Review by Rick Ossian
On this, their eponymous debut, Flying Colors have indeed passed the test.
Although my wife made the comment that, in several instances, the music was “a bit churchy”, fear not! There is plenty of colorful jamming here also. Take opener, Blue Ocean, for example: not only does Steve Morse wail away — he does it with a flair and a regularity that will stymie even the faithful. I got to the point where, in my brief notes for the review, I was writing ‘SSS’ on nearly every song. In case you were wondering, the triple S refers to a ‘sweet Steve solo’ or ‘slamming Steve solo’, whichever you prefer. There is some Progginess on offer, sure – with this line-up you would be disappointed if there wasn’t. There is also brevity, melody, harmonies worth of Crosby Stills Nash & Young, and a general disregard for meeting folks’ expectations.
A truly auspicious opening.
Just when you think you’ve got them pegged, though, FC throw a real heavy track at us. Shoulda Coulda Woulda leaves any Prog aspirations in the dust with due haste, plastering you up against your wall begging for mercy. The main vocalist of the bunch, Alpha Rev’s Casey McPherson, is on display here. I say “main” because we also have Mike Portnoy (formerly of the mighty Dream Theater), who does himself right on backing vocals whilst being the percussion mainstay that he is. There is also a vocalist extraordinaire over on the keyboards, incidentally, former Spock’s Beard mainman Neal Morse (who has also distinguished himself with an excellent solo repertoire). He and Mike, as it turns out, have harmonized before — not only on Neal’s solo stuff, but with the Prog supergroup Transatlantic.
While we’re on about the personnel, the Steve referred to above, of course, is Steve Morse (Dixie Dregs, Kansas, Deep Purple). Steve has also had an incredible solo adventure in addition to his many worthy stints in the bands listed, and brought along an incredible bass player, Dave LaRue (Dixie Dregs), with him. He stands out on several tracks here, especially the ballad Kayla, All Falls Down, Forever In a Daze, and the closer, Infinite Fire. Dave’s popping, funky basslines (I was reminded of Flea, for one) are liberally sprinkled throughout here.
Meantime, The Storm, at least for its introductory moments, reminded me distinctly of Springsteen, with its workmanlike tones and strumming guitar. Do not be fooled, however, dear reader — this is not a Woody Guthrie tribute. The Americana-type nuances end there. There are ballads, sure, and well done ballads. Better Than Walking, Love Is What I’m Waiting For and Fool In My Heart are all mellower tunes, but hold up well and are exquisitely executed. That being said, we know what most of us/you are here for. We want to hear the epic Prog pieces, don’t we? Well, I did, at least. You can’t help but wonder, again, with this line-up, why there isn’t more of it.
The opener, Blue Ocean, vindicates us from the beginning, but some of the Prog stalwarts may have found Flying Colors floundering in between the epics. No need for them to worry, either, as Everything Changes, just shy of seven minutes, is a long, slow, beautiful epic, complete with violin and piano breaks. The closer, Infinite Fire, is a masterpiece of literally epic proportions, clocking in at twelve minutes. It contains most of what we deem Proggy – twiddling solos, guitar/synth duelling, and an introduction featuring wind chimes! There is also a bad-ass rhythm lock here throughout the song, something which you wouldn’t normally associate Prog, but it works well here. I am looking forward to hearing more. When Portnoy isn’t busy with Adrenaline Mob or his various drum clinics (word has it he’s been jamming with Billy Sheehan, Tony MacAlpine and Derek Sherinian), that is!