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Flying Colors

Second Nature

Review by Larry Toering

This band has succeeded the sophomore curse by not trying to defeat it, but succumbing to all of the cliches and eclectic efforts to do so. But I still have to make the occasional comparisons while reviewing the tracks, because their debut was so good, it seemed like a very hard thing to break away from and still come out with a direction. I think they have naturally progressed, with such an excellent production you don't really stack it up song for song. It's a seamless mix, which plays more like one song than expected. The consistency on this album is remarkably high, as is the standard of their playing, so much that you don't demand any songwriting preference. Instead you just get a solid release that pumps out a jubilant chemistry between them. That elusive element is what makes this such a masterpiece follow-up to a critically acclaimed debut that was everything of the standard in which to set. They managed to strip away most of the more pop laden songwriting of the first one, and progress forth into an overall heavier approach, with a light essence throughout, smartly accomplished by Bill Evans. Personally, I did not expect such a grand effort to expand on what was already so well delivered, but they have outdone themselves here and then some. If they do anything from here, they will already have made history with this and their first release, so, mission accomplished.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 5 at

Track by Track Review
Open up Your Eyes

The opening number starts off very mystifying, with a long intro before any vocals kick in, which contains some interesting instrumental bits. Like a sort of warm up, the intro contains both gritty organ and guitar swipes(a thing any lover of prog rock would eat up). Then things get even more interesting as a narrative sort of vocal brings it full circle, as if to have either just been born, or perhaps even landed on the moon. It has that sort of far out appeal to it. This is like a born again or coming of age number, and an epic effort that sets up the entire disc and lets you know they're not joking around here. This is truly a colossal track, with tiny hints of Yes and Rush, but somehow a major Flying Colors standard. It's more than a cut above the opener on the debut release, it completely tops it.

Mask Machine
This automatically rings of something more accessible, as it leads the release with a promo video. As with most of the record it takes some getting used to, but once you get it, you really get it. What a marvelous track this is, complete with harmony vocals and a blistering solo from Steve Morse, which somehow goes the extra mile without losing the overall aim at the masses. I watched the clip many times before hearing the whole disc, and it didn't grab me the same way, it turns out a spectacular piece that I almost overlooked. It just goes to show that sampling anything before hearing the final product the way it was meant to be heard, only works on so many people. I see this going down as one of their big numbers. It’s great stuff that deals with all of the fakery in the world, some of which even Flying Colors can have to put up with as a product.
Bombs Away
A surprising sort of Aerosmith vibe creeps in here instantly, a very rocking groove that tends to break away and come back, with a Flying Colors blend in-between the breaks. But what doesn't surprise on the other hand is the Joe Perry tone in which Steve Morse applies to his guitar solo(not the first time and probably won't be the last). But there is much more going on here, with some excellent keyboard work from Neal Morse, with fantastic melodies that just soar all over the planet. I also have to mention the vocal here isn't too bad either, for what is essentially a mid-tempo rocker, to toughen up and even out the pace, thus far.  This isn't exactly something to expect from them, as they keep on boiling on the rock side, with a solid tune.
The Fury of My Love
This is a refreshing ballad, not unlike a number or two from their debut, but here they once again take it up a notch by somehow rounding out a perfect pop appeal the others were perhaps missing, replaced with a heavier handed delivery. I think they nailed it here, leaving those numbers far behind. Talk about a thing of perfection, this is one of the best numbers on the disc. You hear all about what this band is trying to be, and that is a seamless progressive rock outfit with pop sensibilities (unlike any prog band in their path) with an edge to spice it up.
A Place In Your World
The "edge" I spoke about on the previous number continues here with a vengeance. Once again they combine great modern accessibility with old school values, by coming up with something new, whilst not hiding their influences. This is another epic track because of this combo that I think is shaping up to be their trademark. Not one second of steam is lost on this great track. It’s awesome stuff that just can't be denied, with another saearing guitar solo and some wonderful keyboard parts and a fantastic chorus. It’s heavy stuff with just the right delicate flair. This band might have a pop ring to it, but it ends there, because they also tend to crush a lot of hard rocking bands out there, which don't dabble in all of these other areas. Imagine that.
Lost Without You
Things mellow down again here to just the right groove, with some sharp cymbals and melancholy vocals to set up another chorus of gigantic proportions. This is a big number that flies all over the place with well structured guitar lines. This is a very well crafted piece of music, where the vocals come on very strong and carry the number into a fade away outro. It’s not the highest point of the album, but there is no low point either.  The vocals on this album stand out less than on their debut, but that is an overall good thing for me. It is a much more even sound on this disc.
One Love Forever
This one is set up with an acoustic guitar motif that is very refreshing, and hints of a Celtic folk sound with a modern twist. It takes things back on course, somehow grooving perfectly with the previous track, but re-establishing the seriousness with some filling playfulness. It's very Flying Colors, with less felt influences. This is one of the more prog dominated tracks in the set, as it is a great long player, and nothing short of any other epic number on offer. The less I have to say about this and the previous track are made up for in the instrumentation.
Peaceful Harbor
The intro to this hypnotic number is a lovely howling vocal, as the acoustic guitar sweeps along to a complex but subtle chorus. This is a lot like the way Jeff Buckley sang "Hallelujah." It's a very spiritual number with a narrative vocal that evokes a tranquil message. All of this builds up to a monumental guitar solo from Steve Morse that goes into its own massive lyrical delivery, leading back to the next set of lyrics. Then the vocal attack boils back down to the howling parts, which drift into a colossal choir of soulful, almost gospel vocals (including female). What a magical thing of beauty this is. For my money this is their best song - wow... just wow!
Cosmic Symphony
Now this is something completely different, and while it doesn't leave the picture completely, it is an organic number but not without its share of electronic reliance, which is blended with an equal amount of strings. One of the things that help this one is background vocals by everyone, particularly Neal Morse. This has his signature vocal style all over it, which is something I just can't get enough of, carried very well by Casey McPhearson (whose vocals really shines here, as well) in all of their melodramatic glory (I'm somehow reminded of Rob Thomas on this). He is maturing well, as proven by the end of this killer opus.  It's just not hard to both recognize influences and originality in Flying Colors, they're an equal balance of the two.

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