Flying Colors (Best of 2012 — Part 4)

Flying Colors

Another one of the albums in my Top Ten for 2012 is Flying Colors.

The sad fact is that so many “supergroup” collaborations end up being less than the sum of their parts.

But this collaboration is a glorious exception. Everything has gone right here.

Neal Morse (and Mike Portnoy) teaming up with Steve Morse (and Dave LaRue)?

Amazing! It sounds good on paper. But could it work in person?

They decided the best way to combine their diverse writing was to compose everything during that short but intense session—and to record a rough version of the entire album with final drum tracks. Combined with not having written together, or even knowing Casey and Collins, it seemed like an insane undertaking. It was. …

By the end of the first day, the band favorite “Kayla” was mostly written, and “Blue Ocean” was well on its way. That evening, during a well-deserved dinner break, everyone realized the impossible: it was working. And not only that—it might be extraordinary.

As soon as I myself heard “The Storm“, I knew the answer to the “could it work” question was a heart-stopping YES.

I hadn’t heard a song this good in a long time.

It is no wonder that both the group and the album take the name “Flying Colors” from a phrase within that particular song. It is the obvious stand-out track. And on it, Casey McPherson proves beyond all doubt that he is indeed the worthy vocal front man for this triumphant team.

But while that terrific track is the gem that many of us will learn on guitar and add to our repertoire for social sing-along occasions, there is also the amazing track that almost none of us will want to touch. Better just to enjoy it in its pristine glory, with headphones alone.

I’m talking about “Infinite Fire”, which is my top pick for Prog Song of the Year.

In this song, there are three thrilling moments that were totally unexpected (and all the more mind-blowing for that reason).

The first moment is at 5:58 when suddenly it sounds like this disc is about to turn into the new Yes album that we had all hoped “Fly From Here” would be (and wasn’t). Yes may have let us down, but Flying Colors catches the magic sound here. Note that the little bit of magic is then repeated at 6:33 and at 7:08. It’s a master’s touch that translates merely amazing soloing into the upper echelon of prog achievement.

The second moment is at 7:47 when the song actually does become a Yes song! Holy smokes. Can it get any better than this?

Unbelievably, it can. The third moment (introduced by the fabulous build-up starting at 8:44) is when we get the unexpected vocal delight at 9:36. (Sorry, Benoit: Yes now lives here!)

Jeb: “Infinite Fire” is a nice 10 plus minute song with great guitar playing on it. It is my favorite track.

Steve: Neal and I worked on that song the most, together. We had a different chorus for it but everything else was pretty much there.

Neal sent me a demo of it to do a guitar part on – this was before the band was even together. The demo was so good that I made a fool of myself gushing over it. I told him how fantastic he did on the demo. We had some ideas on that song that actually ended up turning into parts of other songs; “Kayla” had bits on it that came from writing that song.

Infinite Fire“? You bet. My reaction? The same as Steve’s.

Prog Song of the Year!

Jeb: You didn’t have a whole lot of time to write or record this album.

Steve: Neal and I spent about a day and a half together and we had nine days with the band. We had the album done at that point. It was just a matter of having people do their overdubs and the mixing after those nine days.

It went really quickly because there was so much energy in the room. We almost had too many ideas. Here is a good [anecdote] for you that will describe how it went: Neal was working on a song with us in the studio. There was something about the chorus that wasn’t working for us and we wanted to change it but he was arguing because he wanted to keep it the way it was. He got up to get a drink and by the time he came back, Casey [McPherson] and I had changed the chorus. He came back and we played the song and he said, “What happened to my chorus?” I said, “Get a drink; lose a chorus!

2 thoughts on “Flying Colors (Best of 2012 — Part 4)

  1. Pingback: A Different Kind of Truth (Best of 2012 — Part 6) « Progarchy: A Celebration of Music


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