New prog rock supergroup debuts lyrical, intelligent, riff-laden and symphonic rock
This blog’s last post talked about new supergroup, Flying Colors, formed by four stellar prog rock musicians joining forces with a younger alt rock singer/songwriter. The release is a tour de force of powerful music combining glittering and gritty guitar work, monster drumming, killer keyboards, driving bass and emotive and rich vocals.
Flying Colors features the guitar work of Steve Morse, front and center. And he delivers a master class with blistering and titanic guitar solos on nearly every song. Morse is one of the hardest working, innovative and rocking guitarists around, winner of Guitar Player Magazine’s distinguished Guitar Player of the Year award five times in a row during the eighties before they retired his availability. His work as founder of The Dixie Dregs and the Steve Morse Band coupled with 18 years as lead guitarist for Deep Purple is practically unmatched for longevity, creativity and chops.
Steve Morse & his "frankentele"
The music weaves Morse’s eclectic playing with a panoply of keyboards and piano work from Neil Morse, no relation to Steve, tied into great hooks, lyrics and vocals from newcomer singer/songwriter Casey McPherson. McPherson fronted two of Austin’s best indie rock band, Endochine and Alpha Rev. Completing the quintet, bassist Dave LaRue and drummer (and Dream Theater founder) Mike Portnoy lay down a dramatic, driving and intricate barrage, foreshadowing a furious and tight rhythmic foundation for powerful and well-written tunage.
The album opens with a raw yet powerful intro to the opening track, Blue Ocean, a great intro to Flying Colors flavor of rock. The 11 songs cover a musically wide swath. Shoulda Coulda Woulda and All Falls Down show off their hard rocks chops, with laser-precise drumming from Portnoy in lock-step with Morse’s guitar licks. But the melodic and lyrical rockers, Kayla and The Storm, are truly “Flying Colors’ songs, and deliver passionate rock and all the requisite trimmings, great melodies with driving and intricate musicianship. Mid-tempo rocker Love Is What I’m Waiting For is a beautiful homage to Queen with sensitive phase-tinged vocals, and a riveting Steve Morse solo, stately, soaring, stunningly melodic.
Flying Color’s debut takes prog rock to a new level, encompassing and deftly integrating contemporary rock, prog rock, progressive metal, and alt rock, offering mainly short-form songs. The melodies, lyrics and vocals are unique yet harken back to the glory days of Queen’s Freddie Mercury, Yes’s Jon Anderson, Genesis’s Phil Collins and even Toto-like vocals and harmonies. The instrumentation, soloing, and song structure feels uniquely their own, but also makes you recall fondly their pedagogical underpinnings.
All involved with the Flying Colors debut found the process of creating the songs daunting, given the caliber of musicianship. Here are a few select quotes from a recent Steve Morse interview by Jeb Wright, Classic Rock Revisited.
Everyone was really pushing everybody. I was working close to capacity during those moments where the songs were changing. Normally, I can spit out ideas really fast but Neal would just say something like, “I think an F# minor would work better over this part” and Casey would go, “What about doing this?” I would have the scenario change twice within one minute and it was really hard to keep up. Nobody was shy in the band. Like I said, we had some lively discussions. Sometimes, we had to pull it out of Casey. We would all be going, “This is really great” and then we would see Casey sitting there like he was lost. We would go, “What is going on?” Casey would say, “There is something about it that is not selling me.” It was good for the project and really made us work hard.”
Ultimately, it is the addition of a multi-talented alt rock and pop singer that pushes this quartet of prog rock superstar musicians who more normally play instrumental music. The songs are catchy, even singable, but not too pop as to turn off their core audience and something that you do not associate with symphonic and metal rock, McPherson has silky and strong pipes, able to carry both falsetto and growling rock phrasing. We hope Flying Colors keeps flying.
Standout tracks: Blue Ocean, Kayla, Love Is What I’m Waiting For.
For fans of: Dixie Dregs, Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic, Dream Theater, Queen, Yes.