Album Review: Flying Colors

flying colors (mascot music)

Flying Colors have taken the idea of a Super Group to the next level. Including the talents of Mike Portnoy (drums, vocals), Dave LaRue (bass), Neal Morse (keyboards, vocals), Casey McPherson (lead vocals, guitar), and Steve Morse (lead guitar), expectations for this record are high.

At some point in life, an important question will rear its head: what is a man to do when their hugely successful band takes a break? Well, besides polishing your guitar collection and maintaining a well-groomed beard, the time comes to round up some of the most experienced musicians in the world and get to together to record an album. The story goes, that towards the end of 2010, Steve Morse and Mike Portnoy did just that, with one simple idea: "virtuoso musicians and a pop singer joining together to make new-fashioned music the old fashioned way".

Mike Portnoy described the album as:

“The album has bits and pieces of what you’d expect from each of us. The sum of all its parts led to brand new, unchartered territory for everyone involved.

The formation of Flying Colors happened at around the same time that Portnoy parted ways with long-time Prog-Metal band, Dream Theater, and after Flying Colors had stretched it wings, it apparently took just nine (extremely intensive) days in the studio to record the album. Pretty impressive if you ask me, and it just goes to show the excessively high standard and professionalism of all the musicians involved.

The record is a musically diverse amalgamation of everything from Soft Rock, Jazz and Funk to face-melting guitar shred solos intertwined with Pop-style vocals. If this sounds a bit odd (that's understandable), just have a listen. The band has created a melting pot of everyone's influences, but managed to merge them together seamlessly with chart-friendly tracks, as well as harder, more technical elements to please the muso's among you. Flying Color hint at a range of influences, including Prog legends such as YES and Genesis to Queen, Velvet Revolver and, of course, the mighty Deep Purple and Dream Theater. For me, it's a brilliant mix of everything I love about Rock music and its many sub-genres, even the cheesier ones!

Particular tracks like All Falls Down, are a perfect example the sheer technical abilities of the band and their penchant for the nerdy, Prog-Rock Saxon-esque style, crazy guitar solos, choral chanting and fast-paced double-pedal drumming techniques of Portnoy. It really is brilliant, if you like that kind of thing, of course. However, Flying Colors have a tendency to swing violently between epic and lame. And by lame, I mean they can delve a little too deep into the Soft-Rock arena, creating slightly derivative songs that wouldn't be out of place on a 'Greatest Driving Rock Song Of All Time', compilation CD (The Storm). Nevertheless, when they get it right, it's bang on.

This record also shows a more sensitive side to the band with the tracks Better Than Walking Away and the Portnoy-lead vocal on Fool In My Heart. The level of songwriting is also a real highlight on these tracks, with some positively heart-wrenching lyrics. Love Is What I'm Waiting For is decidedly Queen-like in it's plodding piano vamping and the Brian May-esque solo taken straight from Killer Queen, while opening track, Blue Ocean is a wave of jazzy basslines, blues-shuffle and funky embellishments. The Hard Rock Shoulda Coulda Woulda has its similarities with the full riff-heavy guitars of Velvet Revolver's Slither and moves into some real Slash-influenced guitar solos.

Dave LaRue has described the band's recording process as "quite an experience":

"The band moved at a fast pace, ideas flying around the room at all times. Sections of tunes were arranged, and then re-arranged. Ideas were tried every which way until we made them work, or, in some cases, discarded them altogether. Just keeping track of everything was a challenge!” The album is filled with trial and triumph. It’s been an inspiring challenge melding folk, prog, pop, and metal all into one big recording."

Perhaps my favourite track on the album is the Rocky Ballad, Kayla. A medieval like introduction on classical guitar, it moves into a really catchy, anthemic chorus with angelic backing vocals, harmonies and orechestral strings. There's just something really uplifting about it. Throw in a few solos, some Anthony Keadis-like vocals and the soundscapes a kin to that of YES, and you've got me. I urge you to listen to this one, if nothing else.

Flying Colors is refreshing, classic, old and new all at the same time. They've delivered the ultimate in both vintage musicianship and contemporary music, whilst playing to everyone's individual skills.

You can watch a short film about the making of Flying Colours, below:


  • Blue Ocean (7:05)
  • Shoulda Coulda Woulda (4:32)
  • Kayla (5:20)
  • The Storm (4:53)
  • Forever in a Daze (3:56)
  • Love is What I’m Waiting For (3:36)
  • Everything Changes (6:55)
  • Better Than Walking Away (4:57)
  • All Falls Down (3:22)
  • Fool in My Heart (3:48)
  • Infinite Fire (12:02)