Sound: Flying Colors was seeded by a discussion of collaboration between Neal Morse and Steve Morse back in 2010, and has grown into a supergroup including members of the Dixie Dregs; Steve Morse, and Dave LaRue, as well as Neal Morse (Transatlantic as well as a solo musician), Casey McPherson (from Alpha Rev) and Mike Portnoy. According to the band, the entire album was recorded in nine days in early 2011. They obviously have the right type of chemistry for a supergroup as the album is really good especially for a first effort. I hope they continue on with more releases. I enjoy hearing a prog rock album that doesn't sound like an overcomplicated mess.
Immediately, my first thought on listening to this album is I like it much more than the release by Adrenaline Mob. The music is much better from a compositional and songwriting standpoint. I think that down the road Mike Portnoy is going to appreciate his name tied to Flying Colors much more than with Adrenaline Mob. While Adrenaline Mob is heavier, Flying Colors is just more interesting to listen to. The guitar work done by Steve Morse is very competent and at times inspiring, with his solos being very expressive, and while his playing doesn't sound like David Gilmour something of the spirit or feel of his soloing is very similar on this album. The more I listen to the album, the more I am enjoying Steve Morse's soloing. Steve has had a lot of time and experience to master his craft, playing with Kansas, Deep Purple, Dixie Dregs and the Steve Morse Band. He definitely comes across as the MVP. // 9
Lyrics: The lead vocals are covered by Casey McPherson, the lead vocalist from Alpha Rev, supposedly chosen by Mike Portnoy to join Flying Colors because of his ability for a very emotive vocal delivery. The rest of the band with the exception of Steve Morse and Dave LaRue join in for backing vocals. The vocal style fits with the music, and Casey is really on top of his game. On top of the vocal delivery, the mixing done on the vocals is really exceptional. They manage to not fade into the background without overpowering the instrumentation. You have to give credit to Bill Evans and Peter Collins, who produced the album, as the mixing is phenomenal.
As an example of the lyrics, on the track "Everything Changes" the first verse is, "so you found a new place you can crawl/ no it is never easy to live inside a broken heart/ live inside a broken heart/ food just doesn't taste quite the same/ living in a basement/ you're fast asleep and never found/ like you never were around". I'm enjoying that the lyrics seem to have some substance to them. Unfortunately, I can't find any transcribed lyrics for the album, so I may have got a few lyrics wrong from "Everything Changes" as I don't have anything to check myself against. While I won't type out the lyrics, I also am really enjoying the lyrics, vocal delivery as well as the instrumentation on "All Falls Down". Really, the lyrics stand out as you can tell the songs are trying to say something instead of just adding to the musical texture. // 8
Overall Impression: The song "The Storm" is my least favorite song on the album as it sounds very middle of the road and bland to me. A close second for worse song on the album would be "Better Than Walking Away" because it also comes across as too middle of the road. My favorite song on the album would have to be "Everything Changes", with an awesome intro, multiple guitar interludes/solos, and an overall epic atmosphere. My second favorite song on the album is "All Falls Down", which reminds me of Muse and Queen. "All Falls Down" is probably also the heaviest song on the album.
The highlights of the album is the very expressive guitar work by Steve Morse, the genius arrangement and composition, the emotive delivery by McPherson and, of course, the percussion provided by Mike Portnoy. Going into this album I really wasn't prepared to be as impressed with this album as I am. This album will be going on heavy rotation on my mp3 player and I'm going to be crossing my fingers in the meantime that they continue to collaborate with each other for more albums to come. Great stuff. // 8
- Brandon East (c) 2012