one out. This is a class song by any standard. Higher Than The Morning has Roine singing along with some great bass from Pete Trewavas and delivers another fine chorus along with some more great guitar from Stolt.

This release has a mixture of pieces, some longer, some shorter but all woven together in a symphonic Tour De Force, it is an album that needs time to appreciate all that it contains and is seeking to convey to you, the listener.

The tracks continue to impress with some seriously good playing throughout as things proceed. We come to the final track of Disc 1,The World We Used To Know, which is another lengthy workout track where the whole band can show off their fantastic ensemble playing, a sinewy snaking guitar line from Roine sitting perfectly alongside some powerfully evocative piano from Neal Morse. The song is looking back fondly to how things were and a yearning for those times to return once again, a sentiment that is probably common to us all at the moment!

Disc 2 opens with The Sun Comes Up Today, it offers stacked vocals before Neal offers some great Mellotron sounds for Roine Stolt to solo over. Exceptional, strong Hammond work from Neal is offset by elegant riffing from Roine, subtle running bass from Pete and energetic thunderous drums from Mike Portnoy who is spot on here. It has another strong chorus and is a fabulous shorter song. This leads into the brief prelude to Love Made A Way, that we will hear as the final track of the album, all propelled by acoustic guitar from Roine and some smooth keyboards from Neal. The interestingly titled Owl Howl then follows with a very meaty riff (that is not unreminiscent of Steve Morse’s work with Deep Purple), with Roine asking “Blackbird, Blackbird What Have You Done?”. Without lyrics, it’s hard to discern what the song is on about but it is certainly one of the harder hitting tracks on here with some interesting sounds and timbres deployed. All in all, a very interesting song with great growling bass and some odd keyboard moments. It actually makes for a song that is fairly odd overall but certainly entertaining, I must add!

Overall, the playing throughout the entire album is strong and impressive, I especially like the interplay between Neal and Roine and also enjoy the rhythm section who support all the fireworks that the others create so admirably. I’ll say one thing, this album is certainly musically challenging, like all the best albums tend to be.

Solitude is the next track, it is about being alone and appreciating the moments as the author is asking questions about how things are now. This song also includes a refrain of the Love Made A Way theme in it and very effectively used it is too. Belong opens with wailing and crying noises before Roine’s liquid guitar opens the music in tandem with Pete Trewevas’ elegant bass, strong organ sounds abound on this shortish track. Lonesome Rebel is next and is another acoustically led piece with Roine on vocals. This one is strong on imagery in the lyrics, politics are in a mess, Roine sings, as he assesses the state of the world.

Looking for The Light (Reprise) begins with an exciting organ solo, backed with some superb bass, powering the track along ferociously. This song is really an instrumental that gives rein for each member to play wildly and express their own talents. Having said that, there are vocals towards the latter part of the song but, mainly, this is soloing by all the band members. We lead into the penultimate track, The Greatest Story Never Ends, which carries on in a similar vein to Looking For The Light, although the vocals come in pretty much right from the off. There is more impressive organ on this one, sounding both full and epic and, again, some good guitar/keyboard interplay here too. It is all extremely exciting, one wonders how this album will translate to the live arena, it certainly has great promise for a lively and engrossing show.

The album closes with the full version of Love Made A Way, opening with gentle piano and guitar runs from Roine Stolt. This is a more ‘Christian’ Neal Morse composition as he sings about how God has changed his life for the better. I know that this might put some folks off, however, the whole song is full of optimism and gratitude. It also has more of that epic chorus and fine guitar runs from Roine whose instrument is wailing throughout the song, and indeed the whole album and he delivers a typically fine, histrionic guitar solo 2/3rds of the way through. This leads us to a very ELO sounding closing section with lots of climbing peaks and cymbals crashing, before everything ends on fading synthesisers and then silence…

This is an album that will make you smile and will definitely tide you over until lockdown has finished, giving you hope for the coming days, being Transatlantic to the max. You did not really expect anything else really, did you? You knew this was going to be wonderfully over the top excess surely? This is what we want and expect from the band and if that is what you get then it will not disappoint in any aspect!

If symphonic progressive rock is your thing, then this album, in whichever form you like, is most definitely for you. Get ready for a great listening experience, hopefully coming to a stage somewhere near soon too, very highly recommended indeed!

Released 5th February 2021

Order from Burning Shed (when back in stock!) here:

The Absolute Universe: Forevermore (Extended Version) (burningshed.com)

TRANSATLANTIC – launch video for ‘Overture / Reaching For The Sky’/ first single from ‘The Absolute Universe’

TRANSATLANTIC – the Prog Supergroup of Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, Roine Stolt & Pete Trewavas – are pleased to announce their fifth studio album ‘The Absolute Universe’, set for release on the 5th February 2021. Representing the band’s first new music since 2014’s ‘Kaleidoscope’, with ‘The Absolute Universe’ the band have done something unique and created two versions of the record: ‘The Absolute Universe: The Breath Of Life (Abridged Version)’ & ‘The Absolute Universe: Forevermore (Extended Version)’.

Today they have launched the video for ‘Overture / Reaching For The Sky’, taken from ‘The Absolute Universe: The Breath Of Life (Abridged Version)’. 

Mike Portnoy comments: “’Reaching For The Sky’ is the first single off Transatlantic’s latest Magnum opus ‘The Absolute Universe’. It’s a great introduction to this epic album as it sets the tone in traditional TA style: proceeded on the album by an extended Instrumental Overture and then launching into this upbeat first song.

I love that it features one of my favorite qualities of the band in the sharing of the lead vocals…in this case: Neal singing lead on Verse 1, myself singing lead on Verse 2, Pete & Neal sharing the Chorus with myself and Roine on backups and Neal taking the glorious Bridge…all leading to Roine’s distinctive guitar solo. 

 Also interesting is that this version exclusively appears on the Abridged 1CD Version of TA5 (“The Breath Of Life”) while the Extended 2CD Version of TA5 (“Forevermore”) opens with the alternate version ‘Heart Like A Whirlwind’ which has different lead vocals and lyrics .”

Each album will be available on CD, LP & Digitally. But there will also be what has been called ‘The Absolute Universe: The Ultimate Edition’, which collects both versions together in one lavish package that includes 5LP’s, 3CD’s & a Blu-ray that includes a special mix that combines both versions into a third unique version in 5.1 surround sound with visuals and a behind the scenes documentary. All editions have artwork created by Thomas Ewerhard featuring the airship by Pavel Zhovba. 

As Mike Portnoy explains: “We’ve got two versions of this album. There is a two CD presentation, which is 90 minutes long, and a single one – that’s 60 minutes. However, the single CD is NOT merely an edited version of the double CD. They each contain alternate versions and even in some cases, new recordings. We wrote fresh lyrics and have different people singing on the single CD version tracks as compared to those on the double CD. Some of the song titles have also been changed, while others might remain the same, but compositionally what you’ll hear has been altered. You must appreciate that what we have done is unique. We revamped the songs to make the two versions different.” Pete Trewavas adds: “We did write some new music for the single CD, what’s more, there are also differences in the instruments used on some of the tracks across the two records.”

The full list of formats is below, and you can pre-order now here: https://transatlantic.lnk.to/TheAbsoluteUniverse

The Absolute Universe: The Breath Of Life (Abridged Version)’

Available as:

Single CD Edition, Gatefold 2LP+CD, or Digital Album 

Track-listing:

1.     Overture

2.     Reaching For The Sky

3.     Higher Than The Morning

4.     The Darkness In The Light

5.     Take Now My Soul

6.     Looking For The Light

7.     Love Made  A Way (Prelude)

8.     Owl Howl

9.     Solitude

10.  Belong

11.  Can You Feel It

12.  Looking For The Light (Reprise)

13.  The Greatest Story Never Ends

14.  Love Made A Way

 ‘The Absolute Universe: Forevermore (Extended Version)’

Available as:
2CD Edition, 3LP+2CD Boxset, or Digital Album

Track-listing:

Disc 1:

1.     Overture

2.     Heart Like A Whirlwind

3.     Higher Than The Morning

4.     The Darkness In The Light

5.     Swing High, Swing Low

6.     Bully

7.     Rainbow Sky

8.     Looking For The Light

9.     The World We Used To Know

Disc 2:

1.     The Sun Comes Up Today

2.     Love Made A Way (Prelude)

3.     Owl Howl

4.     Solitude

5.     Belong

6.     Lonesome Rebel

7.     Looking For The Light (Reprise)

8.     The Greatest Story Never Ends

9.     Love Made A Way

‘The Absolute Universe: The Ultimate Edition’

Limited Deluxe Clear 5LP+3CD+Blu-Ray Box-set – contained within a foil-finished lift-off box with extended 16-page LP booklet & 60x60cm poster. Includes both versions of the album over 5LP’s and 3CD’s, plus a Blu-Ray with 5.1 mix & documentary. 

Blu-Ray Track-listing:

1.     Overture (5.1 Surround Mix)

2.     Reaching For The Sky (5.1 Surround Mix)

3.     Higher Than The Morning (5.1 Surround Mix)

4.     The Darkness In The Light (5.1 Surround Mix)

5.     Take Now My Soul (5.1 Surround Mix)

6.     Bully (5.1 Surround Mix)

7.     Rainbow Sky (5.1 Surround Mix)

8.     Looking For The Light (5.1 Surround Mix)

9.     The World We Used To Know (5.1 Surround Mix)

10.  The Sun Comes Up Today (5.1 Surround Mix)

11.  Love Made A Way (Prelude) (5.1 Surround Mix)

12.  Owl Howl (5.1 Surround Mix)

13.  Solitude (5.1 Surround Mix)

14.  Belong (5.1 Surround Mix)

15.  Lonesome Rebel (5.1 Surround Mix)

16.  Can You Feel It (5.1 Surround Mix)

17.  Looking For The Light (Reprise) (5.1 Surround Mix)

18.  The Greatest Story Never Ends (5.1 Surround Mix)

19.  Love Made A Way (5.1 Surround Mix)

20.  The Making of The Absolute Universe (Documentary)

Initial tracking began in September 2019 when the band met up in Sweden to write and arrange the new material. As Portnoy explains: “Over a period of 10-14 days, we mapped out the songs. Then we all went back to our home studios and did the recording. That’s the way we always do it. At one point, though, it was suggested that instead of doing what was by that time going to be a double album, we should just be content to do a single CD.”

“What happened was that everything kept expanding and expanding,” recalls Stolt. “Therefore we decided it made sense to make it a double album. It was Pete and Neal who then came out and said they felt this would be too long, and we should reduce it to one…But we were already recording, and it didn’t seem feasible to cut it back. There were so many pieces that each of us loved in what we were planning and didn’t want to lose. That’s when we ended up in discussions over the best way forward.”

This album also marks a return to the concept album for Transatlantic. “Well, the idea of Transatlantic deciding to do a concept record this time around won’t shock anyone, right?” laughs Portnoy. “What we have is essentially one giant composition, split into chapters. The storyline is about the struggles facing everyone in society today.” “We didn’t start out with the idea of this being conceptual,” admits Stolt. “The way things work with us is that we have a load of ideas, and these are developed spontaneously when we meet up. Everything happens in the moment.”

So, how does this new ground-breaking album compare to Transatlantic’s previous four albums?

“I always try not to compare albums as much as possible,” insists Morse. “It’s very difficult when you’re trying to be creative, because your natural instinct is to constantly compare. But in order to create you have to kind of step away from that. Having said that, I would say this would have more in common with ‘The Whirlwind’ album  (the band’s third, from 2009) than others that we’ve created.” 

For Trewavas, ‘The Absolute Universe’ is a momentous project.“I think it is right up there with the very finest albums we’ve done. As the others have said, it compares very well to ‘The Whirlwind’, which I believe represents Transatlantic at our best. As on that album, we took our time to write and arrange everything, and that shines through. I am very excited for people to hear it.”

Transatlantic were originally formed in 1999, releasing their debut album ‘SMTPe’ the following year as well as its follow-up ‘Bridge Across Forever’ in 2001. Following a 7-year hiatus, the band reconvened to record and release the much-acclaimed epic 77-minute, single-track album ‘The Whirlwind’ followed by a world tour in 2010 which included an appearance at High Voltage Festival in London where they were joined by legendary Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett. The band’s fourth album ‘Kaleidoscope’ arrived in 2014, going on to win ‘Album Of The Year’ at the Progressive Music Awards.

TRANSATLANTIC – invite you to enter ‘The Absolute Universe’ on fifth studio album

TRANSATLANTIC – the Prog Supergroup of Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, Roine Stolt & Pete Trewavas – are pleased to announce their fifth studio album ‘The Absolute Universe’, set for release on the 5th February 2021. Representing the band’s first new music since 2014’s ‘Kaleidoscope’, with ‘The Absolute Universe’ the band have done something unique and created two versions of the record: ‘The Absolute Universe: The Breath Of Life (Abridged Version)’ & ‘The Absolute Universe: Forevermore (Extended Version)’.

As Mike Portnoy explains: “We’ve got two versions of this album. There is a two CD presentation, which is 90 minutes long, and a single one – that’s 60 minutes. However, the single CD is NOT merely an edited version of the double CD. They each contain alternate versions and even in some cases, new recordings. We wrote fresh lyrics and have different people singing on the single CD version tracks as compared to those on the double CD. Some of the song titles have also been changed, while others might remain the same, but compositionally what you’ll hear has been altered. You must appreciate that what we have done is unique. We revamped the songs to make the two versions different.” Pete Trewavas adds: “We did write some new music for the single CD,” adds Trewavas. “What’s more, there are also differences in the instruments used on some of the tracks across the two records.”

Each album will be available on CD, LP & Digitally. But there will also be what has been called ‘The Absolute Universe: The Ultimate Edition’, which collects both versions together in one lavish package that includes 5LP’s, 3CD’s & a Blu-ray that contains a 5.1 surround sound mix with visuals & a behind the scenes documentary. All editions have unique artwork created by Thomas Ewerhard. The full list of formats is below, and pre-orders start on the 20th November:

‘The Absolute Universe: The Breath Of Life (Abridged Version)’

Special Edition CD Digipak

Gatefold 2LP+CD

Digital Album

‘The Absolute Universe: Forevermore (Extended Version)’

Special Edition 2CD Digipak

3LP+2CD Boxset

Digital Album

‘The Absolute Universe: The Ultimate Edition’

Limited Deluxe Clear 5LP+3CD+Blu-Ray Box-set – contained within a foil-finished lift-off box with extended 16-page LP booklet & 60x60cm poster

Initial tracking began in September 2019 when the band met up in Sweden to write and arrange the new material. As Portnoy explains: “Over a period of 10-14 days, we mapped out the songs. Then we all went back to our home studios and did the recording. That’s the way we always do it. At one point, though, it was suggested that instead of doing what was by that time going to be a double album, we should just be content to do a single CD.”

“What happened was that everything kept expanding and expanding,” recalls Stolt. “Therefore we decided it made sense to make it a double album. It was Pete and Neal who then came out and said they felt this would be too long, and we should reduce it to one…But we were already recording, and it didn’t seem feasible to cut it back. There were so many pieces that each of us loved in what we were planning and didn’t want to lose. That’s when we ended up in discussions over the best way forward.” 

This album also marks a return to the concept album for Transatlantic. “Well, the idea of Transatlantic deciding to do a concept record this time around won’t shock anyone, right?” laughs Portnoy. “What we have is essentially one giant composition, split into chapters. The storyline is about the struggles facing everyone in society today.” “We didn’t start out with the idea of this being conceptual,” admits Stolt. “The way things work with us is that we have a load of ideas, and these are developed spontaneously when we meet up. Everything happens in the moment.”

So, how does this new ground-breaking album compare to Transatlantic’s previous four albums?

“I always try not to compare albums as much as possible,” insists Morse. “It’s very difficult when you’re trying to be creative, because your natural instinct is to constantly compare. But in order to create you have to kind of step away from that. Having said that, I would say this would have more in common with ‘The Whirlwind’ album  (the band’s third, from 2009) than others that we’ve created.” For Trewavas, ‘The Absolute Universe’ is a momentous project.

“I think it is right up there with the very finest albums we’ve done. As the others have said, it compares very well to ‘The Whirlwind’, which I believe represents Transatlantic at our best. As on that album, we took our time to write and arrange everything, and that shines through. I am very excited for people to hear it.”

Transatlantic were originally formed in 1999, releasing their debut album ‘SMTPe’ the following year as well as its follow-up ‘Bridge Across Forever’ in 2001. Following a 7-year hiatus, the band reconvened to record and release the much-acclaimed epic 77-minute, single-track album ‘The Whirlwind’ followed by a world tour in 2010 which included an appearance at High Voltage Festival in London where they were joined by legendary Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett. The band’s fourth album ‘Kaleidoscope’ arrived in 2014, going on to win ‘Album Of The Year’ at the Progressive Music Awards.