Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#673 in the Series) is the debut from Flying Colors
This is the first record from a five some of talented veteran musicians who have mad skills at playing and combining rock, pop, fusion and even a touch of metal. Mike Portnoy is the founder and now ex-member of Dream Theater and even if he is not your favorite drummer, you would have to admit he is one of the best. Bass player David LaRue is a longtime member of Dixie Dregs, who, if you have never heard of them, I can tell you it aint country (though they do a great rock/hillbilly instrumental piece called “Where’s Dixie?).
His fellow band member is one of the all-time most talented guitarists, Steve Morse, who sounds like every great rock guitarist you love (check out Morse solo records Major Impact 1 & 2 on which he works in his influence of all the greats and make them sound almost as if they are covers, but indeed all songs are original). He is over the top gifted with both electric and acoustic and I had the good luck to see him and LaRue play a double bill that featured Steve Morse Band opening for Dregs.
Neal Morse, one the most talented singer-songwriters, keyboardists and guitar players also is in Flying Colors. You may have heard him in early Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic, Yellow Matter Custard, a deep solo catalogue, and if none of these ring a bell, stop reading and go get some of his stuff because he is incredible.
The last member is Casey MacPherson who handles most of the lead vocals and who I must admit to not knowing much about, but I think he does a really nice job showing decent range in the different styles represented on the album.
It is impossible to guess what happens when it comes to putting a record like this together, with so-called virtuosos forming a super group. This was long in the forming but I can’t help but think short in the making because of all the directions the members travel in. In fact, it was written and mostly recorded in nine days! My buddy Mark Burke said it was not a “first listen record,” but when I first got my ears on it, I had to disagree when I got through seven of the first 11 songs. But sometimes it is when, where, and how you listen to something. I was at home, reading, listening on headphones. The next day in traffic on my way to work in the car I heard what he meant. I sampled the first 30 seconds of each track, stopping on his favorite and eventually mine and I think the best track on the album, the last song a nearly 12 minute mini-epic which features all the greatness pitching in. In the end and on the seventh or eight listen, I will tell you I love it and think it is possible you will too given your discerning taste.
The track listing is something I can’t help but wonder about. Here the first two songs work really well, “Blue Ocean” a Jeff Beck-like gem, the 2nd a metal rock fusion featuring pop vocals. The next few kind of take some time getting into. But the first really great song filled with Beatle-like hooks is called” Love is What I’m Waiting For.” It sounds like nothing else on the record and the vocals of Neal Morse really help make the reference to the Fab Four legitimate. The shredding of Steve Morse guitar and the thrashing of Mike Portnoy’s drums finally make a furious appearance in “All Fall Down”, and the last track, “Infinite Fire” could have been a Transatlantic piece, only a shorter version. I might have put this song as the first track as it sounds much closer to what people who would be listening to this music would expect. But who am I to second-guess the producer Peter Collins (Rush, Bon Jovi, Elton John) or engineer Michael Brauer (Dylan, Stones, Coldplay, John Mayer).
There are no songwriting credits on the record, though veteran fans of these guys can probably figure out who wrote what. I do like to see that listed on a record, as I remember how cool I thought it that Jon Anderson got sole writing credit for “Siberian Khatru”. It would be foolish to think this is not a band as much as it is a project, but it a cool album and todays cool album of the day. Put it on and turn it up!
– John Driscoll, Chicago, Illinois, USA
- “Blue Ocean” 7:05
- “Shoulda Coulda Woulda” 4:32
- “Kayla” 5:20
- “The Storm” 4:53
- “Forever in a Daze” 3:56
- “Love is What I’m Waiting For” 3:36
- “Everything Changes” 6:55
- “Better Than Walking Away” 4:57
- “All Falls Down” 3:22
- “Fool in My Heart” 3:48
- “Infinite Fire” 12:02
- Casey McPherson – lead vocals, electric guitar, keyboards
- Steve Morse – acoustic guitar, electric guitar
- Dave LaRue – bass guitar
- Neal Morse – keyboards, vocals
- Mike Portnoy – drum, percussion, vocals, lead vocals on “Fool in My Heart”
- Bill Evans – Executive Producer
- Peter Collins – Producer
- Official Flying Colors Website
- See our piece on Transatlantic.
- More 2012 Reviews
- Back to the Cool Album Home Page
Here’s the “Electronic Press Kit” for Flying Colors