Transatlantic is a magical band made up of several of my favorite musicians. First of all there is Neal Morse, my favorite song-writer/musician of all time- I think he is a musical genius. His music will be featured frequently in the "Masterpieces of Music". He is the main composer of this epic and his signature sound is all over it. Taking over the drum chair is Mike Portnoy, one of the most virtuosic drummers around today. Then there is Roine Stolt, who is at the head of another one of my favorite bands (The Flower Kings), taking over the guitar duties. He adds a unique spice to every project he is a part of. Finally there is Pete Trewavas who does a masterful job at playing the bass- truly one of the great bass players in the modern prog scene today. These four huge players in the prog scene came together for two incredible albums and, to me, the song "Stranger In Your Soul" is the peak (and unfortunately the end) of their amazing run.
One of my earliest memories of this song is when I was walking to High School one morning. I always would carry my discman with me and listen to a favorite CD during my walk to school. This particularly day the CD of choice was "Bridge Across Forever" and I was on the song "Stranger In Your Soul". It was a rainy day, and I didn't have a rain jacket or umbrella, but for some reason I was in absolute heaven listening to this sublime piece of art. The rain pounding on my head was like the drums pounding throughout the song and I was in a musical trance that I really hadn't experienced to this degree before. One of my friends moms pulled up to me and offered me a ride to school and I turned her down because I couldn't stand the thought of having to turn off this epic song that was giving me so much enjoyment. So, I continued walking in the pouring rain getting drenched, but feeling the music pulse through me stronger than ever.
Another reason I love this song so much was that it signified the day that I knew I had truly converted my best friend to Prog. He told me about how he was so in love with this song that he had to listen to it 4 times in a row (quite an undertaking for a 30 minute epic). I was impressed and ecstatic that his favorite song was mine as well and that we could share this new bond to strengthen our friendship. I also chose this song to be the final one I listened to before my mission. I was depressed because I wasn't going to be able to listen to my music for 2 whole years! But, as I listened to this song on the car ride to the MTC, tears of joy ran down my face. It was the perfect symbol for what I was going through at the time and continue to go through daily.
To me, this song is a metaphor for life and what we as humans go through in our lifetime. We are born as strangers and we spend our life trying to figure out who we are. We try to figure this out by looking into our past and grasping onto things that aren't of any worth. This search to find our true selves is what drives us and can ultimately lead us to awaken that stranger in our soul, to find out who we truly are and what our potential is. There is a lot of bad stuff happening in the world outside, but we can always find comfort in knowing who we truly are and what we can become. This is what life is all about, finding out who we really are- awakening the stranger in your soul. It is beautiful.
And, of course, the music behind all of these meaningful lyrics is incredible for the whole 26 minutes or so that makes up this masterpiece. It begins with the great string melody that begins the album on Duel With The Devil. Then you hear Mike's drums in a very unique rhythm before Neal comes in with the keyboards. It is an awesome buildup that creates excitement for what is to come. The first section, "Sleeping Wide Awake" introduces the main themes and is a beautiful piece that leads right into the hard rocking "Hanging In The Balance" where the 4 members get to trade off vocal lines in a very unique fashion. This technique really displays the confusion that can come from trying to find out who you really are.
Part 3, "Lost and Found Pt. 2", brings back an older theme on the album from "Suite Charlotte Pike" and is a lot of fun. It is a great way to convey the desire of trying to become found when you feel lost. Then, things slow down considerably for "Awakening the Stranger" which is pretty much just Neal playing beautiful keyboards and singing passionately. This passage describes the beginnings of the Awakening process and it is beautifully done. But, its not over yet, because this leads back into another rocking section called "Slide" which is one of the more fun bits in the song. All musicians are playing top notch here and the lyrics describe getting rid of all the doubt and fears and truly coming into your awakening process for your soul. Then comes the ultimate climax that is the most grandiose, beautiful ending for an album/song ever. This is a huge chill inducing moment as the first part of the song is repeated, but the lyrics are changed ever so slightly to have the complete opposite meaning from the beginning. No longer is the individual lost and a stranger to himself...now he has found himself and awakened that stranger in his soul. He can rise up to his potential and do that which he was meant to do! This is brilliant and gets me emotionally everytime I listen to it.
This song is a true masterpiece and I can't imagine any song ever surpassing it. It is the perfect description of everything I love about music and about life in general. If you haven't heard it, you are severely missing out on a life changing experience.
(Quick Note: This entry is quite a bit longer than what most entries in this section will be- I got a little bit carried away.)