Flying Colors’ sophomore release, Second Nature, may very well be the best album of 2014. If it weren’t for Big Big Train’s English Electric, I would say this may be the best album of the past ten years. It is that good. Seeing the band live only confirmed this suspicion for me. Many times, so-called “supergroups” don’t turn out to be so super. While the idea of putting some of the best musicians in the world in the same band sounds like a recipe for success, the results are often the opposite. I find it easy to believe that egos could often get in the way of making fine music. Not so with Flying Colors. This band combines some of the greatest musicians in the world, and they fit together as band members perfectly. In fact, for several of them, this band may be some of their best work. With Second Nature, the band has an album and a tour under their belts, and they have developed a good relationship.
For those of you unfamiliar with Flying Colors (like I basically was about a month ago), the band is made up of :
Mike Portnoy – drums, backup vocals (co-founder of Dream Theater, member of Transatlantic and The Winery Dogs)
Neal Morse – keyboards and vocals (Spocks Beard, Transatlantic)
Steve Morse – lead guitar (Dixie Dregs, Deep Purple)
Dave Larue – bass (Dixie Dregs)
Casey McPhersen – lead vocals and guitar (Alpha Rev)
The talent in this band certainly is not lacking. The same can easily be said of their new album. When I first heard it a few weeks ago, I was blown away. Then I listened to it again. Wow. It has been played basically every day since then. I went back and listened to their first, self-titled, album and their live album, and I was thoroughly impressed. I knew I just had to see them live.
The album itself begins with the over 12 minute long progressive epic, “Open Your Eyes.” This song combines the musical virtuosity of these amazing artists with McPherson’s haunting vocals. The album quickly shifts gear with the second song, “Mask Machine,” probably the most “radio friendly” song on the album. This song masterfully combines prog and pop rock. The next song, “Bombs Away,” is probably the heaviest song on the album, with an awesome bass line courtesy of Dave Larue. That guy rocks, quite literally. From the heaviest song on the album, we move to one of the quietest on the album, and one of my favorites, “The Fury of My Love.” I identify with this song: it isn’t anger, it’s intensity (listen to the song and you’ll understand what I mean). The next three songs, “A Place in Your World,” “Lost Without You,” and “One Love Forever” are straight up classic hard rock songs. Great guitars, strong keyboards, steady bass, driving drums (it’s Portnoy, what do you expect), and great lyrics. The 8th song on the album, “Peaceful Harbor,” is my favorite on the album, if not my favorite song of the year. Brad mentioned in a comment on another Flying Colors post that “Peaceful Harbor” is like “Dust in the Wind” revisited. I couldn’t agree more. The song starts quietly, in a brilliant fashion, and gradually builds to an epic guitar solo with choral singing reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s “Great Gig in the Sky.” This song is good, true, and beautiful. The album finishes with another prog epic, “Cosmic Symphony.” Made up of three parts (I. Still Life Of The World; II. Searching For The Air; III. Pound For Pound), this song ends the album perfectly. The name of the song is perfect, as it sounds symphonic. In concert, I couldn’t help but sing along with “Pound for Pound.”
One of the elements that I like the most about the music of Flying Colors is the upbeat tempo that it has. I’m no expert on the technical side of music, but I don’t think any of their songs are in minor key. This isn’t really a metal album (although you certainly hear metal elements in Portnoy’s drumming). From the music to the lyrics, you are uplifted the whole time. Furthermore, Flying Colors doesn’t go overboard trying to make their music sound complicated. It seems as if many bands in the progressive genre these days are making their albums overly complicated in studio with so many extra instruments that they can’t possibly go on tour. Flying Colors keeps it simple by only recording what they can play in concert, and they do a fantastic job with it.
As a whole, Second Nature is a masterpiece of progressive rock, as well as AOR rock. This album belongs in the rock annals with the likes of Leftoverture, Journey’s Escape, Moving Pictures, The Grand Illusion, and many other classics of progressive and arena rock. It is that good. This album is, in my opinion, an instant classic, and it pains me to think that so few people will appreciate this masterpiece. This is an album that should be blasted loud to annoy the neighbors (and to hopefully win them over to prog!).
I highly recommend Flying Colors’ new album, Second Nature, to anyone who is a fan of rock. From the guitars, to the keyboards, bass and drums, to the amazing vocals, this album is a must have. You will not be disappointed, as it is one of the best albums made in any genre over the past several years.