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Flying Colors - Flying Colors CD (album) cover


Flying Colors


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3.53 | 212 ratings

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3 stars With a star-studded lineup of progressive rock veterans and a talented young frontman, the debut effort from American supergroup Flying Colors quickly became one of my most anticipated releases of 2012. The premise behind this project was rather interesting - putting a pop singer alongside virtuoso instrumentalists is bound to produce interesting results, and Flying Colors is certainly a unique album, especially considering what may be expected from the musicians involved. The presence of members and ex-members of Spock's Beard, Transatlantic, Dream Theater, Deep Purple, and Dixie Dregs would lead me to expect something in the jazzy progressive metal spectrum, but the album instead sounds like a meeting ground between alternative rock, hard rock, and modern progressive rock. Although a few aspects of the album may have fallen a bit short of my expectations, Flying Colors still stands as a very fun and impressive listen.

For those unfamiliar with Flying Colors, this project was conceived by producer Bill Evans in 2008 with the intention to create 'new-fashioned music the old fashioned way'. This idea eventually evolved into Flying Colors - a band consisting of Mike Portnoy on drums, Dave LaRue on bass, Neal Morse on keyboards and vocals, Casey McPherson on lead vocals, and Steve Morse on guitar. If you're anything like me, your 'prog senses' should've immediately started to tingle as you read that lineup - and rightfully so. This is a supergroup of truly monumental proportions, but as it turns out, this fact is a bit of a two-fold. On one hand, you'll most certainly be treated to top-notch and highly professional musicianship, but on the other hand, many listeners may have unreasonably high expectations. I think I went into Flying Colors expecting a masterpiece on par with the best material from Spock's Beard or Dream Theater, and while this isn't the case, I don't think that was the intention of the musicians either.

Flying Colors is deliberately different from any of its members' main projects - the listener here will be treated to an interesting mix between alternative rock-influenced melodies, heavy riffs, and progressive rock flourishes. Although Flying Colors would not sound out of place in the collection of a fan of classic progressive rock, it's a much more 'modern' sounding effort than anything you may have expected from the musicians involved. This is a very melodic, song-oriented album that brings groups like Muse to mind, but the bluesy guitar flourishes and proggy outbursts do set Flying Colors apart from anything else I can think of. While the album may not be flawless, I do think that the musicians attempted something unexpected with this project, and they did so with a pretty good hit-miss ratio.

Where Flying Colors feels a bit too much like a 'side-project', however, is in the songwriting department. Although the entire album is certainly well-written from an objective point of view, Flying Colors rarely aims for the level of excellence that one may expect from this observation. Apart from the energetic opener "Blue Ocean", which features some spectacular vocal melodies, and the brilliant closing epic "Infinite Fire", most of the album feels rather safe and homogenous to these ears. That's not to say that this is a poor record by any stretch - actually, the vast majority of the album is quite good (though I could've easily done without the banal pop melodies in "Fool In My Heart"). Flying Colors simply lacks the brilliance that one would expect from such a project, and while there may not be much to complain about apart from the rather predictable melodies, I can't say I was blown away by the debut effort from Flying Colors.

Flying Colors simply feels like a lot of missed potential to me - if the band expanded a bit more upon their strengths (like the jazzy guitar sections, hard rocking riffs, and progressive song structures) and left behind some of the decidedly homogenous pop melodies, this debut could've felt a lot more worthwhile in my eyes. That said, a lot of this is a matter of personal preference, and I know quite a few folks who enjoyed this one more than I did. Flying Colors is an interesting experiment with some untapped potential, but with a bit more refinement, I could see this collective producing some excellent music in the future. Let's hope that we get to hear more from this quintet in the coming years!

J-Man | 3/5 |


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