The progressive rock supergroup Transatlantic played the last concert of their Absolute Universe tour in July 2022. The group have hinted that it might be their final tour, so it’s possible that their studio catalogue might remain as the five albums they’ve recorded between 2000 and 2021.
It was such a special night last night. The last show of the tour and who knows maybe the last show forever. We’ve had a good run that’s for sure.Pete Trewavas, Facebook
The European leg has been really great and to end it in such an iconic venue will be a very special memory for us all.
Thank you Paris you as always special.
That Transatlantic managed to make five albums is impressive – all four members started in other notable bands, and Transatlantic has largely remained a part-time venture, fitted in between other activities. Mike Portnoy was Dream Theater’s founding drummer, while bassist Pete Trewavas has played with Marillion for more than forty years. Guitarist Roine Stolte also leads The Flower Kings, while singer and keyboardist Neal Morse started his career in Spock’s Beard. Despite their part-time nature, there’s a good argument that Transatlantic are the premiere progressive rock band of the 21st century.
Here are their five studio records ranked.
As the title implies, Transatlantic’s fourth album takes some cues from 1960s psychedelia – on the deluxe version there are covers of The Moody Blues’ ‘Nights in White Satin’ and The Small Faces’ ‘Tin Soldier’. The two epics, ‘Into The Blue’ and the title track, are impressive. The middle sags a little with sentimental Morse tracks, although his Moog soloing on the Stolt-led ‘Black as the Sky’ is enjoyable. Touring guitarist Daniel Gildenlöw, from Pain of Salvation, contributes vocals on ‘Into the Blue’.
Transatlantic’s debut album was a quickly realised side-project – the tracks were written and largely recorded in two weeks. The fan favourite ‘All of the Above’ is one of the band’s weaker epics in this writer’s opinion, but Stolt’s ‘My New World’ is enjoyable. The album ends with a cover of Procol Harum’s ‘In Held (‘Twas) In I’, often held to be the first recorded progressive rock song.
#3 The Absolute Universe: Forevermore
Transatlantic’s fifth album has a convoluted history – the band recorded a 90-minute album before the COVID-19 pandemic. When Morse revisited the album, he created a stripped-down 64-minute version. The band was divided into two camps, with Stolt and Portnoy preferring the longer version. Portnoy suggested releasing both – there’s also a 96-minute edition that combines both versions. It started as a sequel to The Whirlwind but became an exploration of how Morse’s Ayn Rand-inspired libertarian beliefs were replaced by Christianity. It’s more inspired by 1970s progressive rock than other Transatlantic records – Stolt’s guitar licks on ‘The World We Used To Know’ evoke Yes’ Relayer. If it’s indeed their final album, The Absolute Universe is a fine way to go out.
#2 Bridge Across Forever
Transatlantic refined their approach for their second album, purposefully balancing the four members’ contributions after critics suggested the debut was dominated by Morse. The record’s dominated by three lengthy epics – ‘Duel With The Devil’, the surprisingly funky ‘Suite Charlotte Pike’, and ‘Stranger in Your Soul’ are all tier one Transatlantic pieces. Morse’s gorgeous, piano-led title track is his best solo spotlight in the band.
#1 The Whirlwind
More isn’t always more when it comes to progressive rock – think Yes’ laborious Tales From Topographic Oceans. But Transatlantic’s best album is their most ambitious – The Whirlwind is a single 78-minute track, divided into 12 sections for listening convenience. Morse left Transatlantic after finding God in 2002, but upon their reformation, he brings God into Transatlantic – the grand finale is titled ‘Dancing With Eternal Glory’. Most crucially, the musical themes are the band’s most memorable – in particular the descending bass chord sequence on “We’re on a trip in a foreign land/Reach for home, where the kingdom stands” is my favourite Transatlantic moment.
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Aphoristic Album Reviews is almost entirely written by one person.
Graham Fyfe is probably the only music blogger to appreciate both Neil Diamond and Ariana Grande. Based in Fleet Street (New Zealand), he's been writing this blog since around 2000. Aphoristic Album Reviews features reviews and blog posts across a growing spectrum of popular music.
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