Label: Music Theories/Mascot Label Group
Release Date: September 30, 2014
Review Date: September 28, 2014
When prog super group, Flying Colors, came out with their self-titled debut album, the critics were united in acknowledging it as being among the most fascinating releases of 2012. Teaming the talents of such heavyweight names as Deep Purple/Dixie Dregs/ex-Kansas guitarist Steve Morse, drummer Mike Portnoy (Transatlantic, Winery Dogs, ex-Dream Theater), Neal Morse (Transatlantic, Spock’s Beard and a prolific solo artist), bass player Dave LaRue (Dixie Dregs, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and more) with a comparatively new talent, pop singer/songwriter Casey McPherson, the band challenged conventional wisdom about combining virtuoso music and melodic songwriting. Or, as the quintet’s modus operandi was once memorably defined by founder Bill Evans, ‘crafting new-fashioned music the old-fashioned way’. GuitarWorld.com has premiered an album teaser featuring all five band members here.
Evans’ mission was to team a pool of virtuoso players, a pop singer/songwriter, and the right producer—to create sophisticated music that was accessible. Over 100 singer/songwriters were considered for the role. Portnoy pitched the idea of approaching McPherson, a member of the group Alpha Rev, whose 2010 album called ‘New Morning’ that dominated the Billboard Top Ten for 17 weeks. After an hour-long phone call with Evans, the band found their man. As Mike had quite rightly hoped, McPherson went on to prove the ‘x factor’ that elevated Flying Colors above the norm. As Portnoy told Prog magazine: “The idea of having an actual singer – as opposed to a musician that also sang – really opened up a whole other world.”
The UK’s Classic Rock magazine hailed the band’s debut as “fearless”, praising its “Journey-sized choruses” and referencing artists as diverse as The Beatles, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Doors, Muse and even Frank Sinatra. In late 2012, the band toured the United States and Europe, dazzling fans with Flying Colors originals and selections from the catalogues of the five members. The chemistry can be heard on ‘Live In Europe’, a Number #1-charting Blu-ray, DVD, CD and vinyl package recorded and shot in Tilburg, Holland.
Schedules allowing, the protagonists had always viewed Flying Colors as a genuine band as opposed to a mere side project, and quietly yet purposefully they began writing a second studio album. From the first writing session to final delivery of the masters in July 2014, the process took almost a year and half, albeit in four distinct stages: writing sessions via Skype in January/February 2013, another burst of writing and recording at Neal Morse’s house in Nashville, a trip to Portnoy’s home that spawned five additional songs, and finally individual recording/arrangement over the internet throughout the spring of 2014. This time the band opted to self-produce, with Evans, the man responsible for the concept of Flying Colors, reprising his role as Executive Producer and co-engineer. Besides offering a finely tuned set of ears, Evans would remix a track each time an amendment was made, before sending it onto each band member, allowing closer collaboration by the band. “There was no repudiation of producer Peter Collins,” clarifies Evans, “but the guys had become a family and they wanted to try something different.”
“The first album was very much a blind date,” Mike Portnoy explains. “Although we already had ‘Team Dregs’ of Steve/Dave and ‘Team Transatlantic’ of myself/Neal, it was the first time that the five of us – seven if you include Bill Evans and Peter Collins – had collaborated together as a group. This time there was an existing chemistry, we had not only the prior experiences of making the debut album but also the 2012 tour as well.”
Sporting stunning artwork from the legendary designer Hugh Syme (Rush, Aerosmith, Def Leppard, Whitesnake) and bookended by two tracks of truly epic stature – ‘Open Up Your Eyes’ and the multiple-part ‘Cosmic Symphony’ – the album is every bit as breathtaking as the debut. Portnoy stresses that the music’s proggier path was “not conscious at all.” The drummer continues: “Direction was never even discussed. We just did what we do. I think perhaps not having a producer to ‘trim the fat’ possibly led to the songs breathing and expanding a bit more.” Perhaps Steve Morse sums things up best with the statement: “This is an album full of many layers. The more you listen, the more you can hear. It’s an album to keep listening to.” The complete track listing is: "Open Up Your Eyes," "Mask Machine," "Bombs Away," "The Fury Of My Love," "A Place In Your World," "Lost Without You," "One Love Forever," "Peaceful Harbor," "Cosmic Symphony - I. Still Life Of The World; II. Searching For The Air; III. Pound For Pound."
- Written by Randy Patterson