Color in Bloom is an important release for Percy Hill. In part this is due to the roster transition which occurred late in 1997. At present Percy Hill is a quartet, anchored by stalwarts Nathan Wilson on keyboards and Joe Farrell on guitars and vocals along with newcomers John Leccese on bass and Aaron Katz (formerly of Vitamin C) on drums and vocals. Moreover, to potentially compound any possible issues pertaining to the new li ne-up, Color in Bloom is also a follow-up to the group’s Double Feature, a live release which highlighted the band’s penchant for extended improvisation (“Been So Long” which opens the first of the two discs clocks in at seventeen minutes). Indeed, it is possible that some casual Percy fans might experience some trepidation while anticipating the current studio release . However, fortunately any fears that are unfounded. Indeed, Color in Bloom is a vib rant offering which effectively captures the organic evolution of the band’s sound.
The disc opens with Katz’s composition, “Slave (Self-Promoted),” a smooth, entrancing number with vocal harmonies and keyboard phrasings that occasionally evoke Steely Dan circa Aja. Indeed Katz leaps into the fray on this release, singing lead on the five songs he penned, while adding acoustic guitar to the lilting “Chrissy Reid,” which appears second. Of course the band’s two founder members, make their presence known as well. Farrell, steps to the plate on Wilson’s “Beneath The Cover,” providing strong vocals and complmentary guitar flourishes. Meanwhile, Wilson remains the band’s heart, consistently enlivening songs with his inventive keyboard expressions (and an occasinal melodica or flute solo). Long-time Percy fans will be happy to see that founding member Zack Wilson appears to layer percussion on a range of tracks, including the soulful “313,” which is also strengthened by the guest vocals of Billy Lee. “Fallen,” the shortest song on the release at four minutes, has a disco flair, transformed via a flute solo. Color in Bloom concludes with the exuberant “Sun Machine,” a soulful concoction which builds to an appropriately bright conclusion with some funky riffs from Farrell and vocal bursts from Lee and Moon Boot Lover’s Peter Prince.
All in all, with Color of Bloom Percy Hill successfully references some classic sounds of the 70’s, with a 90’s flair and sensibility. Still, this is not to say that the disc is beyond criticism. One minor quibble is that Katz is consistently placed rather high in the mix- in this context the release might have benefited from a bit more variance from song to song. Similarly, some fans might have welcomed an additional opportunity for Farrell to step up for a clear ringing lead. However, these comments aside, Color of Bloom that affirms Percy Hill’s status within the pantheon of jam bands. The group has long demonstrated that it can tear up a live setting, but with this disc Percy Hill reveals that it can play to the studio as well.