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Flying Colors - Second Nature CD (album) cover


Flying Colors


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3.87 | 198 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars First, a confession: when I picked up this CD at my local library (a blind choice of an unfamiliar band, discovered entirely by chance) I had no clue to the stellar pedigree behind it. Neil Morse and Mike Portnoy, the stateside half of TRANSATLANTIC, recording alongside the guitarist and bass player from THE (DIXIE) DREGS? With marquee value like that, it was easy to overlook the red flag raised by the addition of a lead singer (Casey McPherson) recently signed to the Hollywood/Disney record label...a potential kiss of death, for discriminating Prog fans.

The supergroup was assembled by executive producer Bill Evans (no relation to the late, great Jazz pianist, sadly), and 'assembled' is definitely the right word. This is a quintet manufactured to strict industry standards, less a band than a boardroom committee of seasoned professionals, tasked with single goal: to make and market virtuoso pop music.

And if that agenda recalls the similar mission of groups like ASIA and GTR, imagine the disillusion of your harder-to-please Proghead friends after hearing the band's 2012 debut. The name-brand talent attracted some notice in these pages, but judging from a recent shortfall of reviews those high hopes have cooled for this sophomore effort. Which is a shame, because it's clearly the better album, with a far stronger rapport between each player.

Not surprisingly, there's a lot of Neil Morse's fingerprints on the music, but thankfully none of his backwards theology. The album's first and longest track, the mini-epic "Open Up Your Eyes", might have been an outtake from an early SPOCK'S BEARD session, and is almost matched by the inaptly titled bookend of "Cosmic Symphony", really three shorter songs awkwardly spliced into an attractive 12-minute suite. These two longer pieces give the musicians plenty of room to strut their stuff, more so than the clutch of pop songs and power ballads between them, all of them textbook models of AOR anonymity.

Maybe the project should have come with its own PMRC warning label: "Caution - Musicians Performing Below Expectations". And yet by its own narrow standards the album actually works very well, unlike the similar (and often sorry) mainstream digressions of other Proggers tempted by the fruit of commercial redemption. The longer songs show a tentative sense of renewed ambition, up to a carefully circumscribed point. And the lack of any self-conscious boilerplate Prog Rock keeps the music more honest, if less interesting, than anything by TRANSATLANTIC: a fraternal twin with the same genes but no outward resemblance.

The original plan, to "make new-fashioned music the old fashioned way" (quoting the Flying Colors website) might seem like a recipe for anachronistic kitsch. But it beats the contrary formula embraced by so many Neo-Prog acts, of regurgitating old-fashioned music the new-fashioned way. If the project continues we might, with any luck, hear the more creative instincts of Morse, Morse and Co. rise higher to the surface. Watch this space...

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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