This live album is a bit of a question mark in that it may be the final musical statement that the band make. Transatlantic feel that they may have reached the end of their own particular road and they also all have their own musical outlets and outputs to return to. The band has been in existence for over 24 years now so they owe us nothing really, do they?
This new live cut is taken from the final show of the short European tour taken in support of ‘The Absolute Universe’ album issued in 2021. This album offers another version of that album along with a synopsis of ‘The Whirlwind’, ‘We All Need Some Light’ and a final medley which all together gives a healthy running time of over three hours. For some this may be too much but folk who, like me, love overblown and extended works such as Transatlantic deliver, this is sheer heaven. Hopefully this won’t be their last ever effort but only time will tell on that, if it is then this is a very dignified manner in which to bow out.
The album is long so you’ll need to settle down and simply enjoy and appreciate the sheer quality and talent of these four musicians and of Ted Leonard whose vocals and guitar help complete a very fine sounding set of performances.
The album opens with The Absolute Universe intro that sets the scene for what is to come. Eerie keyboards, haunting guitar lines and a blast of symphonic sounds lead into the Overture proper, this has everyone really pushing the sound with over the top drums, bass and keyboard’s all surging like a tsunami, battering everything in their way. This is so gloriously overblown that it’s just sheer exhilaration and you know this will only get even more so on its journey, simply astonishing to hear this level of intensity and intent. This overture really lets everyone shine in their own parts but, taken together, is all the more amazing to behold. Yet, in all this, there is so much melody on offer, it’s gorgeous and sumptuous fare indeed. The excellent guitar of Roine Stolt carries the piece to a glorious conclusion in tandem with Neal Morse’s keyboards, leading to the first real song, the symphonic Reaching For The Sky. This is an exuberant track and you can hear how happy the band are to be there, performing this album in this extended version, you can really hear this coming over strongly.
Higher Than The Morning sees Roine Stolt on vocals, although helped by all in the chorus, to good effect too! This is a blistering performance which really captures something special. This album may be long but if you like symphonic prog you will find so much to enjoy and savour herein. Sadly Paul Hanlon, one of their biggest fans is no longer with us to enjoy this and he would truly have loved this. The Darkness In The Light has another vocal from Roine, this one powers along nicely too with strong bass from Pete Trewavas and the never less than solid drums of Mike Portnoy pushing the track forward, a brief bass solo from Pete captures the moment as does a fiery guitar part from Roine. This is proving to be an excellent recording of what must have been a really magnificent evening of music. Take Now My Soul slows things down a little, they probably needed to as the opening salvo of songs couldn’t be maintained without injury surely! This more laid back track cools everyone down well this is followed by the shorter track Bully. This is only brief and leads to Rainbow Sky which has an element of the Beatles to it. It is a very fine song and has great performances throughout
This is only the first disc and already I’m sold on it, so much so that I’ve ordered the CD and Blu-Ray for myself, yes it really is that impressive! Looking For The Light continues the winning streak with growling bass from Pete and great music from all parties with a particularly great guitar line from Roine. We are then offered the lengthy epic The World We Used To Know which is the last track on disc one and yes, it’S rather good! It begins with thunderous drums from Mike Portnoy and some fine guitar from Roine but really Mike is all over this one, driving the track as only he can, he is an absolute powerhouse and his presence is definitely felt here. There follows another great guitar line that carries the song further along, it’s great to hear such beautiful melodies in this music, sheer bliss for symphonic prog nerds like me. Everything is so well orchestrated here, there is real depth and gravitas and it’s wonderful to hear this expressed so eloquently by this group of extremely talented musicians who are working at the top of their game.
Disc 2 opens with an introduction from Mike in which he outlines the evening’s entertainment and he tells how they aren’t sure of what happens after this, also he reveals this this is the fourth version of ‘The Absolute Universe’. We continue with an accapella opening to The Sun Comes Up Today which coalesces into the actual song via a fluid guitar line from Roine and some great organ from Neil before a prelude of Love Made A Way. Next up is Owl Howl which is a medium length track and one which features an extended keyboard vamp from Neil, it’s all rather worthy though and once again shows why this ensemble can be rightly called a ‘super group’. Solitude opens with rippling piano lines along with an earnest, questioning vocal from Neil, also included is a snippet of Love Made A Way again to good effect. This is an assured performance from the band, mixing delicate melodies with thunderous and lively recitals of very strong material.
Belong follows, another great version with keen guitar from Roine. There’s fabulous ensemble playing in this track too. Lonesome Rebel has some sumptuous acoustic guitar and another Roine vocal, this is a gentler song and the change of intensity works to their favour here, you cant go at it hammer and tongs for three hours, that’s not right or fair really and this measured approach is especially rewarding. Can You Feel It ups the energy level a little bit, again most effectively and includes lots of opportunities for solos from Neil and Pete. A reprise of Looking For The Light is an epic shorter track but one which really grabs the attention with its lumbering bass line over which hangs an angular organ sound and great harmonies. A commanding recital which leads into the rollicking romp of The Greatest Story Never Ends. This one is full of great keyboard textures and has lots of urgency as the band hurtle towards the finishing line which is presented with a great performance of Love Made A Way. The use of repeated motifs and refrains through the album helps cement the concept of the album and really works well here.
That concludes the album proper but the show isn’t over yet as the group continue for another hour by providing two amazing medleys, one of The Whirlwind and another called The FINAL Medley which includes Transatlantic classics such as Duel With The Devil, My New World, All Of The Above and Stranger In Your Soul. Also included is a beautiful version of We all Need Some Light, personally I’d like to have seen shine as a tribute to Paul who all the band knew very well but you can’t have it all. This selection of oldies works very well indeed and the medley of The Whirlwhind is especially enticing as a mammoth album is whittled down to a manageable duration without loosing its impact.
Overall this album is a resounding triumph for Transatlantic and one I would strongly urge you to consider as its an excellent package.
Released 17th February, 2023.