Album review: TOMI MALM – Coming Home

TOMI MALM – Coming Home

Website [Release date 16.10.20]

“Coming Home” is the second album from Finland’s classically trained writer/ producer/ musician, Tomi Malm. Three years after his highly successful “Walking On Air” album, he again recruits some of the best in the Westcoast Rock business. And you’ve got to be writing good stuff to attract Randy Goodrum, Bill Cantos, Frank Adahl and Jerry Lopez, plus keyboard player Robbie Buchanan, guitarists Tim Pierce and Steve Lukather, and more.

These are all seasoned professionals who can nail down a sound or a simple concept with clarity and vision. That Malm got them all involved speaks volumes for his his own skills and talents, and indeed, for his growing reputation.

Malm produces, and plays guitar and keyboards, But his single biggest contribution to his own album is his high calibre songwriting across all 16 tracks. “Walking On Air” marked him out as a convincing composer, capable of pushing past the boundaries of commerciality. And his latest batch of material, often armed with a slow burning fuse, credits its audience with musical intelligence, which means they’ll give the songs time to work.

Sometimes technical expertise is lacking in emotion: perfection can often inhibit the expression of feeling. Malmo gets past that by filling his songs with seductive hooks and hazy sonic colouring. The sweetened strings, the swells of horns and tinkling pianos all provide the richness of sound that his handpicked vocalists interpret.

The gentle grandiosity of songs like ‘Come Away’ (Bill Cantos), ‘Two Hearts’ (Jerry Lopez) and ‘The Time Is Now’ (Warren Wiebe) make date-stamps redundant. It’s timeless material, showcasing the kind of casually ornate songwriting and urbanity of tone which is growing Malm’s international profile.

Some songs rise above the others. Lushly textured and amply cushioned, ‘When You’re Gone’ and ‘Without Saying A Word’ have a rich, pastoral quality that was once captured by early Westcoast bands, before the genre turned into a Toto/Marx sound alike contest.

Malm’s dominant piano is economic and uncluttered, allowing the songs the space they need to shimmer and shine, creating a gravity defying weightlessness on the Burt Bacharach song ‘Leave It To The Girls’, filled with singer Ashton Moran’s honeyed tones. And again on ‘Dream On’, as Frank Adahl dreamily ponders issues of love and loss.

The jury is still out, but ‘Are You Real’ and ‘Coming Home’ are probably the picks. Both carry a little more lyrical weight, and manage that delicate balance between sentimentality and real feelings. But the truth is that there’s little to choose between tracks on this slow-growing but charming album. ****1/2

Review by Brian McGowan

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