Monday, 2 February 2009

Norwood - Just Norwood

I know next to nothing about Mr. Norwood, but I do know that this album is one of the most interesting real soul sets I’ve heard in a very long time. It’s interesting for a number of reasons. First the young man has a wonderful voice – in places I’m reminded of Luther, elsewhere the flavour is Will Downing or David Peaston, while in less intense moments I’m reminded of Howard Hewett. Secondly, amongst the 13 tracks there are some wonderful soul songs. Unlike a lot of his contemporaries, Norwood realizes that he’s first and foremost a singer and though he has a hand in eight songs, by and large he’s left the writing to others – and picked some inspired covers. Thirdly for an indie album, there’s been no stinting on the production and if you need a fourth reason to investigate, let me tell you the album features a searing duet with the wonderful Jennifer Holliday. Their song is ‘Easier Said Than Done’. It’s a quite magnificent old school ballad and if your spine doesn’t tingle when the chorus kicks in, you ain’t got soul. The whole thing reminds me of those lovely two-handers that Luther did with people like Lisa Fischer and Martha Wash. The Vandross connection’s there too on a spectacular version of Neil Sedaka’s pop hit ‘Breaking Up Is Hard To Do’. Here Norwood totally deconstructs the song just like Luther did with stuff like ‘A House Is Not A Home’. It’s a big production and deserves a big audience. The other cover is a version of D-Train’s ‘You’re The One For’ where the bass beats give it a housey feel. The sophisticated modern room dancers though should enjoy ‘Sexual Amnesia’. It’s a complex song but when they come in, the beats are tight. The set’s topped and tailed with a couple of big gospel numbers that should uplift the downfallen. The only cut I didn’t dig was ‘I Can’t Fool Anyone’ – a plodding acoustic ballad, but that won’t stop me wholeheartedly recommending the collection.

Bill Buckley

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