Supergroups come in various shades and ahem colors these days. One of the brighter entries is Flying Colors, described as a “virtuoso prog/pop/metal rock band” with the impressive roster of drummer Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater), guitarist Steve Morse (Deep Purple), bassist Dave LaRue (Steve Morse band), keyboardist and vocalist Neal Morse (Spock’s Beard) and Texas-bred lead vocalist and guitarist Casey McPherson. One spin and it’s easy to recognize that the group’s self-titled debut is indeed an amalgamation of various shades and ahem colors.
Flying Colors is an intense study of contrasts, ranging from overtly melodic to methodically complex to balls-out and over-the-top. “Blue Ocean,” the inauspicious opening salvo, traverses any foregone conclusions as the few seconds of studio chatter indicate a bit of scrambling on everyone’s part to find their place in the mix. It’s only when “Shoulda Coulda Woulda” kicks in and realigns the direction into a denser, heavier attack that you begin to sense something extraordinary.
Tracks like “Kayla” and “The Storm” reaffirm the pop tag, wrapping sustainable vocal harmonies around arpeggiated passages. Then, out of nowhere, “Forever In A Daze” leaps forward and twists itself into a zestful power thrust, punctuated by LaRue’s funky bass lines and sweetened up by McPherson’s soaring vocal. “Love Is What I’m Waiting For,” a Queen-meets-ELO exercise in grandiosity, follows and suddenly you’re hearing Steve Morse doing his best Brian May.
“Better Than Walking Away” is the tear-jerker of the set a ballad with a profound undertow and a striking example of the unit’s commercial potential. The tables turn again as the manic thumping of “All Falls Down” has Morse frantically racing his fingers up and down the fretboard, perpetuating the song’s anxious theme. With pop and metal adequately covered, it’s up to the 12-minute opus “Infinite Fire” to show off the band’s prog prowess.
With legendary producer Peter Collins steering the ship, Flying Colors convened for just nine days to compose and record this album. With other commitments and limited time, it’s difficult to assess the band’s future beyond it being a one-off collaboration between exceptional musicians. But if the players decide to hit the road and take Flying Colors further, one can only imagine the possibilities of even more shades and ahem colors.
~ Shawn Perry