FLYING COLORS – Flying Colors (2012)
The new super group FLYING COLORS formed by ex Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy started with a simple idea: virtuoso musicians and a pop singer joining to make new-fashioned music the old fashioned way.
The self-titled record, which was produced by Peter Collins (Rush, Queensrÿche), will be available on March 27.
Indeed an all star band, Flying Colors features guitarist Steve Morse (Deep Purple, Dixie Dregs), keyboardist Neal Morse (Transatlantic, Spock’s Beard) and bassist Dave LaRue (Dixie Dregs). Each artist is renowned in his domain. Drawing from rock, metal, prog, jazz-fusion, they had the potential to fuse their diverse styles into a unique, cohesive sound.
Attention then turned to finding a pop singer who could channel their combined musicality into an accessible mainstream form. The project executive producer Bill Evans and Collins reviewed over 100 top contemporary singers, but no one felt exactly right.
As desperation began to set in, Mike Portnoy casually mentioned, ‘I know a guy’. That guy turned out to be a new signing to the Hollywood/Disney label: singer / songwriter Casey McPherson.
What? A Disney singer? OMG.
Well, believe it or not, Flying Colors resulted into an exciting product, and one of the reasons is Casey McPherson’s fantastic voice, alongside the superb musicianship all of the monsters involved.
First of all, let me guide you where the musical style of this project is located: this is progressive rock with an stylized pop approach in the vein of Kevin Gilbert and the neo prog side of Transatlantic.
But there’s many other influences, combining accessible melodies with some intricate and fascinating arrangements.
The album starts with the extremely melodic and somehow catchy “Blue Ocean”. A song composed around a solid bass line complemented by Portnoy’s skilled rhythm job behind the skins, it is flourished by great appearances of Steve Morse’s guitar. McPherson’s sweet and melodic vocals rounds the color of this captivating tune.
Portnoy partially takes the mic in a couple of tracks, as on the polymorphic “Shoulda Coulda Woulda”, an interesting track with a strong riff, but honestly, I miss McPherson’s warm tone.
“Kayla” is one of the highlights. It’s a perfect proggy pop semi-ballad with a single potential. McPherson soaring vocals are supported by very well assembled harmonies, resulting in a delicious song where Marillion comes to mind.
The band goes more mainstream with the commercial, British sounding “The Storm”, and later on the ballad “Everything Changes”.
“Love Is What I’m Waiting For” has a beatlesque melody blended with some late seventies light prog. Here McPherson makes clear that he is a terrific singer. Morse shines with a meaty six string solo as well.
“Everything Changes” is a very good old style prog song, calm and ethereal, which is followed by the aforementioned ballad.
At this point we’re hungry for a rocker… well, we’re satisfied by the fully speed-up “All Falls Down”. Here, all the members display their virtuosity.
“Fool In My Heart” is another short, commercial poppy track, with a melancholic bluesy vibe.
The album ends with a 12 min track, “Infinite Fire”, which obviously includes several parts. Starts with a melodic and articulated solo (really good) by Steve Morse, then morphs into a light proggy melody in the Yes ’80s style with many interesting instrumental passages in between.
Flying Colors has delivered a fascinating piece of music, surprising us with the unorthodox orientation for what we expect by the musicians involved.
All the songs are easy to the ears, but after each listen of this charming CD, you discover a new dimension, a new arrangement, a new color hidden in these wonderful songs.
Another good point in Flying Colors is, – despite the virtuosity at hand – that each musician serves to the song, with the necessary room to fly, yes, but not overwhelming the whole thing.
One of the responsible for this result was master producer Peter Collins (Rush, Queensryche, Gary Moore) who has helmed the intersection of virtuoso and pop music better than anyone. He presided over Rush’s evolution from long-form prog band to short-song rock band, producing four studio albums with them and helping drive 30 million in sales. His experience on this matter is clear on Flying Colors’ debut.
Additionally, Casey McPherson is a revelation to me. A complete and accomplished vocalist owner of a rich, melodious and warm timbre.
Definitely, you must listen Flying Colors’ debut.
01 – Blue Ocean
02 – Shoulda Coulda Woulda
03 – Kayla
04 – The Storm
05 – Forever In A Daze
06 – Love Is What I’m Waiting For
07 – Everything Changes
08 – Better Than Walking Away
09 – All Falls Down
10 – Fool In My Heart
11 – Infinite Fire
Mike Portnoy (drums, vocals)
Casey McPherson (lead vocals, guitar)
Steve Morse (guitar)
Dave LaRue (bass)
Neal Morse (keyboards, vocals)