Black Pearl is a studio collaboration between guitarist Muddy Manninen (Wishbone Ash) and lyrist Pete Feenstra probably best known for his tireless work in promoting music in South London.
The two started working on songs during lockdown, but Muddy wanted someone else to sing them, so Pete approached Marcus Malone.
Unable to pursue live work with his current Malone-Sibun project, Marcus jumped on board and sings all the material here, while Muddy plays guitar, bass and keys and drums are either by Tom Gilkes or Dom Metz.
As always Marcus’s vocals are excellent, perfectly suited to mid-pace rockers like opener ‘Angel Town’ which describes Los Angeles in pretty unflattering terms, or ‘Cheap Perfume’ which conjures up late night in sleazy bars; both tunes have earworm choruses.
‘Delivery Man’ combines slide, piano and an Eagles-style chorus, Marcus excelling on the vocals as he describes what sounds like a complicated love life: “chased by shotgun wielding lovers”, perhaps not surprising as the lyrics name four different girls!
‘Price On Love’ was an easy choice for the first single, a gentler tune, again with a catchy chorus and lovely guitar fills; plus how often do we hear a phrase like “live like a petty bourgeois” in blues or rock songs?
Multiple guitars can be heard as Marcus sings of a ‘Luxury Girl’ who loves to drive round in classic American cars as Muddy lays down layers of guitars that add a Stones vibe.
Some of Pete’s lyrics have a cinematic feel giving a strong impression of time and place, as on ‘Mexican Romance’ (Moz Gamble on funky clavinet) and ‘Moment Of Regret’.
‘Natural Light’ is a full-blown rocker that brings Free to mind, not least in Marcus’s full throated vocal.
The final three tracks move more into prog territory and didn’t grab my attention as much, but are still solid songs.
Far from a straight ahead blues record, Black Pearl should still appeal to blues-rock enthusiasts.