Release Date: 27th January 2014
I think that it's a good side effect of the fractured and unpredictable state of the music industry that prog rock has returned to a have a higher profile than for years and to have enough of a fan base to support a scene without record company execs worrying about commercial implications.
One example of how this works is that there is always a buzz around when a new album is due from this modern prog rock supergroup, even more so than when one of the four members releases something of their own.
When Neil Morse signaled he was interested in reuniting with his Transatlantic colleagues in 2009 that resulted in an album that was the ultimate expression of progressive rock with 'The Whirlwind' album featuring just one 77 minute track. On 'Kaleidoscope' they have reverted to a slightly more reserved version of epic prog with an album featuring five tracks, three of which are under eight minutes long. That leaves two that are over 25 minutes in length in case anyone thinks they've gone more commercial!
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Album opener 'Into The Blue' is for me the most complete piece of music on the album. Clocking in at 25 minutes it starts off gently and rises and falls through a progression of various themes, sometimes featuring quiet sections of stuttering instrumentation but mostly flowing along with lush keyboards dominating the sound. This is more of a beautifully melodic and often understated piece that happens to naturally lend itself to being a long piece of music rather than coming across as a deliberate attempt to be epic.
Next up is 'Shine' which is the most commercial sounding song on the album despite its' seven-and-a-half minute length. This is a really good strong song with a great chorus and reminds me of 'We All Need Some Light' from their debut album in the way it's put together.
'Black As The Sky' sounds more like a perfunctory attempt at including a more energetic track and doesn't really work for me. It sounds a bit throwaway on the first few listens and not as strong as the rest of the material here. 'Beyond The Sun' is a effectively a ballad in comparison but the huge, lush keyboards and plaintive, emotional vocals mean it works much better despite clocking in at a mere four-and-a-half minutes!
Bookending the three shorter songs with the two elongated prog tunes, the title track completes the album. Through it's thirty minute length this is the track that reminds me most of Neil Morse's time in Spocks Beard with it's harmony vocal sections and light melodic touches. I feel it contains less interesting ideas than 'Into The Blue' but only just. It is still a consummately crafted piece of songwriting and doesn't sound too long, or forced, just some musical ideas which took some time to express.
Verdict: This album will be the usual food for discussion on prog message boards and Facebook pages but I think if you liked Transatlantic's three previous studio albums then you will like this one too.
This is four great musicians working together in a surprisingly unpretentious way, even the long songs come across as the music being more important than the need for any particular member to shine. Of course the playing and singing is all superb.
If you haven't tried Transatlantic before this is as good a place to start as any. If you have you'll know what to expect and just buy it anyway.
Neal Morse - lead vocals, keyboard, guitar
Mike Portnoy - drums, backing vocals
Roine Stolt - guitar, lead vocals
Pete Trewavas - bass guitar, lead vocals
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