FLYING COLORS’ debut in 2012 auspiciously challenged conventional wisdom about fusing complex music with mainstream songwriting. Teaming the talents of such heavyweights as guitarist Steve Morse (Deep Purple/Dixie Dregs), drummer Mike Portnoy (Transatlantic, Winery Dogs, ex-Dream Theater), keyboardist/singer Neal Morse (solo artist, Transatlantic, ex-Spock’s Beard), bass wizard Dave LaRue (Dixie Dregs, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai), with new pop singer/songwriter Casey McPherson, the band quickly established itself as one of rock’s most dulcet enigmas.
The mission was to join virtuoso players, a pop singer/songwriter, and the right producer—to create sophisticated music that was accessible. In 2009, executive producer Bill Evans brought the idea to Morse, Portnoy, Morse, LaRue, and music producer Peter Collins. Having helmed enduring works by progressive artists (Rush, Brian Wilson), as well as mainstream ones (Elton John, Bon Jovi), the renowned Collins was a perfect fit. The band was incomplete, though, even after Evans and Collins considered over 100 singer/songwriters.
Then Mike Portnoy, one night on tour, heard Casey McPherson’s “Colder Months” in rotation on his iPod. McPherson had recently released New Morning (Hollywood Records), dominating the Billboard Top-10 for 17 weeks, and VH1’s Top-20 Countdown for four months. Portnoy realized, soon followed by everyone else, that McPherson brought the perfect tone to FLYING COLORS.
The band, mostly strangers at that point, converged on Neal’s Nashville studio in in January, 2011. Working within a nine-day window, the eponymous FLYING COLORS quickly took shape, and captured a moment in time.
The results were extraordinary: creatively vivid, phenomenally performed, subversively mainstream, and strikingly different from its members’ previous work. Released to boisterous acclaim and commercial success, the debut appealed to a wide range of listeners. Mainstream fans searching for something deeper were rewarded with a musical treasure trove.
Progressive rock and jazz/fusion fans were treated to a refreshingly song-centric experience. FLYING COLORS grabbed Top-20 chart positions around the world, and concluded the year in both progressive and mainstream Top-10 lists.
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, their first live album. The Blu-ray/DVD hit the mainstream charts at number #1 in Europe, briefly knocking One Direction out of the Top-10.
For FLYING COLORS’s second studio release, there was far more time at their disposal. 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 over the internet 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 Neal/myself, 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.”
“Second Nature” was released in September of 2014, debuting in multiple Top-10 charts, worldwide. In addition to numerous other accolades, the album received a Prog Award nomination for Album of the Year, with FLYING COLORS being nominated for Band of the Year. (The results were not announced at the time of this writing.) Adorned with artwork by Hugh Syme (Aerosmith, Stone Sour, Rush), mixed by prog rock stalwart Rich Mouser, and bookended by two tracks of truly epic stature— “Open Up Your Eyes”, and the anthemic “Cosmic Symphony” —Second Nature was a fitting release for the band’s sophomore outing.
The band took to the stage with a vengeance in the fall of 2014. On only the eighth show of the tour, at Switzerland’s storied Z7 venue, they captured an electrifying live performance. With “Second Nature” out for only a week, the concert recorded an exceptional rarity: band and audience, together, discovering an album for the first time. That freshness is palpable in every frame of their subsequent Ultra-HD/Blu-ray/DVD release, “Second Flight: Live at the Z7”, to be released in November 2015, via Mascot Label Group.
FLYING COLORS also explored technological innovation with the album, with unique ways for fans to experience it. Viewers can listen in 5.1-surround from the two best seats in the house: at the soundboard, or in the front row. For audio-only listeners, a specialized encoding process brings the full surround mixes to just headphones. All the show’s audio was processed with a new engineering system, developed specifically for “Live at the Z7”, which creates stunning detail and separation. The video was mastered by famed special effects company, Cinnafilm, using their revolutionary Dark Energy technology (Star Wars, IMAX). The result is unparalleled realism from the concert’s 24 cameras, as well as eye-popping Ultra-HD and IMAX versions of the concert.
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