Published on 11th October 2019
Flying Colors – Third Degree
This is the new and long-awaited third album from U.S. Progressive Rock supergroup Flying Colors, coming some five years after 2014’s Second Nature. This new album continues in a similar manner with a mixture of shorter and longer songs, some more radio-friendly and accessible to a crossover market than, say, the music of Neal Morse or Transatlantic might be.
I’ve had this album for several weeks and it has been on heavy rotation. Initially, I was not highly impressed, thinking it too similar to their earlier efforts, but this view has changed over the weeks as I have played it consistently. In fact, this album really benefits from intensive playing, revealing at its heart that it’s very much a step further forward in the Flying Colors story. As always, the musical skills on offer are jaw-droppingly high, really allowing the talent to shine, especially noticeable is the highly impressive bass work of Dave LaRue on tracks like Cadence and Last Train Home. Also outstanding is the lyrical and fluid guitar of Steve Morse, who is simply on fire here with some seriously heavy, solid riffs and stellar solo breaks.
There are also some great funky moments, especially on Geronimo which really benefits from the bass and guitar grooves that propel the song along. The vocals from Casey McPherson and Neal Morse are very strong and clear throughout the album and the timekeeping of Mike Portnoy is spot on, as always. As you’d expect, the production is great with Rick Mouser bringing the material and performances to life, everything sounding dynamic in an album that is sure to appeal to Flying Colors, Transatlantic or Spock’s Beard fans especially.
Also noticeable on this album is the strong use of different tones, really benefitting from some acoustic touches, as shown on songs like You Are Not Alone, in which Steve Morse plays an acoustic guitar and layers the electric touches on top, all of which sounds really impressive, magical even. This is certainly a standout track for me, his solo is simply sublime, a thing of beauty and wonder. I’ve always enjoyed Steve’s guitar playing, from his Dixie Dregs days through his time with Kansas, and his work here is no exception. Most of my favourite Flying Colors songs feature his awesome playing so it’s a thrill to hear his great work on this album.
The final track is called Crawl, and it’s the longest at over 11 minutes, opening with delicate piano and a chugging guitar from Morse with atmospheric keyboards before the song opens up, becoming widescreen. There’s a strong chorus of “Stars are falling down on you” and some fabulous drumming from Mike Portnoy. It’s a definite grower that I’m sure will be very dynamic in a live setting. Sadly, as they are only doing one show in London, it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to get to see them this time, but they were great when I saw them in 2012.
Let’s just hope that we don’t have to wait another five years for their next offering as this band are both very talented and also worthy of your interest. The music is great, with a broad appeal that has lots of crossover potential in both the Progressive and Rock worlds. I highly recommend this to all, give it a try and make your own mind up. It has class and style stamped in every groove, a really enjoyable listen.
01. The Loss Inside (5:51)
02. More (7:10)
03. Cadence (7:40)
04. Guardian (7:11)
05. Last Train Home (10:32)
06. Geronimo (5:20)
07. You Are Not Alone (6:21)
08. Love Letter (5:10)
09. Crawl (11:14)
Total Time – 66:29
Casey McPherson – Guitar, Vocals
Neal Morse – Keyboards, Vocals
Steve Morse – Guitars
Dave LaRue – Bass
Mike Portnoy – Drums & Percussion
Record Label: Inside Out Music / Sony Music
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 4th October 2019