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Flying Colors - Second Nature CD (album) cover

SECOND NATURE

Flying Colors

 

Prog Related

3.87 | 179 ratings

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buddyblueyes
4 stars Only a couple reviews? Wha--? Trading star ratings for experience one could fill up the night sky with this motley lot. For the love of all creatures great and small in the beloved world -- just take into account the collective number of albums put out, or featuring, Steve Morse, MIke Portnoy, and Neil Morse! [pauses to actually take account. ...counting ... still counting... well, I don't have that many fingers and toes, so you'll have to count for yourselves. But seriously, wiki that s__t!]

This time they went it alone folks, sans producer (although Peter Collins from the debut is a stellar producer. Check out his credits: one humble release being Queensryche's, Mindcrime). Much like going to Hawaii without your sunscreen, it's usually considered "ill-advised" to go uncovered in the studio with your band. Everything but your banana hammock will get burned! Consider this group, however: do you really think a producer is worth his slice of the pie? Is he or she going to have more experience than what these guys already know about band management in the studio or organization during the songwriting process? Is their name going to carry any more weight than the names of the members associated with this act? "No thanks Mr. Producer, we'll handle this one." There's something about that situation that puts a smile on my face in a similar fashion that it's fun to listen to David Lee Roth expound on trite swill with much mental excrement.

At first mention of a Flying Colors release there was a perplexed "humph?" moment for this reviewer. Although it makes sense now, I never thought about pairing 2/3 of the Steve Morse Band with Neil Morse and Mike Portnoy, the powerhouse duo who've worked together on many a fine release. And who is this new singer I've never heard of? After absorbing their debut I was pleasantly surprised at the result and mixture of signature sounds, especially hearing the mashup of Portnoy and Dave LaRue. Portnoy's work with Billy Sheehan, exceptionally illustrated with the Winery Dogs, resulted in wonderful rhythmic conversations excitingly different from his stint in DT with Myung. With Winery Dogs, Sheehan and Portnoy pulled the best out of each other (BTW, who else was surprised that Ritchie Kotzen could pull such a compelling Chris Cornell out of his vocal orifice?) I find this collaboration with LaRue just as great, knowing that Dave can really dig in and "pop" a good bass when it's his time to spotlight. Although this fan of Van Romaine with the Steve Morse Band is somewhat saddened, the fire and energy Portnoy exudes just drives this band. Leaving Dream Theater on the horizon may have been the best thing he did to broaden his musical career. The drums throughout are propelling. It makes one want to grab the nearest "big block" engine and head-butt it repeatedly and then overturn a table in a public restaurant and set it on fire!

Also noteworthy is the interplay between Morse and Morse (no relation, just pure co-inky-dink), two giants who understand that creating music is a conversation. No toes are stepped on, no overshadowing. Space is given for each contributor. Duplicated lead runs on the keys and guitar blend effortlessly and the tone of instruments compliment each other extremely well. The only thing missing for this reviewer is some excellent chicken pickin from Morse a la "Gina Lola Breakdown" or funky "Ice Cakes" from the Dixie Dregs days (Ah! the glory days, which seems like a never-ending wish since the string of Morse's recent solo work is pretty straight ahead rock influenced ... sans Angelfire, the album with his neighbors daughter. Let's all just pretend that never happened). At least there's a little hint of the celtic influence which brought back thoughts of "Highland Wedding" or "Looking Back" from High Tension Wires -- [chuckle] the only time we've seen photos of Steve on an album with short hair! :)

Casey's voice has a unique timbre, but it's compelling. His emotive inflections bring songs like "Peaceful Harbor" to the next level. It didn't hit me for awhile, but when I just recently heard a song from Five for Fighting there was the "ah ha!" moment. There are some parallels with John Ondrasik. The longer phrasings suit his tone and add buoyant moments of contemplation and pleasantry. Neil, of course has his featured vocals sprinkled in, but showcased more predominately in "A Place In Your World", a song I find myself unwittingly thinking about sharing a malt shake with my sweetie down at the local Burgerville.

And this leads us to the only possible shortcoming with the album, which is the continued, goody two-shoes lyrics -- no doubt influence carried over from Neil Morse's solo work. If I'm wrong then Casey must attend the same church :). Fluffy even, perhaps the next album cover should contain images of unicorns and pink slippers. Who knows, perhaps this reviewer has spent too much time listening to pretentious dynamic word slinger-songwriters like Sting, Rufus Wainwright, Tom Waits, or Tori Amos in his past, but there is too much overuse of the word "love" in a cutesy, done-to-death way, which causes some prog listeners ears to... well, the equivalent of a cat wharfing up a hairball. Regurgitated pop generalities are great for crossover audiences, but for those of us who want great storytelling or compelling topics of discussion (see Headspace, Big Big Train) Second Nature will fall a little flat in that regard.

Overall, Flying Color's sophmore effort manages to continue the feel good prog pop brigade and it is a great, entertaining listen; if nothing more than a way to cross pollinate fans of all the iconic individual members. It's good music business strategy, too. Dig this band and you're work is cut out for you. You'll have to amass a library of albums as you explore the enormous bodies of work these individual, talented, and inspiring artists have spent a lifetime achieving. Dwelling on that fact alone, nothing but heaping piles of deep respect must be given.

Wishful concert band pairing: Sound of Contact.

buddyblueyes | 4/5 |

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