Transatlantic - SMPTe

Year of Release: 2000
Label: InsideOut
Catalog Number: IOMCD057/SPV 085-31792CD
Format: CD
Total Time: 77:13:00

Whilst it was the initial idea of Dream Theater's drum animal Mike Portnoy to launch yet another project next to his stint with DT and Liquid Tension Experiment, I dare to say it's mainly Neal Morse who puts his stamp onto this superb sounding debut. However, in the very beginning, Mike had called Morse, telling him he wanted to set up a project with Jim Matheos from Fates Warning. When Matheos couldn't do it, Portnoy and Morse (who said yes from the word go!) started looking out for extra members.

Appropriately called Transatlantic, the band indeed consists of two Europeans (guitarist Roine Stolt of Flower Kings fame and Pete Trewavas, bass player with Marillion) and two Americans (the already mentioned Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater and LTE, plus Spock's Beard's Neal Morse). I don't recall anything like this ever happening in the glorious seventies. I mean there is no album with members of Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin all joining forces in order to create a masterpiece! So what you get here is the nucleus of the current best bands in the world of prog all trying to create a true collection of prog highlights without ever "outplaying" one another. In fact you can't compare SMPTe with the likes of LTE, Platypus, Attention Deficit, Bozzio Stevens Levin. More care has gone into composing real songs even if the opening track "All Of The Above" is a little on the long side with its 30 minutes!

Now that I've heard this album I know why Neal Morse's solo album was a little weak compared to the Spock's Beard output because he probably was keeping the more prog sounding bits for this Transatlantic project. In terms of output, I guess it's only Trewavas who's a bit on the slow side, whilst Morse and Stolt write at a tremendous speed.

What happened is that these guys entered the studio armed with ideas, rough ideas. In fact, the long "All Of The Above" is made out of six parts, whilst Stolt thinks they must have produced nearly 25 parts for that song alone. As already mentioned, Morse is also an ace keyboard player, emphasizing a lot on Hammond and Mellotron [credits say Stolt on mellotron -ed], but also jazzy piano tunes are his favourite. Portnoy and Trewavas really try to keep it all together, which means they are by no means showing off. So in the end it's Morse shining through both from a vocal point of view and where keyboards are concerned, whilst a lot of space is given to Roine who, as so many times before, sometimes sounds exactly like Steve Howe himself. Towards the end, the song changes, having a bluesy feeling, whilst at the very end, Morse's voice together with the acoustic guitar reminds me of authentic Donovan (now get that incense out of the cupboard and put those flowers in your hair!). In fact you can look back upon "All Of The Above" as being the band's very own "Close To The Edge."

"We All Need Some Light" highlights the talent of Stolt on acoustic guitar, which once again means Portnoy has to hold back. The song has a very strong chorus courtesy of Morse whose voice blends very well with that of Stolt, again adding originality. "Mystery Train" has Trewavas pumping away on his bass whilst Portnoy gets the space to experiment with both his drum kit and the recording technique. In itself the song is a bit lighter and sounds like a mediocre Spock's song if ever the latter should exist!

The atmosphere changes towards purely classical in "My New World" where a real cello is used in the intro before Stolt sets out in his typical style in order to make this one a dead-ringer for Flower Kings fans. Also Stolt's voice adds an extra dimension to the music because I have always felt that his voice has something of John Wetton which surely is one of the all-time "kings of prog!" From a guitar point of view Stolt, once again steers the music into genuine Yes direction before Morse takes over on Hammond once again. I also like the switch between Morse and Stolt's voices, which gives the song more room to breathe. Towards the end of the song Stolt switches his guitar playing from prog rock towards jazzy playing and back again.

I guess the album's final track has been chosen by Mike Portnoy as sort of a "thank you" to Procol Harum whom, next to Marillion, has been a big influence on Portnoy's musical career. The long "In Held (Twas) In I" was a rather obscure track when it was initially released mainly due to its length, which made sure no airplay was given. Also, for a lot of people waiting to hear a sequel to "Whiter Shade Of Pale," this track was an enormous surprise. It is frightening how close the Hammond sound gets to that of the original. Also, although Gary Brooker's voice was rather unique, both Morse and Stolt seem to have it all right in order, staying as close to the original as possible. Also this song is really up Portnoy's alley as he finally gets the space to show us his box of tricks. At the very end of this "magnum opus" it's like the band is integrating "God Save The Queen." Ah, if only Sid Vicious were around!

Transatlantic, the Steely Dan of the prog world, will headline at this year's NEARfest, which will probably (shouldn't that be hopefully?) be sold out. [Yup, in 38 days -ed.] Now maybe in our wildest dreams a limited album of Transatlantic live would be a nice little sop for those who won't be able to make it!

On the same day of the general release there will also be a limited 2CD set in digipack. Holding a 32 page boolet the second disc will contain outtakes, coverversions and also a multiedia segment with some video footage filmed during the recording of the album.

Here are the contents of the bonus disc:

  1. My New World (alt. take, Neal lead, different lyrics)
  2. We All Need Some Light (Roine leadvoice, alternate mix)
  3. Honky Tonk Women (studio jam)
  4. Oh Darlin' (studio jam)
  5. My Cruel World (original demo)
  6. Interactive segment

As this will be a limited run why not place your orders NOW!

[Dec 2005: A visit to the InsideOut website lists the special edition as oop. Regular edition also released in US by Radiant Records and Metal Blade -ed.]

All Of The Above (30:59) / We All Need Some Light (5:45) / Mystery Train (6:52) / My New World (16:16) / In Held (Twas) In I (17:21)

Roine Stolt - guitars, mellotrons, percussion, vocals
Mike Portnoy - drums, vocals
Pete Trewavas - bass, Moog Taurus pedals, vocals
Neal Morse - lead vocals, keyboards, acoustic guitar, additional electric guitar

SMPTe (2000)
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)
Kaleidoscope (2014)
KaLIVEoscope (CD/DVD) (2014)

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

Origin VA

Added: February 1st 2000
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website:
Hits: 1122
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]