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4.2 out of 5 stars
Flying Colors
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65 of 70 people found the following review helpful
on March 26, 2012
Format: MP3 MusicVerified Purchase
Frequently, supergroups produce some of the least "super" and most underwhelming music out there. More often than not, we see great players and creative minds collaborating on albums with one another, only to discover, upon hearing these records, that none of the individual member's defining characteristics have been preserved. Instead, these supergroups-- the Chickenfoots of the world-- produce music that's bland and colorless; that is simply "there"; that is, without a doubt, "less than the sum of its parts."

Thankfully, that is NOT the case with this new album. Instead, this record is some of the most inspired playing and most creative music that I've heard from any of the artists involved in quite some time. It is not watered down in the slightest, as supergroups tend to be. Nor can it be caricatured one way or the other; as "prog rock" or anything else. It defies labels. It is, simply put, five guys with unique attitudes toward music coming together to produce something genuinely fresh, new, and exciting. Sometimes it's prog, or metal, or 70's/80's rock, but listening to it you always get the sense that these five guys are playing this music and making it their own-- rather than coming down to from their expertise to play as studio-guys. Everyone shines here, and everyone's going all out. That maybe is why it's called "Flying Colors".

Though I initially had my reservations that this album would simply become another Neal Morse solo project, that has not been the case. Neal's contributions are apparent, but the primary singer/songwriter here seems to be Casey McPhereson, who I sincerely hope will make this project the main outlet for his creativity henceforth. Although, at this point, I'm not sure who is responsible for which songs, the songwriting here is top-notch. Though many songs deal with the same religious themes fans of Neal Morse will be familiar with, at no place is this album as overtly "biblical" as Neal's solo-work. The thematic range is much broader- there are love-songs, songs about hardship, songs about faith, and so on, and while I sense that these topics are dealt with in sort of a "christian" way, they are still portrayed universally enough for non-Christians to appreciate them. Casey's voice, heard most often on the album, is a nice parallel to the other voices in the group and compliments the music nicely.

Mike Portnoy and Steve Morse are at the top of their game here-- though the latter can do no wrong, the former displays once again why progressive music is his home. Over the years, Mike Portnoy's best drumming has not been in Adrenaline Mob, A7X, or the heavier, post-Six Degrees DT albums he has played on. Rather, it has been in Transatlantic and Neal Morse. This album is no exception. Mike is at the top of this game here, and locks in with bassists David LaRue's grooving style perfectly. I think this is his best drumming in a long, long time. It is further proof that, where Portnoy is a just a minor-player in the metal world, he is a prophet in the dominion of prog rock. As for Steve Morse? His playing is astounding. Every note on the album sounds so "right", like he could not have played a better note, or done with more or less. He truly is a master of the craft.

What makes Flying Colors so special is that it is not just Transatlantic + Dixie Dregs + Alpha Rev. It's something much different, and something new. "Kayla" makes us tear up, while "The Storm" liberates us, and the chorus to "Infinite Fire" will call to us when for weeks, even when we're not listening to it. It's an emotional and exciting album, and I sincerely hope that this project will be more than a one-off thing.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on March 30, 2012
Format: Audio CD
i've been anxious to hear this for months since hearing about it, and what a mindblowing album! i believe this to be the best thing to happen to mike portnoy since leaving dt... ( i thought dt was getting 'tired' and apparently he thought the same thing, so wanted to take a hiatus, but the band severed ties and went ahead with new drummer. i think that album is the best they've sounded in a long time) however, here isn't a showy album of prog metal histrionics... HERE is art.

'supergroups' often leave me cold, as is the case with 'adrenaline mob'... it just sounds like more of the same, good, not great. definitely not inspired... it sounded like some killer players having fun and goofing off for a few weeks... but this surprising group of folks have created a real winner...

all the players obviously have the chops to shred for days, but they don't. the songs are wonderful, and the players show off occasionally in very tasteful ways. i love mike's drumming, i am impressed with steve morse and dave larue, (though i've never been a fan of their bands' music, i appreciate their ability) and neal morse is one of my faves, especially for his vocal arrangements.

but the addition of a radio-friendly 'pop' singer-songwriter is the masterstroke of genius here... casey is wonderful and SUCH a surprising addition here. he makes me think at times of john legend, bruce springsteen and daniel johns without sounding like a copy of anyone. i have never previously heard of him, but i'm a fan.

if this album doesn't explode onto the charts it'll be a crime.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2012
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
It's a temptation to review this project from a musical perspective, analyzing and comparing each of these outstanding musicians to their previous successes and to other musicians efforts. However, since many other reviewers have already done that and I'd to keep this on the brief side, I will contribute this:from a purely emotional response perspective, listening through the first time, I was reminded of how I felt when I first heard Toy Matinee Toy Matinee Special Edition, Yes: Fragile Fragile, Jellyfish: Bellybutton Bellybutton, Ambrosia Ambrosia & occasionally Muse. Not saying it sounds 'like' any of those, but (as with each of those), it's definitely one of the most fresh, unique, truly musical and melodic sounding projects I've heard in many years. The musicianship is extraordinarily tasteful on each players part and production is exceptional. As much as I really enjoy Jeff Beck and Joe Bonamassa, the solo guitar work on this recording consistently brings the word 'soaring' to my mind...not showing off chops, but real musical note selection and passion in the playing that actually "moves" me. The engineering and production of the drums is amazingly real and present (minimal use of effects/eq on what already sounds like a great sounding kit), not to mention the playing, of course. Vocals are above and beyond, bass and keys are very tasty and the lyrics are wonderfully meaningful, as well. Every part played is essential to the sound, no filler and no unnecessary flailing. Indeed, there are brief moments one could label as derivative of these musicians individual influences however, the sum of the individual contributions makes this a unique, non-derivative work. This is one of those recordings that I'd be excited to use to to show off a great pair of speakers.
I am reminded of the video of Leonard Bernstein conducting "hands off" toward the end of this wonderful talk by Itay Talgam (absolutely worth the 15 minute investment in your time [...]), Bernstein is so confident in his individual players that his implicit direction is no longer necessary and he leaves them to soar on their own. Because of the mastery of each individual, and their choices to be tasteful rather than flailing, Flying Colors very much soars
Thank you to everyone involved for sharing your passion with us.
BTW, I purchased both the CD and the vinyl here at amazon and have ALWAYS been pleased with their service.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 1, 2012
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
I dig just about everything on this album including the second song released for radio consumption, Shoulda Coulda Woulda, but it doesn't seem to be consistent with the rest of the CD. As far as a description, one might think Steve Winwood meets Toto on steroids. In my world of crossover Prog, it rocks, although there's a jazzy bent to some of the songs that keep grabbing my attention. I particularly dig Kayla that comes complete with a Yes-ian vocal interlude and in my reality would be a radio hit. For some of you, some of the songs may seem like pop, but if pop were like this album, I wouldn't have quit listening to the radio many years ago. There's plenty of variety, styles and textures, including the 10cc-like poppy Love Is What I'm Waiting For that sounds like a 70's AM radio hit. It's followed up with the anthemic Everything Changes featuring Santana-ish guitar throughout the song. Better than walking Away pulls on the heart strings with harmonies and a style reminiscent of Journey. All Falls Down seemingly was included to fulfill the short technical program to verify musicianship by all group members. There's a Elvin Bishop quality to Fool In My Heart that reminds me of Fooled around and Fell in Love. BTW, my favorite track is probably the opening song, Blue Ocean that could have been the theme for Winwood's next album. The album culminates in a 12 minute long program Infinite Fire, just to prove these guys are Progladytes. It rocks. It fuses. It jazzes. It is prog. It may not break any new ground, but it massages the landscape with flying colors.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2012
Format: Audio CD
I was already a big fan of all the musicians on this album, with the exception of McPherson who was new to me. In most respects, this album exceeds expectations - it is full of great rock/pop songwriting, memorable hooks, and great musicianship.

It is not Dream Theater, or Transatlantic, or Spock's Beard, or the Steve Morse Band - but it definitely does sound reminiscent of most of those bands (with not as much DT influence). McPherson adds interesting melodies and another capable singing voice (along with the great Neal Morse) to the picture.

I started listening to the album about 27 hours ago and I am on my sixth spin, for what it's worth. There is just so much to like here. Portnoy's drum work is great for the prog/pop/rock style. Neal Morse is incredible (and his songwriting is evident) as always. Steve Morse provides some gorgeous leads, and it almost seems as if his playing was elevated slightly by this project (as much as I always like his solo work). Listen to his Brian May-like lead in "Love Is What I'm Waiting For". Dave LaRue is solid as always and grooves fantastically in parts (Blue Ocean, Infinite Fire, Forever In A Daze). And McPherson, the "wildcard", proves very capable in his own right as a singer, lyricist, and melodic writer. There seems to be a great balance between all the principal players in this project, and it thrives on that.

This is music that transcends genre and really has the ability to appeal to huge swathes of people if they would be willing to try something slightly different. As much as I like heavy music, I think this band is really in its element in the less-heavy tracks. Highlights for me are "Blue Ocean", "Kayla", "The Storm", "Better Than Walking Away", and "Infinite Fire".

Are there any negatives? No strong ones. I wish they would have chosen Neal Morse or McPherson to sing "Fool In My Heart". I don't understand why Portnoy continues to insist on singing - do it live if you like, but this is a classic album that is slightly marred by Mike's OK vocals. Neal Morse would have made that song great.

I preordered the CD / t-shirt / poster package (from a different vendor) months ago, and I will preorder any future offerings without a second thought. Please put out more music!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 2012
Format: MP3 Music
If pop radio ever sounded like this, it would gain its listening audience back from jazz and country. This is an example of how melody and musicianship produce something worth listening to that is memorable. Each member contributes a near equal part to each song, with variety, all the while maintaining a cohesive musicality. Simply put, Flying Colors restored my faith in pop, but don't let that word scare off you serious musicians. There's a plenty for you, too.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 30, 2012
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
That familiar Amazon parcel has arrived! What will "Flying colors" sound like...will it be worth it? Many love it, some are sceptical, some slate it. Will there be sufficient guitaring from Steve Morse and will Mike just be a wallflower?

I hurridly rip open the packaging, grab the CD from the digipak, place into the player and sit back. Seventy minutes later my initial surprising journey is over and I am smiling. This is good. Really good. Wonderful vibrant, melodic rock with a progressive twist from my favourite musicians - Mike Portnoy, master drummer, music organiser with his long-time keyboardist buddy, Neal Morse, composer extraordinaire, singer and instrumentalist who are joined by the legendary Steve Morse, guitarist from Deep Purple with his long-time bassist buddy, Dave LaRue. And then top notch vocalist, Casey McPherson with his contemporary nuances and appealing falsetto who leads the way on this vocal rock album.

It's five days later and all I have listened to is "Flying Colors". This album is catchy with very strong melodic hooks on every song. The emphasis is on tight song structure and strong vocals with harmonising in every chorus - but hey I hear you asking what happened to the virtuoso musicians? No worries - they're all playing, contributing and adding their craft with many structured instrumental interludes in which to shine.

I admit that I am confused when I read some Amazon reviews. Perhaps because this is not cutting-edge rock or outright progressive rock, many seem very critical. Did some expect a new Dream Theater or a more contemporay style like Coldplay? I am unsure and when reading their criticism and I begin to doubt my enthusiasm for this. But then I listen again and get caught up in the melody, drift into another place and that's what music is about.

What is encouraging is how carefully crafted this album is - this is not some supergroup sitting down and playing a few covers and jamming their way through. Everything from the graphics to the impeccable production by Peter Collins (Rush, Alice Cooper,Bon Jovi), thoughtful song order and actual compositions show that this is no fly-by-night project. Quite amazing that all up in less than a month together as musicians, this album was produced.

The sounds and textures are colourful and varied in the genre of slow and medium rock, with two hard rock tracks bordering on metal that allow Mike to double pedal a tornado.The album ends with a mighty 11 minute progressive rock epic, "Infinite Fire". This ending showcases the depth of experience and musicality this group has and includes greater use of Neal's wonderful keyboard organ sounds in unison with some of Steve's most blistering guitar work. The use of odd-time signatures, slower emotional sections building to the strongest vocal chorus on the album finally breaks into the multi-layered vocals of "Seasons and times". This gives me goosebumps each time I listen.

For Steve Morse and Dave LaRue fans - there seems to be a real difference of opinion about this album. I accept that many Steve fans may not like the album. I am the opposite. I think that there is more Steve soloing on this album than what he played on two Kansas albums or on the last Deep Purple album, 'Rapture of the deep'. Every song has a beautifully crafted Morse solo that to my ears had more variety and thoughtfulness than what I have heard from Steve in decades. I have never heard Morse sound so like Brian May as what he does on "Love is what I'm waiting for". Of course Dave and Steve know each other's playing like musical twins so their harmonic convergence and dissonance and timing is impeccable. Great examples where Dave struts his funky bass is on "Forever in a daze" and the thunderous riff on "All falls down".

"Everything changes" is an excellent example of the group joining and melting styles. The song starts like a track off Steve Morse's "High Tension Wires (Re-release)", the vocals section are all McPherson's influence and then the bridge where Neal Morse sings is clearly his compositional style and Mike brings some monster drum fills and it ends with more of Steve's influence again. The way I have described this may sound like a patch work which is then a reflection of my ordinary writing skills as this is beautiful track. I write that this is beautiful yet this is one of the lesser tracks on the album. The opening "Blue Ocean" and "Kayla" are standouts plus the aggressive "Shoulda coulda woulda" with its concluding drum fest and "Infinite fire" best encapsulate this group.

So lovers of vintage, well crafted melodic rock - including Queen, Beatles and Yes fans, fans of Steve Morse, Mike Portnoy's "Yellow Matter custard" , Transatlantic, Kansas, Styx, Kerry Livgren, Neal Morse's solo work, fans of Casey McPherson, give this a try - you may really be pleasantly surprised!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 20, 2012
Format: Audio CD
How come no one ever thought of pairing Morse x 2 before??? Defintely one of my favourite albums in the past few years. Just remember it's NOT an instrumental album, so don't expect one.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 18, 2012
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
I didnt know what to expect - an assortment of amazing musicians noted for their progressive rock efforts doing (as rumor had been saying) pop music?!? But knowing Neal Morse & Steve Morse, with the quality of their output being consistently high throughout their careers, I had nothing to worry about.

Sure enough, even with the shock of it being very pop song structured material, this CD in one word ROCKS. There's two or three tracks which get a bit heavier (hard not to do with Portnoy drumming) but overall its a true mix of all their influences in a cumulative amazing stew of wonderful songs. I put it into my CD player in my car and have not taken it out yet after more than four weeks since receiving the package. Highly recommended CD!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 14, 2012
Format: MP3 MusicVerified Purchase
Flying Colors is truly a work of art. Not just because of the level of musicianship, but how really good the songs are written. Putting Portnoy, S. Morse, N. Morse and Dave Larue in a room together had to be amazing. The X Factor in all this is Casey McPherson. Being a singer/songwriter in this room full of very talented musicians, you had to be in awe of it all. I think the songs sound the way they do because of Casey. He's the unknown in all of this, but I think he's the glue that really makes it work. The songs don't sound as PROG as I thought they would. Still, they is something for everyone on the cd. Please check it out.
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