Rock supergroup Flying Colors have returned with their aptly titled third album, “Third Degree” which is their first in 5 years. The band is still made up of guitar god Steve Morse, his bassist buddy Dave LaRue, keyboardist/vocalist Neal Morse, drummer Mike Portnoy and singer Casey McPherson. The band has definitely found their sound on this album. The first album was more rock and alt rock while “Second Nature” was far more prog rock.
“Third Degree” as a little of each but is more concerned about a great song and melody. Even the two longer track still have great hooks. How catchy are the songs” I have the chorus and main riff of “More” in my head now and it won’t leave. And that’s not even the best song on the album! It might be the majestic “Cadence” or the poppy “Love Letter.” The great ballad “You Are Not Alone” is another one. Still it’s hard to deny the closing epic “Crawl.” So yes, this is an album of great songs.
Of course the musicianship is insane. Steve’s solo on “Cadence” is killer. Dave’s bass solo on “Guardian” is RIDICULOUS. And both sound incredible on “Last Train Home” along with killer synth work by Neal. But the only slip up on the whole album comes on that track when Neal takes over on lead vocals. He decides it’s time to practice his alliteration and he just really overdoes it. Lyrically the album is pretty damn good so that part is a shame. It’s goofy and fortunately easy to ignore.
Props to Mike as well who never overplays which can be his forte from time to time. That’s not to say that he doesn’t play his ass off, it’s just that it seems to FIT the song each time. Casey also sounds great on vocals throughout. He never overdoes his Jeff Buckley-isms. The harmonies on the album are also great and I don’t really notice Mike’s vocals so he is blending in better. This is probably thanks to those last few Neal Morse Band albums. Great vocals there too.
“Third Degree” is the album that I’ve wanted from Flying Colors. Yes I like both of the first two but there was always a track here or there that didn’t quite measure up. That’s not the case here. “Third Degree” is an album that when it finishes, you want to hear it again. It doesn’t get much better than that. It’s easily one of my favorite albums of 2019.
1. The Loss Inside
5. Last Train Home
7. You Are Not Alone
8. Love Letter
Label: Music Theories Recordings
Release Date: 4 October 2019