November 28, 2014 Flying Colors – Second Nature (Album Review)
American supergroup Flying Colors are back following up their 2012 eponymous debut, releasing Second Nature on September 30th 2014. Mixing world class rock musicians with pop style vocals, most importantly, Flying Colors contains the drum legend that is Mike Portnoy. No group is complete without Mike Portnoy these days it seems, whether it be Dream Theatre, The Winery Dogs, Avenged Sevenfold, Big Elf, Adrenaline Mob, or Stone Sour. Also including a star studded cast are Spock’s Beard’s Neal Morse on keyboards/vocals, guitarist Steve Morse from Deep Purple, former Joe Satriani touring member Dave La Rue on bass, and Alpha Rev frontman Casey McPherson on vocals. If the band’s debut was an introduction to audiences, as well as each other, Second Nature is an extremely fitting title for the sophomore effort with the band finding a new level of comfort together writing and recording.
Beginning with “Open Up Your Eyes,” a mammoth twelve minutes long song, Flying Colors make a statement with the long instrumental intro where more than four minutes pass before the vocals kick in. This track is slick, with light and shade, fancy electronics, complicated time signatures, smooth vocals, and glorious harmonies. The song moves from one segment to another, like layers of rich velvets, silk taffetas, and smoothe satins; it is sumptuous and elegant in feel. The track “Mask Machine” is a more modern sounding opus, and only half as long. The complex rhythms leave the listener without a doubt that this is a band at the top of their game, and also one that has the freedom to make music its members love, for the sake of the art rather than commercial three minute snap-shots. “Bombs Away” reveals a funkier style and heavier guitars blended with the prog-rock keyboards and drumming. Then the song “The Fury of My Love” is a lavish pop piece and ballad on a grand scale which is spectacular on all levels.
Returning to a more prog style, “A Place in Your World” is reminiscent of Yes in the 1970’s, with ostentatious keyboards and flamboyant guitars. “Lost Without You” is a light and floaty lament at the loss of a loved one. The guitars soar heroically over the melancholy keys, while the harmonies tug at the heart strings. Adding a Cajun flavor, “One Love Forever” makes the audience want to dance and sway. Folky without the need to wear a kaftan (though maybe a few flowers in the hair would not go amiss) at times it draws its rhythms from River Dance and it certainly has a party feel. With “Peaceful Harbor” the sounds are more mystical and enchanting as an acoustic guitar picks out the mournful sentiments in the vocals with a choral ending worthy of any Pentecostal Choir, and with the adornment of the soulful voices of The McCrary Sisters. Closing out Second Nature is the epic three part “Cosmic Symphony.” Divided into “Part I – Still Life of the World,” “Part II – Searching for the Air,” and “Part III – Pound for Pound,” its Eagles style harmonies and wondrous symphonics wash over listeners and submerge them into the opulence of sound that they conjure up. At almost twelve minutes in length, it also benefits from the addition of The McCrary Sisters.
It must be noted that Second Nature is not an album that will grab many upon a first listen; they will need to delve deeper and experience its many rich levels until finally appreciating the genius that is displayed within this performance and songwriting. It is evidently a master-class in prog-rock, with each member an expert at his craft. More Rossetti than Picasso, it is a masterpiece, but from a different era. In a day and age where success is measured by votes and cash, it is a beautiful change to find an album where the band were allowed to be indulgent in talent and skill. CrypticRock give Second Nature 4.5 out of 5 stars.