Review: Pearls & Flames – Reliance
Pride & Joy Music ( October 7th, 2022)
Reviewer: Chris O’Connor
I really do have a thing for really well-done West Coast AOR, and in ‘Reliance’, Pearls & Flames have made a really wonderful example of this genre. You may not be familiar with the name, but you will be with the musicians who make up this wonderful band. Formed out of the ashes of the splendid Coastland Ride, fronted by the golden-voiced Marcus Nordenberg (Lion’s Share/Big Price/Coastland Ride), this band creates beautiful smooth music that naturally enough, brings to mind the likes of Toto, Chicago, Bill Champlin, Duke Jupiter, and a myriad of other classy AOR acts, and while there is nothing new on offer here – it is done beautifully.
Joining Marcus is guitarist Sven Larsson (also ex-Coastland Ride, also Street Talk/ Groundbreaker/Fergie Frederiksen), and keyboardist Tomas Coox (Coastland Ride/Roulette), who is also a much-respected session musician. Perhaps a key ‘non’ member here is the multi-talented Tommy Denander (Radioactive/Impera/ATC/Robin Beck/Prisoner/Rainmaker/Alice Cooper/Paul Stanley/House Of Lords/Richard Marx/Legends Of Rock – and many more), who helped craft the songs with Marcus, and also co-produced the album – so his input here cannot be overstated.
Featuring eleven slices of magnificently crafted Melodic Rock, the album is wonderful, however it is not perfect. Why? There is one weak link to be found (in my opinion only obviously), it comes in the form of the rather pointless instrumental ‘Wires & Frames’ which does nothing to add to the album, and in fact, seems to be rather gratuitous – it is however, a minor complaint.
The album kicks off with the gorgeous ‘Can We Find The Love’, it is instantly apparent that you are listening to a very high calibre album. It’s all about the song-writing, big hooks combine with bigger choruses, married to sublime musicianship – what’s not to love? Other highlights are the luscious ‘Love Can Heal Your Heart’, which by rights should be a colossal hit – a more perfect slice of AOR heaven I cannot imagine! ‘It Never Took Away Your…’ is the best song Toto never penned. It could easily have come off the ‘Isolation’ or ‘Fahrenheit’ albums – it is simply that good!
‘Secret Love’ is an up-tempo rocker with a huge singalong chorus, while ‘Follow The Road’ is a lazy and lilting number, but again features a chorus to die for. ‘It Won’t Get Better’ is another rocker that has me scratching my head, as it is naggingly familiar somehow. Finally, I would direct you to the beautiful ‘(I Don’t Know Who I am)’ – which if sung by the likes of Robbie Williams – would be a worldwide hit … go figure!
‘Reliance’ is a genuinely timeless album, chock-full of wonderful songs, stellar musicianship, glorious singalong choruses – and is everything that is wonderful about the West Coast/AOR/ Melodic Rock genres. I cannot commend it to you highly enough. I cannot think of a better ‘feel good’ album this year. If the much-missed UK Firefest is indeed resurrected, then Pearls & Flames should be on the shortlist to appear! Simply marvellous!