Black Pearl shell out on a self-titled gem

Black Pearl shell out on a self-titled gem

Black Pearl shell out on a self-titled gem a wonderful album that draws diverse talents together to weave a refreshing take on blended blues that demonstrates skill and ability by the bucket load.

Bluesdoodles rating: 4 Doodle Paws – a wonderful album that draws diverse talents together to weave a refreshing take on blended blues that demonstrates skill and ability by the bucket load.

Take an extremely talented guitarist, a vocalist of power, melody and soul and bring them together with a lyrical wordsmith, broadcaster and promoter and give them free rein to imagine and reimagine the blues mixed with rock, soul and roots music from various parts of the globe.

This trio exists and consists of Muddy Manninen who played with Wishbone Ash (and his very good solo album River Flows with guest Simon Kirke is well worth seeking out), Marcus Malone the singer who graced the recent Malone Sibun releases and Pete Feenstra who needs no introduction in the world of the blues.

The band actually have, in their words, a mission statement…” Black or Tahitian pearls are some of the most beautiful gems on this planet. They carry a unique colour that can’t be found in any other pearl.” Pete adds: “The idea was to tap into honest emotions and thematic narratives with an open-ended musical approach. It took us to places we hadn’t imagined.” Sounds grand, but with Pete’s lyrics weaving diverse storylines across the album backed by (predominately) bluesy arrangements by Muddy, perhaps the mission statement is not that fanciful in comparing the music to the rare pearl of the title.

The first thing I noticed as I began listening is that the tracks are in an alphabetical order which is very rare and I wonder if this is intended or just my fanciful mind.

Regardless, the opening song is Angel Town and is sheer blues delight from the first note to the last: drum intro, slide guitar and measured vocals fit nicely with the city life lyrics. A cracking bass line pins it all down and the slide glistens before the guitar solo turns to the wah pedal for a lovely solo. Cheap Perfume has a country-ish slide backing the Petty semi-acoustic and keyboard backing: a story of late-night activities, it doesn’t have the immediacy of the opener but after a few listens (particularly to the short picked solo) it gets better.

Delivery Man brings some funk to the table in a Dixie Chicken kind of way with the blues still firmly at the root…more great slide from Muddy, more restrained and effective vocals from Marcus listing his ‘friends’ with soulful expression keeps the southern heat frying. Handmade Pearl keeps a hint of funk behind the delightful, subtle slide that Muddy is so skilled at. The slowish pace lends weight and paradox to the fact that this seems to be a driving song. After some neat volume control playing, the bridge leads to a delightful chord section leads to a lovely solo…a languid driving song? It works.

Luxury Girl stays with the funk and slide over a recognisable yet new chord structure. Another quality solo pulls the song together and will conjure odd moments of Mott. Mexican Romance, unsurprisingly, has a Latin feel behind the quality guitar and funky backline. Making love under a poncho may not sound that romantic, but (I can only guess here) it certainly worked for the protagonists! The closing semi-rapped section is very Zappa in many ways and the guitar to the conclusion is a treat.

Moment of Regret is built around a simple, catchy blues riff while the gospel choruses and wah guitar blend many blues styles into one effective whole. The bridge brings a touch of Whitesnake to introduce another quality solo from Muddy. Natural Light also has touches of the ‘Snake too as this mid-paced blues-rock number kicks off with a great chord driven riff and the guitar overdubs and solo are genius.

Price on Love is a gentle song with some great guitar (again!) as Marcus delivers each line with passion…a slightly lightweight yet endearing song with a gentle blues feel. She Knows Every Move is a clever blend of funk, soul, blues and rock as the Wonder-like intro develops into a quality slow and hefty blues with a chorus that could be a film score for the world’s favourite hedonist.

With My Baby By My Side is many-layered, a superb song that again blends the best of everything this trio brings to the table…hints of If I Were Britannia era Budgie seamlessly joining with funky sections and lovely lower register vocals and a pedal-driven (pun intended) guitar solo of tenderness and skill. The percussion is clever throughout, but the middle section goes a bit Santana while Muddy stamps his unique attack and style on the guitar.

This is an album of real quality with the only downside being it is only a project and, with Muddy well established as a solo artist, Marcus delivering some brilliant blues with Innes Sibun and Pete doing his radio shows and promotional work, we may not see another release from this talented collective…unless you know otherwise Pete?

Black Pearl shell out on a self-titled gem

Track listing:
1. Angel Town
2. Cheap Perfume
3. Delivery Man
4. Handmade Pearl
5. Luxury Girl
6. Mexican Romance
7. Moment of Regret
8. Natural Light
9, Price On Love
10. She Knows Every Move
11. With My Baby By My Side
All songs written by Marcus Malone, Muddy Manninen & Pete Feenstra

Marcus Malone: vocals, guitar
Muddy Manninen: guitars, bass and keys
Tom Gilkes: drums (Tracks 2,3,5,6,7,10)
Dom Metz: drums (Tracks 1,4,5,8,9,11)
Roger Innes: bass (Tracks 7,11)
Moz Gamble: piano – Delivery Man & clavinet – Mexican Romance
Mark Perry: keys – Handmade Pearl & hammond – Mexican Romance
Paul Elliot: percussion (Tracks 1,7,8,9)
Leevil Leppanen: percussion (Tracks 3,4,6,11)

Pete Feenstra: Lyrics

Produced By Marcus Malone, Muddy Manninen & Pete Feenstra

(iTunes, of course, went to the Come together album before taking me back to 1982 with Mamas Boys fabulous Needle In The Groove.)(iTunes got me all nostalgic as it delivered the 1982 rock of North Eastern band Black Rose and their brilliant No Point Runnin’.)

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