Tomi Malm – Walkin’ on Air (2017)

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Tomi Malm’s Walkin’ on Air is one of 2017’s audio treats. Where else can you combine Malm’s soulful AOR songwriting, West Coast-level production and the creme de la creme of players. Malm, the principal composer and ring-leader, leads this all-star group of players through an inviting, well-crafted and inspired group of songs.

“Kuwakaribisha,” the opening instrumental track, is an immediate draw with its stunning melody. “Favor,” sung by cowriter Frank Adahl, has a definite upbeat Chicago feel rhythmically, while the horn chart leans more in the Jerry Hey direction. This combination works well, as the song jumps out of the speakers.

“When You’re Gone, sung by Julian Thomas, is a simple yet powerful ballad. Thomas’ soulful delivery is enhanced by sparse electric and acoustic guitars, with a touch of piano. The song’s powerful message is only enhanced by Tomi Malm’s production acumen.

His title track is no less intriguing. Former Chicago bass master and vocalist Jason Scheff makes a welcome return. Scheff’s voice has lost none of its power and range. While his bass playing is restrained, it is an excellent compliment to Malm’s uplifting melody, which was cowritten with Jackie Kaven.

“Perfect Imperfection” harkens to an earlier era of fine songcraft. The smooth soul ballad, sung by Jeff Pescetto, has a strong hook to match its tender lyrics. “You Belong To Me” continues the romantic theme. Singer Clif Magness helps the song build on this foundation, but guitarist Dan Warner provides a touch of fire to help the ballad reach the next level.

The Jeremy Lubbock-penned “Reason to Smile” recalls the best Michael Jackson ballads. This Rhodes-driven song benefits from the simplicity of the production, and Julian Thomas’ vocal. Shem Von Schroeck, band leader for Kenny Loggins and bassist for Toto, gets the opportunity its to show off his considerable vocal talent on “Wouldn’t It Be Kinder.” This track actually has a late-’80s Loggins feel, with its soaring chorus and equally soaring James Harrah guitar solos.

“Let’s Get To It” is a true treat, with Sante Fe and the Fat City Horns guitarist Jerry Lopez cowriting and singing the jumpy, hook-laden soul song. It moves with authority, only needing a stronger back beat to truly smoke. By the time you reach the album-closing “Today,” Tomi Malm has brought us full circle. The song is a tight and touching ballad, which leaves the listener truly Walkin’ on Air.


Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier is a bass-playing lawyer living in Atlanta. His first Steely Dan exposure was with an eight-track cassette of 'Pretzel Logic.' He can be reached at slangofages@icloud.com; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Preston Frazier
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