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7.25/10 Avi
 

FLYING COLORS - Second Nature - CD - Mascot Label Group - 2014

The second Flying Colors release tones down the pop and Dixie Dregs influences that made the supergroup's debut recording so unforgettable in favor of more standard yet ultra professional prog rock.

Neal Morse's (Spock's Beard, Transatlantic) keyboards take the forefront more prominently this time, providing lead lines as well as background. This is apparent on the opening "Open Up Yours Eyes," which delivers a The Flower Kings styled retro-prog, dominated by fancy keyboards, melodic guitar-keyboards unisons, and intensified by Mike Portnoy's over the top drumming (which actually helps propelling the music to some degree, contrary to the stable melody). Clocking at over 12 minutes this piece presents the new album's tendency towards seemingly-epic material (not one of the tracks falls below four minutes) as well as midtempos. The draggy nature and the lack of concrete drama prevent this track from fulfilling its epic call.

The performance is as tight as it gets, and the production is detailed (and even tries to push the music into climax, sometimes brutally as in "The Fury Of My Love"), but while Second Nature is all in all an accomplished album, something in the band's identity is lost together with the immediacy of its tunes.

Still, some of Dixie Dregs' stylish decor and the pop sensitivity appear here and there, providing the much yearned for distinctive colors. This is prominent on the effective, hymnal "A Place In Your World," with its arena/jazz-rock vibe and catchy vocal performance; as well as on "Bombs Away," which - besides the Deep Purple's styled blues rock of its organ and guitar interplay - features a beautiful, slightly symphonic arrangement that actually does references Dixie Dregs before ending rather abruptly.

There is also a true surprise here, and it is found in the last part of the closing "Cosmic Symphony." Six minutes into the song (which is the second longest track here, running for almost twelve minutes) a new section begins with somewhat untypical guitar work by Steve Morse. A true standout, Morse incorporates white blues into his playing in a way we've never heard before, echoing Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac's pastoral, English sceneries. Every Morse fan owes himself to listen to this take, and we truly hope the guitarist will further incorporate this moving style into his future works. (7.25/10)

[Our Gut Feeling on this release is available here]

 

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