The critics were united in acknowledging the eponymously titled debut album from Flying Colors among the most fascinating releases of 2012. Teaming the talents of such heavyweight names as Deep Purple/Dixie Dregs/ex-Kansas guitarist Steve Morse, drummer Mike Portnoy (Transatlantic, Winery Dogs, ex-Dream Theater), Neal Morse (Transatlantic, Spock’s Beard and a prolific solo artist), bass player Dave LaRue (Dixie Dregs, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and more) with a comparatively new talent, pop singer/songwriter Casey McPherson, the band challenged conventional wisdom about combining virtuoso music and melodic songwriting—or, as the quintet’s modus operandi was once memorably defined by Executive Producer Bill Evans, “crafting new-fashioned music the old-fashioned way”.
The mission was to team a pool of virtuoso players, a pop singer/songwriter, and the right producer—to create sophisticated music that was accessible. Over 100 singer/songwriters were considered for the role. Portnoy pitched the idea of approaching McPherson, a member of the group Alpha Rev, whose 2010 album, New Morning, dominated the Billboard Top Ten for 17 weeks. McPherson went on to prove the ‘x factor’ that elevated Flying Colors above the norm.
The UK’s Classic Rock magazine hailed the band’s debut as “fearless”, praising its “Journey-sized choruses” and referencing artists as diverse as The Beatles, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Doors, Muse and even Frank Sinatra. In late 2012, the band toured the United States and Europe, dazzling fans with Flying Colors originals and selections from the catalogues of the five members. The chemistry can be heard on Live In Europe, the Number #1-charting Blu-ray, DVD, CD and vinyl package recorded and shot in Tilburg, Holland.
Schedules allowing, the protagonists had always viewed Flying Colors as a genuine band as opposed to a mere side project, and quietly yet purposefully they began writing a second studio album. From the first writing session to final delivery of the masters in July 2014, the process took almost a year and half, albeit in four distinct stages: writing sessions via Skype in January/February 2013, another burst of writing and recording at Neal Morse’s house in Nashville, a trip to Portnoy’s home that spawned five additional songs, and finally individual recording/arrangement throughout the spring of 2014.
“The first album was very much a blind date,” Mike Portnoy explains. “Although we already had ‘Team Dregs’ of Steve/Dave and ‘Team Transatlantic’ of myself/Neal, it was the first time that the five of us – seven if you include Bill Evans and Peter Collins – had collaborated together as a group. This time there was an existing chemistry, we had not only the prior experiences of making the debut album but also the 2012 tour as well.”
Sporting stunning artwork from the legendary designer Hugh Syme (Rush, Aerosmith, Def Leppard, Whitesnake), a mix by prog rock stalwart Rich Mouser, and bookended by two tracks of truly epic stature — ‘Open Up Your Eyes’ and the multiple-part ‘Cosmic Symphony’—the album is every bit as breathtaking as the debut. Portnoy stresses that the music’s proggier path was “not conscious at all.”
The drummer continues: “Direction was never even discussed. We just did what we do. I think perhaps not having a producer to ‘trim the fat’ possibly led to the songs breathing and expanding a bit more.” Perhaps Steve Morse sums things up best with the statement: “This is an album full of many layers. The more you listen, the more you can hear. It’s an album to keep listening to.”