Album ****

"For years now, Norman Kelsey has been a shining star in the Los Angeles music scene as the charismatic frontman of bands such as Bat Country, Rush Hour Soul, and Idle Kings.  He has toured the world bringing his unique style of funk-infested pop and rock to fans on both sides of the Atlantic.  One might say he owes his fans a love letter.  A Talent for Loving is just that.

Breaking free from the confines of a group setting, Norman has finally chosen to step out on his own and release his first solo CD, and A Talent for Loving trumpets his arrival with bravado and confidence.  The singer, songwriter and bassist has been honing his chops and finely tuning his sound, which is a delightfully tight cornucopia of influences mixed into something new, fresh, and real.  You might hear a little Prince, a little James Brown, a little Chic, a little Motown, a little Beatles, or a little Lenny Kravitz.  These artists may provide an ingredient or two, but the soulful, danceable, soaringly harmonious end recipe is all Norman.

But wait...I know what you must be thinking.  In this age of the easily-downloadable single, why take my word for it that the album is a good as that?  Maybe purchasing entire CDs has become too 90s for today's music fans.  That's fine...then allow me to steer you in the right direction.  If you want to sample it using DigStation, let me recommend the first song and title track.  "A Talent For Loving" was named the catchiest song at last year's International Pop Overthrow festival when Norman played it in London, and you'll see why.  The sharp, jangling guitars and infectious hook will stick in your head, as well as get your feet moving.

Now doesn't it feel good to cut loose and dance?  Then why not keep your groove going?  Download "U Had the $" and the party won't have to stop.  Norman's punchy bass line, combined with his impeccable harmonies and a snappy guitar will make sure your party doesn't have to stop.  In fact, you can keep it going with a perfect trifecta of dance rock tunes.  Download "Sucka" and let the funky wah-wah guitars call you back to the floor, even if it's only the floor of your own house.

Whew...that's a lot of energy for just three songs.  By now, you might be needing a bit of a cool down.  Download "Everything My Heart Desires".  The CD's first ballad has a soaring chorus courtesy of Norman's amazing voice that seems to reach the stratosphere as he professes his love.  It's a 70s groove made modern, and such a beautiful tune that my fiancée and I are actually planning to have our first dance to it at our wedding next year.

Now that you're in the mood for romance, no need to stop there.  Download "Done Lost My Mind" for a gentle, open proclamation of sentiment.  Get that arm of yours around someone you love and let the music guide you to the next level.  But you shouldn't let the moment pass too quickly just because a song only lasts four minutes or prepared, and download the spectacular "Love Someone", the album's finale, to make sure your night doesn't end too quickly.

Feels great, doesn't it?  Time for a little post-romantic encounter pick-me-up.  "Everyone's Ingénue" is the perfect download.  The Stones-esque guitars and hook will put a smile on your face, and the beat will get you back into the groove.

No need to stop there...keep it going.  "Fall Out" is a crisp, punchy slice of funk and soul that will have you moving again, and if you're really feeling it, "Roosevelt's Revue" will top off a perfect evening of fun and romance.  After that, you might as well enjoy a nightcap...I always like a little pure rock to wind myself down to, and if you're like me, you'll want to download "Down By Love" and "I Can't Cry For You", two songs that prove Norman is an artist as comfortable in rock as he is in soul.

By now, you've downloaded the entire album, and have had a total blast listening to it.  And you've also realized this isn't your standard-issue independent release.  A Talent For Loving is not some CD made in a guy's basement with a Radio Shack tape machine.  Norman took his talent for music all over the world, using top studios in both the US and the UK to deliver a polished, fully produced, radio-ready release that's bound to have the record companies leaning in for a closer listen.  As a music fan, I hear a lot of independent records, and as a reviewer, I enjoy telling our readers about ones they shouldn't pass up.  This is by far the best indie release I've heard to date.

If you haven't actually started the single downloads yet, may I go back to my original point?  A Talent for Loving is gigantic fun in a small package.  Norman offers a little something for everyone, whether your taste is to dance, romance, or just rock out.  It actually IS one of the rare offerings that merits buying the entire CD.  Your heart, soul, and feet will be thanking you for a long time to come."

- Mike Jacobson, DMC

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