Alternative supergroup Flying Colors released its self-titled debut album in March. Whereas ex-Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy’s collaboration in the band Adrenaline Mob was an aggressive heavy metal affair, Flying Colors displays the other side of the spectrum of his prolific ability. Flying Colors’ sound is best described as progressive rock fused with alternative rock. The result is a collection of songs that are surprisingly infectious with naturally flowing melodies, a jamming spirit and restrained but evident technical prowess.
The members of Flying Colors are Portnoy on drums; Steve Morse of Dixie Dregs, the Steve Morse Band and Deep Purple on guitar; Dave LaRue of Dixie Dregs and the Steve Morse Band on bass; Casey McPherson of alternative rock band Alpha Rev on vocals; and Neal Morse formerly of the progressive rock band Spock’s Beard on keyboards and additional vocals. Morse and Portnoy have previously collaborated in another supergroup called Transatlantic. Although supergroups are not always known for creating the most groundbreaking material, this group of eclectic yet cohesive musicians has proven that it can produce some skilled yet accessible songs.
The opener, “Blue Ocean,” starts off in a curious and casual way: the members talk with one another about the song’s direction. Soon enough, the moderately fast drums and bass begin the song and the guitars drop in and have fun. The singing is clear and the lyrics sincere, laid-back but passionate. The album has its share of harder rock songs such as “Shoula Coulda Woulda,” “Forever in a Daze” and “All Falls Down” with big vocals and bold melodies and sometimes fast rhythms; however, the majority of the album is centered on harmonious aspects of the musicians’ combined backgrounds. Songs like “Kayla,” “Everything Changes” and “Fool in My Heart” are ballads done by men who know how to perform them correctly and have their own share of surprises in nuances and direction. “Better Than Walking Away” is the slowest, most mellow track and can almost be called adult contemporary.
Flying Colors’ nod to its progressive roots is also evident, as songs like “Blue Ocean” and the epic closer “Infinite Fire” feature jazz-inspired segments and moderately fast tempos covered by vocal harmonies reminiscent of Spock’s Beard and similar bands. “Everything Changes” has atmospheric keyboards that invoke Yes and Pink Floyd. “Love Is What I’m Waiting For” is a track with staccato piano and can practically fit in a good romantic comedy. “Fool in My Heart” is unique in that the lead vocals are done by Portnoy himself, but his sound is a perfect fit for more relaxed songs such as this.
A listener who has followed the musicians involved in Flying Colors can immediately pick up on the talents of the respective musicians, but this is accessible music and this time it’s not such a bad thing. Although the appeal of this style and that of McPherson’s singing is seemingly aimed at the more alternative market, none of the music sounds like an insincere attempt at winning over a large audience; the compositions sound natural coming from the band and as a result is enjoyable to listen to many times. Talent is restrained but not sacrificed on this album.
A lover of any kind of rock will miss out on something great by not giving Flying Colors and its debut album a chance. The musicians’ skill is a given and this more pop-and-alternative-oriented progressive rock is also powerful and catchy. If this album does not pick up and spread like a storm soon, it will be evident that music listeners have overlooked something fresh and exciting. Pick up Flying Colors’ Flying Colors now and treat yourself.