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  TransAtlantic: Live in Europe
Artist:  TransAtlantic
Label:  Radiant Records/Metal Blade
Length:  2 CDs: CD 1-4 Tracks/79:58, CD 2-2 Tracks/60:58 
Also available as a 2 DVD set and a 2 CD/DVD Limited Edition Book Set

On paper it sounds fantastic-take four of the greatest progressive rock writers/musicians, put them together in the studio and on tour and allow them to cut loose.  In reality the results are even BETTER than one could expect. TransAtlantic: Live in Europe may just be my favorite live rock CD. Ever.  It is that good.

TransAtlantic: Live in Europe features Neal Morse (formerly with Spock's Beard and now a solo artist) on keyboards, guitars and vocals; the inimitable Mike Portnoy (of Dream Theater)-one of the world's most powerful & proficient drummers on the drum chair and vocals; Roine Stolt (of the fascinating Swedish prog group the Flower Kings) on guitar and vocals;  the amiable Pete Trewavas (of the legendary prog band Marillion) on bass and vocals, and joined for this live CD is Pain of Salvation's Daniel Gildenlow on keys, guitar, percussion and vox.  The strength this CD is the sum of the parts-each of these performers is an incredible artist in their own right, and the combined they are pure dynamite.  

TransAtlantic's music is a potent combination of progressive rock with strong melody, multiple vocalists (Neal takes the lead vocals, but one of the strengths of the band is that each member joins in vocally and takes some lead vocal parts as well as background vocals), jaw-dropping drumming, unforgettable keyboard/organ/synth parts, shimmering guitar and thunderous bass work.  Nearly every song is an epic in its own right-long songs broken into wonderful segments that showcase the instrumental and vocal chops of
the band.  Amazingly there are 141(!) minutes of solid music on this project and only 6 songs.  Ah, but what songs they are...from the stunning spiritual warfare of "Duel with the Devil" to the amusing Beatle-esque fun of the jaunty "Suite Charlotte Pike" to the tear-inducing/hand-holding/light your Bic sing-along quality arena rock quality of "We All Need Some Light"-there is not a throwaway song in the bunch.  

Some highlights:  "Suite Charlotte Pike" is expanded to 31 minutes and interspersed with great renditions of Beatle's tunes from Abbey Road. Neal Morse (who you can see wearing a red New York Yankees baseball Jersey) dedicates the positive vibes of "We All Need Some Light" the city of New York (the concert was recorded just a few months after 9/11 at the 013 in the city of Tilburg in the Netherlands).  The standout cut is "Stranger in Your Soul"- a 30 plus minute "epic to end all epics" (according to Morse)
that features one of the most powerful song intros of all time-a gentle string interlude quickly overtaken by a bass guitar/drum swell/organ lick that builds into a crashing crescendo.  "Stranger" also features a touching piano interlude by Neal that would eventually become part of Spock's Beard masterpiece Snow in the song "Love Beyond Words" and Morse's voice cracks with power and emotion during the stunning climax.  "All of the Above" showcases a killer B-3 hook that will grab you and NOT let go, some
wonderful Stolt guitar magic, and killer bass action from Trewavas.  Each song features an vast array of instrumental interplay, with each performer turning out stellar performances.

The lyrics feature a poetic spiritual emphasis-seemingly a reflection of Neal Morse's Christian beliefs.  "All of the Above" features this touching refrain from Neal:

Innocence and undying love will reign
Innocence and undying love will reign
The world will soon be right again
"Stranger in Your Soul" showcases a man's desire for victory, change and to press on without looking back:
There - wailing into walls
Piercing through the pain
Here we are
Reaching through the rain
I almost caught a glimpse
To feel that Sunday high
I would fall
This makes no sense at all...

And I would give my dreams
If I could be awake

Whatever you're looking for
Don't ever start looking behind
Whatever you want to change
You better start changing your mind
'Cause everything can be done
Stand up 'cause this is your time
"We All Need Some Light" is a transcendent, positive pop/rock masterpiece that should have been a top 40 hit featuring this lyric/chorus:
Hey you on the brink
Waiting to fall
To become human surplus
The movie's still shooting
You might still get the roll
And man it's all just a circus...

And we all need some light now
We all need some light now
Yes, we all need some light now
Turn on your light and wash the darkness away

The bands performance In TransAtlantic: Live in Europe is not perfect...a reflection of the fact that the band had not been able to spend a lot of time practicing, as alluded to in the enjoyable liner notes from the band. The less-than-perfect performance and minor flubs here and there only enhance the charm of the CD.  This is not a project that was glossed over with a million overdubs as so many groups do with their live performances. TransAtlantic: Live in Europe as it stands is a vivid snapshot of five incredible musicians showing the talent they possess and the love for this music (and each other in the warm between-song banter).  It is obvious the band is having fun-they can be heard joking with each other and the audience.  The only minus to the presentation for some fans will be Portnoy's occasional f-bombs in-between songs. 

TransAtlantic: Live in Europe is a stunning introduction to a band that deserves space on your CD shelf-right along classic live performances like the Who Live at Leeds, Neil Young's Live Rust, Yessongs from Yes, and the Stones Get Yer Ya Ya's Out.  TransAtlantic is successful in creating music that bridges the gap between progressive music, pop, and rock with melody,
powerful instrumentation and captivating vocals.  The CD production is bright and has enough depth to highlight the performances of each band member.  The packaging is high quality, with cool liner notes from each band member and colorful pictures from the performance.

TransAtlantic: Live in Europe is available in three flavors...a double CD, a high-quality double DVD (featuring a classy multi-camera film of the concert and some fun bonus "home-video" of the band behind the scenes), or (HIGHLY recommended) a beautiful Limited Edition set in a stunning book-like case featuring both the CD and DVD version of the performance.  Pick up TransAtlantic: Live in Europe at your favorite CD emporium or pick it up online @ <> 

Barry Nothstine 3/7/2004

Related links:
TransAtlantic's Home on the Web
Review of Neal Morse-Testimony October 2003 Tollbooth Pick of the Month
Review of Spock's Beard Snow
Review of the Latest Dream Theater release-Train of Thought
Review of Yellow Matter Custard-One Night in New York City featuring Neal
Morse and Mike Portnoy

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