Supergroup Flying Colors is back with the follow-up to their self-titled debut album. Aptly titled "Second Nature," this album shows the band is no longer just an experiment or side project. I interviewed Steve Morse a few weeks ago and he stated this is a true band that is much more in tune with each other now.
One change from the debut is that "Second Nature" is self-produced. Peter Collins produced the debut album. In our interview, Steve said he thought they might have used Peter again for this album, or even Bob Ezrin, and the result would not have been "better, just different." What happens here is that each member tends to stay more within his comfort zone, rather than branching out. This also means a few songs have more of a Transatlantic (Mike Portnoy and Neal Morse's other band) vibe than anything on the debut album.
The first four minutes of the opening track "Open Up Your Eyes" could have easily been on any Transatlantic album. This isn't a bad thing, per se, but it shows Neal and Mike have a comfort zone. "Mask Machine" is the second track and the first single/video. It has a very Muse-like sound to it. I love Muse and so does Mike, which Dream Theater fans know from the songs DT did that sounded like Muse. Regardless, it's a good song that has some patented Mike Portnoy drum fills in the middle.
The next two tracks, "Bombs Away" and "The Fury Of My Love," aren't quite as strong musically as the opening tracks. "Bombs Away" has a funky vibe and doesn't quite fit with the rest of the album musically. The problem with "The Fury of My Love" is the lyrics. Given the current focus on domestic violence in the media (especially in America), it might not have been wise to have a song about a guy singing to his romantic interest that she should not be afraid of him, he is just an intense guy. It just doesn't work.
"A Place in Your World" takes the same sort of "love on the rocks" theme but makes it far less menacing. It also has a memorable chorus you can't help but sing along with. "Lost Without You" and "One Love Forever" show why Casey McPherson is the singer for the band. He fits in well with the pop songs like these, but he also does a much better job on the epic tracks this time around. It's also worth noting that Neal sings more on this album than on the first. With Peter Collins producing on the debut album, Neal stuck to his primary role as keyboardist.
Steve has plenty of moments of his own. His solos are typically melodic and passionate. "Peaceful Harbor" is based around a piece of music Steve wrote for a friend whose son passed away unexpectedly. Casey and Neal sing some of their best vocals here, with some very heartfelt lyrics. The song concludes with a gospel choir, along with Steve repeating the main solo. This is easily my favorite track on the album.
The closing track "Cosmic Symphony" is really three songs merged together, but I don't think the pieces would really work on their own. They are arranged perfectly and flow seamlessly. Bassist extraordinaire Dave LaRue is given the spotlight early on, with a solo that made me want to actually applaud - it's that good! Midway through the track has one of Steve's best guitar parts on the album, then the track finishes with very moving vocals from Casey. The last two songs alone make this album worth buying.
"Second Nature" is a better album overall than the debut album, but it also leaves me wondering what might have been if either Peter Collins or Bob Ezrin were brought in to produce. Who knows? Maybe on the third album? Hopefully they will have a third outing, because this album certainly merits another.