Mascot Label Group/Music Theories Recordings
Release date: March 26, 2012 (U.S.) CD | MP3
March 27, 2012 (UK) CD | MP3
When your band Dream Theatre or Deep Purple takes a rest, what is a man to do? Stroke your blond hair and cradle your guitar? Trim your beard and twiddle your drum sticks? Well, no. Late in the year 2010, guitarist Steve Morse and drummer Mike Portnoy decided to start a new band.
For facts’ sake, it was around this time that Portnoy and DT parted ways. But the prog-metal powerhouse and the hard rock fret flyer made for an impressive, if slightly unusual, pairing. The Flying Colors band started to stretch its wings with the addition of Neal Morse, the keyboard player from the spectactularly nerdy-named Spock’s Beard; bass player Dave LaRue; and lead vocalist Casey McPherson. In nine intensive days at the beginning of last year the album Flying Colors was finally recorded.
With touches of Yes and early Genesis but with a hard rock edge, there are some superb examples of super-talented musicians and songwriters getting everything right. But this comes with a caution: Flying Colors swings violently from skilled nerdgasm-inducing prog-rock to top 40 bothering derivative euphoria, and usually back again.
Excellent opening track “Blue Ocean” drowns you in a jazzy blues-shuffle by Portnoy’s drums and LaRue’s bass. Steve Morse throws down some glorious guitar work and a fantastic solo. “Shoulda Coulda Woulda,” a hard-rockin’ beauty which could(a) been written by Velvet Revolver with its heavy guitars and pumping rock drums, further pounds a way forward with Morse, Morse and LaRue all playing the viciously catchy and Deep Purple-ish riff. On “All Falls Down” Portnoy pulls out all his best metal drumming techniques and pounds his kit to within an inch of its life laying the base for more Morse guitar wizardry.
Beautiful slower songs like “Better Than Walking Away” and “Fool In My Heart” (with Portnoy on lead vocals) magnify the band’s sincere and heart-wrenching songwriting. McPherson handles BTWA superbly and never sounds better.
However, too many of the songs, notably “The Storm” and “Love Is What I’m Waiting For,” have a very chart-friendly pop sheen. If that’s your bag, then you’ll get your fill. For the rest of us, or for me at least, it was a little too derivative of the ‘soft rock’ that I thought would be well out of ear-shot given the talent that went into this. Overall, that is what begins to grate and disappoint.
Still, over the 11 tracks there is bound to be a smattering of songs to make you glad you checked the album out. Now if you don’t mind I’m going back to stroking my hair and trimming my beard.