on December 8, 2001
When I first listened to this album, I couldn't wait for it to end...so I could play it again!
TransAtlantic blew me away with their debut, SMPTe. It was certainly a "supergroup," featuring lots of the big names in the Third Wave of Prog: Neal Morse (keyboards/vocals, Spock's Beard), Roine Stolt (guitarist/vocals, Flower Kings), Mike Portnoy (drummer, Dream Theater), and Pete Trewevas (bassist, Marillion). Instead of an album of clashing egos and stoned jamming, SMPTe captured some of the finest progressive rock ever recorded. Barring the prog-nazis and their arrogant opinions, I think everyone was looking forward to TransAtlantic's follow-up. If SMTPe demonstrated such solidarity and chemistry, imagine what the second album would be like!
Is there any reason to be disappointed with Bridge Across Forever? I don't think so. Common criticism of the first album was that it was largely dominated by Neal Morse's songwriting. Bridge Across Forever is definitely more of a full-band effort. Those familiar with all the band members' styles will certainly identify everyone's characteristic touches -- Morse's melody, Stolt's vibrant playing, Trewevas' tasteful licks, Portnoy's intense drumming. (There's a quick bit of metal on "Stranger in Your Soul"...I'm guessing that was Portnoy's idea.) Each member of the band gets a shot at lead vocals, and the vocal harmonies are outstanding. In all cases, the musicianship is intense, technical, and ambitious, but never goes over-the-top.
I think "All of the Above" from SMPTe might beat everything here, but on the whole this album is more consistent and more...beautiful. That's right, there are many beautiful moments of triumph and splendor on this album. Interestingly, Bridge Across Forever seems to be a concept album, or at least a theme album. Repeat listens reveal recurring lyrical themes and musical motifs, but I can't figure out the story if there is one. One possible theme is self-discovery ("awakening the stranger in your soul"...). Neal Morse is a very spiritual writer, so it seems plausible.
"Duel with the Devil" is the massive 25-minute opener, beginning with a baroque-ish string overture before the band unleashes a melodic frenzy of the song's main themes. Amazing vocals and stunning instrumental passages abound! I presume it was Stolt who brought the jazzy vibe into the long interlude, which includes some saxophone/guitar interplay. At the end, the "Elite" choir comes in to sing the final chorus. This small but pretty choral ensemble, combined with Morse's keys and Stolt's soaring guitars, is intensely dazzling and will send shivers up and down your spine...unless you're dead. Then it's impossible.
The Beatles remain a powerful influence for the band, and this is particularly evident on "Suite Charlotte Pike." Echoes of side-2 Abbey Road are prevalent here. The difference is that TransAtlantic consists of musicians who are about 4000 times more skilled (and Portnoy being about 3 billion times better than Ringo Starr). Otherwise, there's huge Beatles vibes here. Consider this track TA's homage to the Beatles. I like it more than the Beatles' output though, so sue me. Hand-claps, harmonies, and hooky melodies make this one fun.
The 5-minute title track gives the listener some breathing room in between the absolute musical intensity that's characterized the album so far. That's not to say "Bridge Across Forever" is filler; it's actually one of the most beautiful songs Morse has ever written. The first time you hear it, you just think "Wow, it's pretty...pretty slow." The sparse arrangement -- consisting of piano, slight string synths, and Morse's delicate vocals --doesn't hit you right away. However, it becomes an addictive little piece. The spiritual lyrics, the soft beaming melodies, and the weighty emotion are wonderful. Many times I've hit the "repeat" button and let the song play over and over... "I've had this dream all my life..."
The final track, "Stranger in Your Soul," is a gleaming progressive playground. This song, like "Duel..." begins with the string ensemble, but after that it moves in different directions. It brings in ethereal soft sections, a crashing metal movement (though the heaviness has no negative effect on the band's melodies), and lyrics that make you feel pretty darn good. The ending to this song is almost deafening in its melodic glory. It will make your heart sing! It will raise your spirits, and lift you off the ground. It's really outstanding.
In my "progressive rock" category, Bridge Across Forever is my favorite release of 2001. Everything about it is great. I hope we continue to see these folks get together for a few more albums over the years.
on November 21, 2001
The first album from this prog-rock supergroup was notable for its 30-minute epic, All of the Above. The rest of the CD seemed little more than an exercise in self-indulgence. For those who may not already know, Transatlantic consists of Neal Morse on keyboards (Spock's Beard), Mike Portnoy on drums (Dream Theater), Roine Stolt on guitar (Flower Kings) and Pete Trewavas on bass (Marillion). All four members contribute vocals to the mix. When the band's new CD arrived, I checked out the track list and noticed there were only four tracks. With two of them being over the 25-minute mark, I figured this was going to be like their first CD. Man, was I wrong. Structurally, the album is similar to the second side of The Beatles' Abbey Road. Bits and pieces of songs reappear over the course of the disc, with the band moving effortlessly between the musical passages. The musicianship is outstanding throughout (as you would expect), but the songwriting is now more of a group effort.
The first track, "Duel with the Devil" is broken down into five parts. It begins with a string section, followed by Neal Morse's piano to introduce the theme. The rest of the band comes in rocking on "Motherless Children." Things quiet down initially on "Walk Away," then the band rocks hard. The "Motherless Children" theme comes back in during "You're Not Alone," and then again later in "Almost Home"--this time, sung by The 'Elite' Choir as the suite builds to a majestic finish. If this were the only track on the CD, it would be well worth the price. But there's more--a lot more.
One of the coolest things about this disc is the way the band obviously doesn't take itself too seriously. Most prog bands come across as being stiff perfectionists who never make mistakes and do everything for the sake of their craft. After a false start, "Suite Charlotte Pike" breaks down and you hear someone say, "What's up?" Someone comes back with a "WASSUP!" and the band bursts into laughter. Recorded live in the studio, you can hear the studio chatter in places during the song. The track starts with the rocking "If She Runs," which is full of Beatlesque 4-part harmonies (Morse is a huge Beatles fan). The second section, "Mr. Wonderful" is the low point on the CD. Things quickly pick up for "Lost and Found Pt. 1" though. It rocks out for a while, and then quiets down for a reprise of "Motherless Children." Stolt turns in a particularly heartfelt guitar solo at the end of "If She Runs (reprise)." Great track.
At 5:32, the title track is the 'short' song on the CD. Essentially just Morse by himself, "Bridge Across Forever" is one of the most beautiful pieces of music the Spock's Beard frontman has ever written. The 30-minute "Stranger in Your Soul" begins quietly with the string intro heard earlier on "Duel With the Devil." Portnoy & Morse fade in over the strings, followed by the rest of the band, as the intro slowly builds to a rocking crescendo. The music fades into the piano backdrop of "Sleeping Wide Awake." However, the quietness quickly subsides as the aural assault of "Hanging in the Balance" comes pummeling its way out of your speakers.
After a quick reprise of "Lost and Found," the band quiets things down again for a brief keyboard interlude, followed by an incendiary bass/guitar duel between Stolt and Trewavas. Again, the music fades as Morse comes to the forefront for "Awakening the Stranger." The last section of the track is the disc's grand finale--combining the previous themes and bringing things to a stunning close. Be sure to stick around after the track ends though. After a two-minute pause, the music from "Suite Charlotte Pike" fades back for a quick reprise (possibly the way the song actually ended in the studio before the fade).
Bridge Across Forever is definitely one of those CDs that you need to hear a few times before you can truly catch everything that's going on. But the best thing about this CD is that not only is the material enjoyable the first time you hear it, it actually gets better with repeated listens. Challenging, yet ultimately accessible, this is clearly the best progressive rock release of the year.
on March 11, 2007
I can't think of a CD I've purchased within the past decade I took a more immediate liking to than this effort. If you like "Foxtrot" or "Nursery Cryme" then you will like this CD as well. There's ample use of Tony Banks-style Hammond -- but with classic Moog and Oberheim patches more predominant than in very early Genesis, and occasional heavier riffs evocative of Spock's Beard or Dream Theater, this CD has a voice of it's own. And what a great voice it is! Catchy melodies and weaving textures that you will find hard to get out of your head.
Now let me attempt to dispel a few prog misconceptions I continue to run across in reviews that may be applied to the music on this CD:
1. Prog rock is pretentious, overblown; Rick Wakeman wears a cape - Hey, that's the genre! If the music and production didn't have a grand scope and sweeping grandeur enveloping it, it wouldn't be prog, now would it? I'm reminded of Mozart's critics in "Amadeus" who generally liked the work, except there were "too many notes." If you don't like long interwoven suites, fully orchestrated sections mixed with a variety of musical textures and lyrics more ethereal than "driving your Chevy to the levee," then don't call yourself an aficionado of the genre while declaiming it as pretentious. Rather, just admit you don't like prog rock. And Rick Wakeman only wore the cape in concert and put on one helluva great show. It was the 70s. Big name rockers wore garments a lot stranger than a cape! I can't figure out all the Wakeman-bashing going on out there.
2. New prog rock bands like Transatlantic and Spock's Beard are derivative - To a degree, yes. You can tell these guys probably wore the grooves out on their early Genesis albums. And you'll find passages evocative of Crimson and Gentle Giant thrown in for good measure. Is that a problem? Again, if the sound were totally foreign when compared to classic prog music then it would have to fit into another genre. "Bridge Across Forever" does an excellent job of blending what was great about 70s prog with their own unique vision and songwriting skills, and I think it compares very favorably to some 70s prog greats. If I had 100 CDs as good as "Foxtrot" or "Nursery Cryme" I'd be thrilled, rather than steamed that the latter was "too derivative."
3. Neal Morse's voice is too nasal, his lyrics are insipid - I don't find that to be the case. I like his voice. As to lyrics, if anyone who likes early Yes music claims Neal Morse's lyrics are insipid, then please explain the lyrics of "Starship Trooper" to me. Or anything off of "Tales From Topographic Oceans." Don't misunderstand me, I love those albums -- "The Yes Album" still stands as one of the greatest 40 minutes of music ever assembled, in my opinion -- but part of the mystique of the prog genre is that you're more likely to run across lyrics describing a Giant Hogweed gone rampant in downtown London as opposed to "good lovin' gone bad." If you don't care for the fantastical in lyrical content then once again I submit you just don't like the genre.
Sorry for the ranting. I'll likely pick up many "not helpfuls" for going off-topic entirely too often, although I think my comments apply to the CD I'm reviewing as well. If you're still unsure about purchasing this CD, reread the first paragraph -- it really says it all.
Transatlantic's first effort (SMPT:E) was pretty good (I gave it four stars), but everything really came together for this, their second album. A big difference - this time they were all in the studio together, whereas for the first one they did a lot of their recordings stand-alone.
That gives this album an energy the first one lacked. You can hear the band members playing to each other, not just to the tape.
I particularly like the last cut, Stranger in Your Soul, which starts out with a rising, pounding introduction that transitions from keyboards to Roine Stolt's great guitar. It then blends to something that might have come from the Trevor Rabin era of Yes.
Duel with the Devil and Suite Charlotte Pike (named for Charlotte Pike in Nashville, TN, where they recorded it) are both excellent. Duel with the Devil does the best job of having a central melodic theme and returning to it over time. Suite Charlotte Pike sounds more like about three songs merged together, but the transitions are pretty good.
The title track is very different from all the others. It's haunting and sad, but well done.
If you like the traditional 70s prog rock - Yes, ELP, maybe a dash of Traffic and Genesis - then I think there are good odds you'll really like this one.
The only unfortunate thing is that Neal Morse, who organized the Transatlantic side effort for these musicians, is on indefinite sabbatical, and has not set any expected return date to recording music. Both Transatlantic and Spock's Beard will suffer as a result.
on December 18, 2001
Like most (retro-)Prog out there, this wore off really quickly. It has neither the artistic depth or the ability for emotional/sensory stimulation to make me want to play it for reasons other than nostalgia. Having sad that, I must acknowledge that, like most of the other 'Prog' I was into for a little while, it was a helpful stepping stone in my exploration of much more valuable beyond-the-charts music. Here is what I had to say about it in December 2001:
"Firstly, I am not a loyalist of either DREAM THEATER (the source of Mike Portnoy, Transatlantic's drummer), MARILLION (Pete Trewavas, bass), SPOCK'S BEARD (Neal Morse, guitar/keyboards/vocals) or the FLOWER KINGS (Roine Stolt, guitar/vocals).
Before hearing Transatlantic, I thought Mike Portnoy was a very overrated drummer, who had a lot of skill, speed and precision, but lacked feel and a special 'touch.' Basically, I thought he was a very 'dry' and overbearing exhibitionist.
Like many others, I've stayed away from 'side projects,' assuming that they lack band coherence, a special character, focus .... That stuff is only for big fans of the particular musicians, I thought.
Furthermore, although I like some classic prog rock (only Yes, really) and the Beard's modern variety of it, I am primarily drawn by prog with a darker and heavier flavour. Transatlantic definitely bears a greater resemblance to the former than the latter. To top it all off, Bridge Across Forever has a strong pop flavour, for which I generally have little taste.
In view of the above, I avoided buying anything from Transatlantic, Liquid Tension Experiment or the like until I read a raving review... which was very persuasive ...
You can imagine my surprise at how much I am enjoying this album a day (about three spins) after purchasing it.
My first impression is that the music on this album feels like one long, exciting yet comfortable journey.
The compositions are very long yet not long-winded. They are all very solid, demonstrating great musical focus and coherence, fusing wonderful rhythms, melodies and ambience seamlessly.
The interaction between the musicians is incredible, with plenty of balance and space for each to shine yet never outshine. The guitars, keys and bass are all great, but what I'm most surprised by is how much I like Portnoy's drumming on this album. To my ears, it's much more natural, lively, 'human,' varied (no, he's not smashing ... his drums all the way through) ... more tasteful and mature (not that word again) than what he's done with DT.
The production is very clean and warm, with an airy, fresh ambience.
Perhaps the reviewers who suggest that this is largely derivative material have a point, but the derivations have been blended and executed so well that lack of originality is not the drawback that it would usually be."
on May 24, 2002
As you may or may not know, Transatlantic is a side project group formed by Mike Portnoy, the insanely talented drummer of Dream Theater. A huge Beatles fan, Mike decided to bring along three other musicians from three very different prog. rock bands to come together and make some music which sounds like The Beatles playing the complex but equally melodic progressive rock of bands like Yes, Genesis, and Kansas. The other three musicians are: Neal Morse, the singer/keyboardist/main songwriter of Spock's Beard; Roine Stolt, the guitar player of The Flower Kings; and Pete Trewavas, the bassist of Marillion. Together, these multitalented guys have created some truly amazing music. I wanted to get their debut SMPT:e, but the record store didn't have it. They did have their second album BRIDGE ACROSS FOREVER and I gladly picked it up and bought it. This is definitely one of the best albums I've ever heard.
There may be only four tracks on this album, but they total to over 76 minutes worth of great music. In particular, the two 26-minute epics go by so fast you feel kind of upset that the time passed you by. Where do I start with BAF? The melodies are memorable, the harmonies are gorgeous, the arrangements are ambitious yet not overbearing, and the musicianship is off the charts. Portnoy is probably my favorite drummer, and he showcases his jazz and pop influences on this album. Plus, his drumming is textural and more restrained, unlike the hyperactive stuff he does for DT (which I love as well). Trewavas is an awesome bass player-heavy and melodic all at once, kind of like Geddy Lee and Paul McCartney rolled into one. I didn't like Neal Morse's voice all that much on the Spock's Beard album V, but I'm surprised that he loses that annoying whine and sings very soulfully and powerful, especially on the title track. His piano melodies and keyboard solos are great. The standout for me however is Roine Stolt. What a talent! This guy is really something. He sings the best out of the four of them (even if his Swedish accent is thick) and his guitar solos just soar. Very technical, too.
Here are the four tracks on the album, in order:
1. "Duel with the Devil"-One of my favorite songs ever. Truly one of the greatest progressive rock epics ever recorded. 26 minutes of pure genius. How many influences can you name? Jazz, folk, hard rock, more jazz, and a children's choir to name a few. I can't praise this song enough. Stolt's guitar solo is amazing. Very Pink Floyd. Check out Portnoy's short but sweet drum solo about 11 minutes in. It's a major highlight.
2. "Suite Charlotte Pike"-A 14-minute tribute to the Beatles. The lyrics don't make much sense, but the Beatles were like that anyway. Great singing by Morse and Stolt and I like the part where all four of them sing a line of the song.
3. "Bridge Across Forever"-A slow, delicate, and moving ballad that gives you a rest after the first two monster tracks. Just Neal and his piano. This is a really beautiful song. It could've won a Grammy. Neal's voice is tender and emotional. Is this the same man that sung on V?
4. "Stranger in Your Soul"-The final track and the second 26-minute piece on the album. Just as diverse as "Duel." There's even a heavy metal part called "Hanging in the Balance." That's my favorite part. You don't even see it coming...until that heavy riff smacks you across the face. Whoa! Pete's harmony ("But I can't hear it now...") is beautiful, and the last 5 minutes of this epic make this the ultimate grand finale.
There you have it. Four epic songs that make up one unforgettable album. BRIDGE ACROSS FOREVER is one of a kind. Mike said that it's going to be a while until the next Transatlantic record comes out. Hopefully these guys will come back together and stir up another bag of musical tricks.
on May 22, 2004
It really is heartbreaking to listen to this and realize all of the vivid inspiration and hard work that went into it, knowing all too well that it will just get swallowed up into one of the countless progressive "side-projects" that never scratch the surface of public awareness. Given the amount of effort put forth into this recording, it is nothing short of supremely admirable that the artists involved actually felt it a worthwhile adventure. Then again, that right there defines the mind-set of a REAL musician; there is nothing to do other than create greatness. Everything else is B.S., regardless of who else cares.
Spock's Beard, Dream Theater, Marillion, and The Flower Kings all donated a genius to the late '90's conglomeration known as TRANSATLANTIC, and this is their second release [masterpiece]. Aside from being a hardcore fan of one or more of the musicians' original bands, it is impossible to listen to this album and have anything other than praise. True, much progressive rock is self-indulgent (the default attack of critics) but I'd like to hear a valid definition of what music SHOULD do other than please one's self! (And no, record sales is not the answer we're looking for. Sorry please try again)
Anyway, if you aren't familiar with Transatlantic, here's a quick synopsis of the type of music you'll be getting into. Think Kansas. Think a hearty balance of both formal composition and improvisation. Hell, think anything that is good rock music. It's highly intelligent, but also highly emotional, equally important. The outro of the first "piece" is very Pink-Floyd like, with epic guitar orchestration. If you know the ending of DT's "Six Degrees...." you know what I'm talking about. Granted there are only 4 "pieces"... or, "songs" here, but the music is so well-written, one would be hard-pressed to make an attack based upon the lack of "song-writing" skills. Unlike much music in this genre, the division of the music into various movements works very well at paying non-pretensious homage to classical structure. There are themes everywhere, catchy ones, that get harmonized, inverted, fragmented, sequenced, and brought back in a later piece. The expert treatment of thematic reccurances prove a 12 (or so) song scheme irrelevant. However the actual titles are defined, it wouldn't really matter. So if you are one skeptical about long songs, rest assured; just put this cd on and zone out - don't worry about how the tracks are listed, it's really just a huge collection of themes and ideas that could be directionless, but they are not; the genius of Neal Morse makes sure of that. Just to break things up, there is one actual "song" with a modest 5 minute length, which is the title track. It's mainly just Morse's baby, but it's tender and sentimental - really a touching song, showcasing great diversity - even if it's not as good as the PERFECT "We All Need Some Light" from the first album.
Again, it's also much more than just academic music. Check out the groove of "Suite Charlotte Pike" if you are thinking about chalking this up to rehashed classic rock nostalgia. No, the only (and I mean ONLY) weakness of the album, if any... which there really isn't any...is the use of some very 70's keyboard solo sounds, but it's not overkill, and there is SO much going on, you'd be hard-pressed to dwell on that. I just can't get over how involved this album is, it should cost much more than the price of just any old cd. It's one of those where every time you listen, you pick up on not just one, but hundreds of new things. It's a good disc that will be in your listening repertoire for quite some years, maybe even until the time when Transatlantic themselves will have forgotten they had ever existed. This albums's got it all, and a healthy dose of everything.
It's equally amazing at how an engineer can even begin to go about mixing such a project, with endless little tracks of fills, accompaniment, and special effects. There's so much going on but somehow Mr. Rich Mouser managed to proceed with the plan of turning a few musicians' vision into a real, coherently flowing, and musical work of art. The only minor complaint here is the use of reverb is a little too conservative. Particularly with the organ, sometimes this music does sound a little pieced together (and 70's ish), although reflecting the true method and side-effect of an international cast trying to override the geography barrier to make one single cohesive record. Still a very minor thing. Top it all off with the methodical mastering of Vlado Meller (I actually had the honor of working for him as an intern!) and you've got one of the greatest albums ever. There, wasn't that easy?
So don't worry about the obscurity of Transatlantic; trust the fact that it's a better investment than most popular stuff out there. If you're trying to sort out what "prog rock" (or more specifically, what Dream Theater side projects) to get, and if there are any corners you can cut with regards to the endless stream of prog albums to keep up with, I advise keeping Transatlantic, O.S.I, Chroma Key, and Liquid Tension Experiment at the top of the list, and everything else can be delegated to the second tier. Wow-I can't believe I actually found words to express the greatness of this album.
If you think like me, let me know.
on October 11, 2001
I've been a huge fan of The Flower Kings, Marillion, Spock's Beard, and Dream Theater for years...and for those of you unfamilliar with the musicians on this CD...those are the "day jobs" of Neil Morse (keyboards/vocals/Spock's Beard), Roine Stolt (guitars/Flower Kings), Mike Portnoy (drums/Dream Theater), and Pete Trewavas (bass/Marillion).
I never thought I'd say this, but all these guys should leave their respective bands and make Transatlantic their permanent gig...that's how impressive this CD is.
Their last CD released a year ago or so was quite impressive, but seemed to be dominated by Messers Morse and Stolt. On this outing, the music is reflective of all the members, truly a group effort by all concerned. What we get here is something that does not suffer from the "sophomore curse" of a band...what we get here is quite simply the best Progressive Rock CD of 2001.
From the terriffic and intellegent lyrics, to the wonderful vocal harmonies, to the challenging but accessable melodies...this CD shines from it's opening moments to the very end. Although the music is in 4 parts, it really is one huge piece of music 76 minutes long with recurrent musical/lyrical themes throughout the disc. Neil Morse does his usually splendid job of playing keyboards (lots of synths on this CD!) and singing, Roine Stolt's blazing guitars shine throughout, Peter Trewevas' bass lines are simply phenominal, and Mike Portnoy proves once and for all why he is probably one of the best percussionists out there!
The music at times sounds like the Beatles, Beach Boys (circa Smile), Genesis and Yes combined...yet there is something uniquely Transatlantic throughout. No one member dominates this disc; they have forged a new group identity with this release, with everyone getting a chance to shine with their respective instruments, whether on a lead or in a support role.
"Duel With The Devil" begins with a string section, and builds up over its 26 minutes to a majectic finale. This piece also serves to introduce many of the recurring lyrical/musical ideas which will unfold throughout the disc.
"Suite Charlotte Pike" starts off funky, and escalates into a tune that could be dropped into side 2 of "Abby Road" without missing a beat. It also begins the reprise of the themes established in "Duel...".
"Bridge Across Forever" is a quiet passage that is filled with beautiful piano, strings, and vocals. It's a quiet 6 minutes in the album which gives the listener some breathing space before the albums finale...
"Stranger In Your Soul" is the last track on the CD and the high point of the album, combining all the themes established in the earlier compositions as well as new ones, to create quite an amazing finale to this disc.
This album is a landmark in Progressive Rock, an album that I believe will be measured in the same breath as "Close To The Edge", or "Court Of The Crimson King". From the AMAZING vocal harmonies, to the superb musicianship, this CD is phenominal. Music like this only comes along every decade or so, perhaps even in a lifetime. It is essential listening for anyone. It is *that* good!
So...like I said in my title...Please, give up your day jobs so we can get more of this amazing music!
on November 27, 2001
For true proggers, this album is best purchased in its Limited Edition version, which contains a bonus disc of covers, demo snippets, and an interactive CD-ROM section, all housed in a hard cover with a beautiful full-color booklet and copious studio notes. The regular release of Bridge Across Forever is legend enough, as it's easily the best prog album since Yes' Close To The Edge. Of course that's no surprise, looking at the all-star line-up: keyboardist/vocalist Neal Morse (Spock's Beard), drummer Mike Portney (Dream Theater), guitarist Roine Stolt (Flower Kings), and bassist Pete Trewavas (Marillion). These musicians are highly talented in their respective main bands, all of which have added significantly to the progressive-rock genre; put them together, however, and the union becomes utterly phenomenal. Each of the record's four, suite-length tracks is multi-layered and simply amazing: the 26-minute "Duel With The Devil" begins with a walking bass line à la Yes' "Sweet Dreams," ends with keyboard atmospherics reminiscent of Yes' "Close To The Edge," and packs plenty of Steve Howe/Rick Wakeman flourishes in between. After a false start, "Suite Charlotte Pike" soars into Beatles/Yes harmonic heaven and is followed by the title track, a brief piano ballad. Another 26-minute monster, "Stranger In Your Soul" ends disc one and is a heavier combination of Trevor Rabin's chordage on Yes' 90125, Jimmy Page's fretwork on Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti, and Rick Wakeman's prowess on his solo epic The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur.
The bonus disc kicks off with a note-for-note cover of Pink Floyd's "Shine On You Crazy Diamond," rendered near perfectly and Transatlantic-ized in spots, with the band putting their signature spin on it. The Beatles' "And I Love Her" gets Latinized in this first-take recording that began with a mere studio chat; unfortunately, the vocals are unprocessed and therefore muffled because of the song's spontaneous birth. Sadly, Deep Purple's "Smoke On The Water" gets the same undersupplied vocal treatment, though their version is fairly brilliant after realizing the group switched instruments: Morse on drums, Portnoy on bass, and Trewavas on keys (the debut of the Transpacific line-up). Then come fly-on-the-wall studio chats; an early demo of "Duel With The Devil" from Morse called "Dance With The Devil"; Stolt's demo meanderings; and a CD-ROM feature with studio footage, band biography, photos, and web links. Made for fans by fans, Bridge Across Forever will stand the test of time to epitomize progressive rock.
on October 15, 2001
It's a long held truth in the music business that second albums are never as good as the first. Unfortunately, Bridge Across Forever is no exception. Make no mistake, this is a solid release from an excellent band, and at times one almost wants to like this album more than SMPTe. That album, however, had a much more fluid composition, deftly moving from one movement to the next without losing the listener's interest. Bridge Across Forever feels more like a montage of solo pieces from each of the band's multi-talented members, which is fine if you like Spock's Beard, The Flower Kings, Marillion, or Dream Theater, but can make parts of the album quite boring if you don't. Listeners who like modern progressive rock but shy away from it's heavier side will find the harder edge in Suite Madame Pike and Stranger In Your Soul hard to swallow. Portnoy's contribution this album is it's weakest asset, though I have to admit I've always found his drumming - though energetic - very predictable. On the other hand, Roine Stolt's guitar playing is sharp and exciting as always, and Neal Morse proves that he's the king of the keyboard.
All in all, I give this album four stars for Roine's playing, Neal's voice and lyrics, and the excellent title track. Fans of Transatlantic won't be disappointed.