Album Review: Transatlantic, “Kaleidoscope”

Kaleidoscope

Forming a supergroup is always a risky proposition. If you aim high, you risk alienating your fans, and the record-buying public at large, if/when your material doesn’t hit the mark. And if you aim high, no matter how good the resultant record may be, it won’t be good enough, given all those outsized expectations. Especially in the world of progressive rock, supergroups don’t always turn out the way devotees of their component parts might hope – even a classic outfit like Emerson Lake & Palmer weren’t especially known for their taste and restraint, and there are still Yes fans who haven’t quite forgiven Steve Howe for Asia. [Note: I love both ELP and Asia.]

Transatlantic is one of the few supergroups that lives up to its members’ pedigrees. Neal Morse (ex-Spock’s Beard), Roine Stolt (Flower Kings), Pete Trewavas (Marillion), and Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater) are four of the today’s finest prog musicians, and in fifteen years of working together they’ve made some of today’s finest prog. On Kaleidoscope (2014), all four bandmembers contribute, but it’s Morse and Stolt who set the pace, largely carrying over the sounds of their respective (ex-)bands and/or solo careers and handling most of the vocal duties.


Structurally, Kaleidoscope reminds me of Spock’s Beard’s V, with two extended epics broken up by a series of more modest songs in the middle. It also has this in common with V, that the first, shorter epic (“At the End of the Day,” “Into the Blue”) is superior to the second, more expansive one (“The Great Nothing,” “Kaleidoscope”), and that the record actually hits some of its highest notes on the seemingly interstitial songs (“Thoughts Pt. II,” “Black as the Sky”). Celestial mellotrons, wailing organs, and soaring guitars abound, yoked to lyrics that, as usual, succeed in communicating spiritual themes without beating you over the head with Neal Morse’s Christianity. (In that regard, he’s one of the best Christian musicians working right now – miles better than the pabulum that passes for “Christian rock”). Throughout, the band evidences the kind of remarkable chemistry that can only come of great musicians who not only have had time to build a rapport but also like and respect one another.

If you’ve enjoyed Transatlantic’s previous work, or anything Neal Morse or Roine Stolt has ever done pretty much, Kaleidoscope should sate your appetite for symphonic prog and then some. If you’ve never had the pleasure, Transatlantic is that rarest of animals: a supergroup that’s really pretty super.

7/10

Buy it here.


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4 Responses to Album Review: Transatlantic, “Kaleidoscope”

  1. Excellent review of a wonderful album. I got the Deluxe Artbook edition, which comes with a bonus CD of cover songs (like they’ve done with all their previous deluxe editions), plus a behind-the-scenes DVD and another DVD with the album in surround sound. I’ve only played it once so my opinion isn’t fully formed yet, but on first listen Kaleidoscope isn’t quite as strong as the first three albums. There’s typically brilliant musicianship, and I’ll never tire of hearing Morse’s & Stolt’s voices, but the songs didn’t blow me away like they’ve done in the past. Hopefully it’ll grow on me with additional spins, but even if it doesn’t I still like the album a lot, and not many bands could follow up The Whirlwind in such strong fashion.

  2. Diego says:

    Hello! Thank you VERY VERY much for linking my interview with Roine Stolt! But, can you please change the link for the one of my new website? It’s an updated version and everything else is in English now 🙂
    http://www.progshine.net/2013/03/interview-roine-stolt-flower-kings.html

    Thank you!

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