Year of Release: 2001
Catalog Number: IOMCD 86
Total Time: 76:49:00
A prog lover's wet dream. This about sums up what's on offer on the second studio album by the world's first ever prog supergroup. Whilst SMPTe was an outburst of energy with each of the members introducing his favourite bits and pieces from the glorious seventies, Bridge Across Forever sounds more balanced, more prepared, with each member giving each other plenty of opportunity to fully shine. If a certain part needs heavy drumming, it will get heavy drumming, yet when a certain part doesn't need any drums at all, Portnoy doesn't mind stepping to the coffee machine for the time being. With two songs clocking in at a little under half an hour each, needless to say the material on this album takes you from one atmosphere to the other, from one musical style to the other, from one highlight to the other.
It now looks like SMPTe was regarded as a one-off, yet the enthusiasm with which it was welcomed all over the world, plus the fact the four members got on so well with each other meant they had more time to carefully plan the next move. So this time, although the budget still doesn't allow the use of a huge symphonic orchestra, more acoustic details have been added by means of violin, viola, cello and also a choir. It's exactly those typical classical instruments which kick off the album, as "Duel With The Devil" indeed starts with viola and cello before Roine's "classic" guitar introduces one of the important melodies on this album, a melody that will stick into your mind once you have heard it for the very first time! It strikes me how well balanced everything sounds, as indeed everyone steps aside to highlight the skills of another band member. So once the guitar has done its bit it's all systems go for the keyboards whilst Pete's bass playing comes through crystal clear at all times. The first vocal input from Neal is also a corker and then when acoustic guitars introduce Roine's vocals, one really has to think about vintage Yes. I'm convinced the diversity of the vocals will in the end be one of the big advantages when compared to SMPTe which in some cases sounded more like a Spock's Beard album than a Transatlantic record. During the acoustic passages, Portnoy makes himself useful by adding percussive details so as to make the sound fuller and more interesting at all times. When the rhythm is re-installed we are treated to a real frenzy once Morse hits that Hammond organ, that particular rhythm ending when Portnoy almost repeats the drum solo right at the very end of the Nice's "America" (just before the kid starts to speak). What follows is a wonderful laidback atmosphere with sparse Fender Rhodes alternating with Roine's funky guitar playing before glorious saxophone takes you on a (short) Canterbury flavoured journey before switching towards bits of Pink Floyd. More rhythmic changes embrace one of the leading melodies before the "Elite" choir enters adding an unsuspecting climax to a wonderful travel through progressive rock at it's very best!
"Suite Charlotte Pike" starts off like a true jam, yet right where the band has decided there has to be a change, the guys goof up, yet decide to immediately continue with "take 2" being smart enough to include a count-in so they don't mess up again. It's a more direct "rock meets blues" kind of a song with Beatles-like harmonies. At one point it even sports honky-tonk like piano playing before adding some more catchy elements. Towards the end Roine's guitar style gets very, very close to that of Jan Akkerman, something I have also noticed on the new Flower Kings album. The climax of the song, together with the harmonies, are reminiscent of Supertramp in their heydays. The title track of the album certainly has to be a Neal Morse classic (until the contrary is proven!) which once again proves his songwriting skills. Based around the nucleus of the piano, Neal's vocals sound divine only backed by that solitary keyboard and a very classical arrangement mixed way in the background so all attention goes towards Neal. There's also a very subtle vibraphone to be heard tucked away in the orchestral approach. Simply a truly beautiful song which could have found its way onto a Spock's album, a Neal Morse solo album, or as it happens, the second Transatlantic studio album.
The small classical ensemble also introduces the final track which at just over 26' will certainly take us on yet another action packed musical adventure. Tribal drumming makes way for more Hammond divinities before Roine once again introduces that distinctive Jan Akkerman sound before acoustic guitar opens for Neal's singing, whilst it's Pete taking over during the chorus here. And a powerful chorus it is too, being repeated by synths as well. To everyone's surprise the music suddenly changes towards heavy fuelled pure authentic hard rock with guitar riffs and strings battling it out with Mike's thundering drumming. It's mainly Portnoy's powerful attack on his drum skins which takes Roine's fierce guitar playing in its slipstream whilst Trewavas is also playing the most explosive bass in years. In turn it's once again some fragile piano which introduces another section of the song, this time more intimate, more ambient adorned with Steve Howe like trimmings. Steam gets back in with heavy organ and synth solos being boxed in by the Portnoy-Trewavas tandem. Not really sure though what the silence followed by all those weird noises was necessary for unless of course they needed to include this "mystery track" so "Stranger In Your Soul" (which is the last track) would clock in at exactly half an hour. Apart from that, it's a pity that a wonderful album, which Bridge Across Forever really is, closes this way. Compared to the material we heard so far, the new album is much better balanced giving each member the full possibility to shine within the Transatlantic concept, whether it is instrumental or vocal. There are some very strong melodies to be heard which have all been wonderfully integrated within the compositions. Not all the time these had to be so long as sometimes it would've been better to make these songs a little shorter, more compact, more direct, but then again Transatlantic have always been understood to be proggier than prog and isn't your thirty minute song exactly the prog format "par excellence"? It's also the ideal way NOT to get on MTV! Their concoction of pop, rock, jazz and even soul has once again resulted in a strong contender for the "album of the year" slot and I'm convinced our fab four have combined their respective talents so well that more Transatlantic material is guaranteed for the future!
[There will also be a limited edition of this release as a double disc set. The bonus disc will include Shine On You Crazy Diamond / Studio Chat / And I Love Her / Smoke On The Water / Dance With The Devil / Roine's Demo Bits and an Interactive Section]
Duel With The Devil (26:43) / Suite Charlotte Pike (14:30) / Bridge Across Forever (5:32) / Stranger In Your Soul (26:06)
Pete Trewavas - bass, bass pedals, vocals
Mike Portnoy - drums, vocals
Roine Stolt - guitars, vocals, mellotron, additional keyboards and percussion
Neal Morse - piano, organ, Moog, Rhodes piano, synths, vocals, additional guitars and mandolin
Chris Carmichael - violin, viola and cello
Keith Mears ? saxophone
Live In America (2001)
Bridge Across Forever (2001)
Bridge Across Forever - Special Edition (2001)
Live In Europe (2003)
The Whirlwind (2009)
More Is Never Enough (CD/DVD) (2011)
Live In America (DVD) (2001)
Live In Europe (DVD) (2003)
Building The Bridge Across Forever/Live In America (DVD) (2006)
Whirld Tour 2010 - Live From Shepherd's Bush Empire, London (DVD) (2010)
More Is Never Enough (DVD/CD) (2011)
Genre: Progressive Rock