Issue 2003-049: Transatlantic - Live in Europe - Round Table Review
Round Table Review
Live In Europe : 2CD
Release Date : 4th November 2003
CD1: Duel with the devil (26:00), My new world (16:20), We all need some light (6:41), Suite Charlotte Pike medley (30:00)
CD2: Stranger in your soul (30:36), All of the above (30:19)
Well, I’m not going to bother with too many preliminaries – most if not all visitors to this site will be familiar with this prog rock ‘supergroup’ which briefly graced the scene for a couple of years, and released what in my opinion two of the strongest prog releases in recent years.
I’m always a little suspect of live albums – are they really an honest representation of a band in concert, or a cynical record company cash-in that’s been mostly re-recorded in the studio? There also seems to be a glut of Morse live releases – not only is there shelf-loads of Spock’s Beard live material available, but this is actually the second Transatlantic live effort – quite a lot considering the band only really existed for a short time! So, do we really need this latest effort?
I guess the answer is a qualified ‘yes’. On the plus side, this represents a whole concerts-worth of material, and the set list certainly seems to run the same as the one I attended at the London Astoria. It also appears to have been recorded at one gig (in Tilburg) although this could be the work of judicious editing. Whatever, there is a good flow between tracks, with all the (fairly innocuous but good humoured) banter between numbers left in.
In terms of sound quality, this does have a pleasingly raw feel, and is thankfully far from a note perfect rendition of the songs. The musicianship, as all fans of the individuals concerned know, is beyond parallel, and the band certainly don’t worry about altering the structure a bit here, changing a few notes there. The fact that there was plenty of energy and enthusiasm on show by the band comes through clearly in the mix. The addition of Daniel Gildenlow (from Pain of Salvation) is a noticeable bonus, giving the sound more of a harder edge than on the studio albums (particularly in the mid-section of Stranger In Your Soul).
Song-wise, there’s nothing to complain about either – this really represents a wish-list of the tracks you’d want the band to play. Highlight for me is All Of The Above – simply because its the best track they’ve done in my opinion ! The main surprise (to those who weren’t at the gigs!) is perhaps the intertwining of The Beatles’ Abbey Road medley with Suite Charlotte Pike. I’ve got to say I had an idea they might try something like this in concert, as when I first heard Suite… I noticed the similarity in style between the two medleys. This track didn’t seem to go down too well at the concert I attended, but I think it works very effectively as a nice ‘lightening up’ of the tone between the more heavyweight epics, and is well placed in the middle of the set.
The main downside of the album is the somewhat low quality of the vocals. Neal Morse (who I generally rate as an excellent singer) must have had some sort of cold at this concert, as his voice sounds seriously strained and below-par, sometimes rather flat and occasionally even out of tune in places. The backing vocals are also relatively weak, especially when you compare them to those of Spock’s Beard.
So, in conclusion, the question to be asked is, is this a worthwhile purchase? Well, its certainly an enjoyable listen, and if (for some unlikely reason) you’re not acquainted with the studio albums, this would probably be a good taster. It also serves as something of a memento, now that the band are no more. However, I would say there are some quality new studio efforts coming out at the moment that are perhaps more deserving of your money, and therefore this is certainly not essential in that context. Also, given that there’s already a live CD available, it might be more worth your while buying this on DVD instead. As it stands the album does however get a recommendation, mostly on the high quality of the songs contained within, and the fact that as live albums go this is one of the better ones I’ve heard.
Tom de Val : 8 out of 10
Wow, two studio albums and two live albums from the supporting tours that followed them. With a name like Transatlantic it’s no big surprise; the first live album was titled Live In America so Live In Europe was easy to predict in a way. That first release was one of the most honest live albums I have ever heard; no overdubs at all and at times a few mistakes. But this was forgiven, since it was recorded on a mini-tour in the USA and the guys had very little time to rehearse.
The European tour was a bit longer and the band, still consisting of Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, Pete Trewavas and Roine Stolt wisely called in help from an extra hand; Daniël Gildenlow from Sweden’s Pain Of Salvation, to help with vocals, guitars and keys.
I remember the concert vividly where this album was recorded as it was a very special week; Transatlantic one week, Yes with the Symphony Orchestra the next. Life sometimes treats a Prog fan. The show I saw in Tilburg was so extra special, almost unearthly... Seeing the band live on stage, four and a half legends on stage, having fun, giving their best., the whole atmosphere was fantastic. And this album is letting me relive that evening, it’s a simple but fair conclusion. Sure, Neal Morse's sometimes raspy voice could have been a touch better and Stolt’s timing was off sometimes too, but no-one really cared. I rarely had seen an audience respond so into the music and enthusiastic, honest.
It was 2001, a few months after the tragedies in the USA and that feeling of disbelief was still around in the air. Neal Morse's dedication of We All Need Some Light was heartfelt and true. The Beatles medley was a great surprise, the guys had so much fun with doing that, they almost looked like kids in a candystore - yes, even ‘veteran’ Trewavas. The well deserved encore (not rehearsed!) of Pink Floyd’s Shine On You Crazy Diamond was the topping on the humongous Prog Rock cake ... Unfortunately that one will be available as bonus track on the special editions (the CD & DVD).
I can’t wait for the DVD, with which I can also visually relive that magic evening. The only question I have now is this: Neal Morse and Mike Portnoy are coming to Tilburg again in November ’03 ... if that show will be half as good as this one it’s worth buying a ticket and the upcoming live album that will be recorded there ... I don’t have to tell you why I guess? Neal Morse promised Transatlantic songs in his set, out of respect for this show in Tilburg alone I’m sure.
Winston Arntz : 9 out of 10
Well, another Transatlantic live album. This legendary supergroup has produced two studio albums and two live albums, not to mention an album of demo's, an album of alternative mixes and two videos. You might call this milking a dead and gone band (which I do) but on the other hand people seem to be willing to pay money for more of the same, which Transatlantic's music seems to be by definition. Oh well, let's look at this release in it's own right.
The album contains all of the band's big epics (Duel with the Devil, Stranger in Your Soul, My New World, All of the Above and Suite Charlotte Pike) plus a rather nice version of We All Need Some Light. Most of the epics are played in very similar versions to the studio recordings. As such these versions don't hold much added value, with the only real exception being Suite Charlotte Pike. The latter is combined with most of the songs from The Beatles' B-side of Abbey Road. Quite a nice thought since this material consists of unrelated bits and pieces glued together into one big medley of material which was not among the best material Lennon and McCartney have written. Thereby being to The Beatles what Suite Charlotte Pike is to Transatlantic. Personally I don't care all that much for these particular Beatles songs but the resulting 30+ minute medley must be a real treat for those who do. I also have to admit that some of the transitions between the Beatles and Transatlantic segments work remarkably well.
The rest of the first CD doesn't do much for me either since the band still needs to get into it during the first track, thereby resulting in an inferior version of Duel With The Devil. Especially some of Morse's keyboards are rather dodgy in the first segments of this song. My New World also has some flaws and is therefore inferior to the studio version as well.
Now, the second disc is much better ! The versions of All of the Above and Stranger in your Soul are played almost flawlessly and with an unsurpassed energy. These two epics are a joy to listen to and not just because they are the best two compositions the band has made in their short existence. A nice little extra for the trivia lovers among you is the piano solo from Spock's Beard's Love Beyond Words, which has been incorporated in Stranger in your Soul
All in all a nice CD if you are an absolute die-hard Transatlantic-addict or like Abbey Road's B-side a lot. Otherwise this CD is a nice-to-have and - although I haven't seen it - the DVD version of this release might be a better option since it offers you the visual aspect of the performance as well.
Ed Sander : 7 out of 10
I have been anxiously awaiting the release of this album and the DVD of the same concert. At the time of this concert I had a number of places to go to in one weekend so I had some choices to make. It meant that I did not get to go to this concert. Then, when word got out that Neil Morse was quitting Spock's Beard and Transatlantic, I knew I had let pass the one chance I had to see Transatlantic live.
Because of that I did not know whether to hope this would be a good or a bad album: on one hand I would like to have been able to experience this concert but on the other hand, that would make my choice at that time even more painful.
Usually a live registration does two things for me:
It shows how good a band is able to play their music out of studio. Because there is no chance to hide defects or re-record tracks until they are perfect a live recording really shows the quality of musicians. Furthermore it would be nice if the live show would add something to the studio recording. Just playing the studio album in my opinion is not good enough, I like, for instance, how Peter Gabriel adds new intros to songs that go on for a number of minutes at his live performances. Fish makes up new lyrics to some of his songs at each performance, so a song could be growing throughout a tour.
As to be expected this album shows that all Transatlantic's musicians are super! But who would have thought otherwise? At times the vocals are a bit thin and that towards the end of the concert that is even more noticeable (so they really are human?). But it does not really bother me.
Unfortunately this live album lacks a little of the second item: all tracks are played perfectly and some of the sounds are a bit different but there are no amazing discoveries to be expected from this album. Even the fact that Daniel Gildenlow (of Pain Of Salvation) is helping out in this performance does not add as much as I had hoped. There are some backing vocals in which his own sound is undisputable there. So judged by this standard only My New World is really something new: it has a medley (Mike's medley) of a number of other songs about halfway. It is really fun to listen to.
Does this mean that I am disappointed? Yes! But not because of this album but because of the fact that I missed this concert. The atmosphere that I sense from this album is one of really easy-going-fun-loving (a bit smug even) relaxed people on stage that take their time to please their audience (and have fun while doing so). On 2 discs 5 of 6 tracks are well over 15 minutes. Of course this is because most songs of Transatlantic are that long but the fact that they did not really shorten any of the songs is really special.
Listening to this live concert makes me re-live the first time that I heard the 2 studio albums: Amazement of the fact that a band like this even exists (existed) and that they took the time away from their own bands to make music like this. I kind of renewed my Transatlantic appreciation.
There are some moments in this recording that I would have like to have played the DVD to find out who is saying playing or singing what. So I think in the future I would like to own that one also but for now I will make do with the CD's and that's no problem at all: this is a very enjoyable live album.
Dries Dokter : 8 out of 10
Without a shadow of doubt, Transatlantic have been the most talked about supergroup within the progressive rock world over the last couple of years. Much has been said about the components of the band and the recent announcement by one of their mainstays, Neal Morse, that he would no longer be participating within the Transatlantic framework, an announcement that will seriously dent the possibility of this band releasing further studio material unless they be out-takes from past sessions. Hence the probable decision to release this double live album, Live In Europe.
Transatlantic have been one of the few bands in recent years that has managed to represent the classical progressive rock style of lengthy ten minute plus tracks, full of catchy hooks as well as neat time changes, and pull it off in style. So what does one get on this Live In Europe double album? Well, when the band had released their first live album, Live In America, it was shortly after the release of their debut SMPTe and thus the concert was augmented by the inclusion of cover versions of the band's favourite artists. For Live In Europe the Band had accumulated two studio albums' worth of material and thus the album is divided into three tracks from SMPTe and three tracks from Bridge Across Forever. Notwithstanding the dearth and length of their own material it seems the band could not resist delving into renditions of their collective favourite band, The Beatles. This occurs with the surprising yet intriguing inclusion of various pieces (a whole side!) of Abbey Road within Suite Charlotte Pike.
Musically one cannot but speak in favour of the musicianship of this band and this is never in any doubt not even when they are playing live. The only thing I was never too comfortable with was their method of rotating vocals between the various members, a feat that at times leaves the vocals flat and strained. The other aspect of this recording that irked is the non-live feel of the audience. It seems that the recording was a sound board recording with little or no ambience mikes set up. Thus the warmth of the Dutch audience seems to be missing as the only sound that is picked up is what actually gets caught off the microphones of the band.
On a side note one should also mention that the album can also be purchased as a 2-DVD or as a 2-CD/2-DVD set.
On the whole this is an album that is definitely worth having especially when one notes that the remote probability of further Transatlantic material released in the future. This is also an ideal starter for those who till now do not have any of the studio albums of this band as it feature what in my opinion are the better of the pieces of the studio albums.
Nigel Camilleri : 7.5 out of 10