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CD REVIEW:

THE DANCE DIVINE
Pacific Soul Ltd.

Review by Michael Jacobson

Once upon a time in an enchanted land, where imagination ruled and dreams were woven into realities of sight and sound, there lived three superstars on the local scene, each known for spinning a tapestry of music and magic to the delight of fans up and down the golden coastline.

There was Norman Kelsey (The Wonderful Wizard of AHHs), with his jaw-dropping vocal range and infectious blend of pop and funk channeling all from The Beatles to Prince. There was Teresa Cowles (Beauty and the Bass), lending her groove and warm vocals to instantly solidify the sounds of any project lucky enough to tempt her. And there was Adam Marsland (The Steadfast Tune Soldier), musician, vocalist and mastermind extraordinaire, who not only fronted many of his own ventures, but became one of the most sought after producers on the coast.

Individually, they lit up the Angelino scene like the glorious setting sun over the crystalline ocean. But when they combined forces, they turned into a force for musical good and crafted a new sound even stronger than their individual parts…a Justice League of the West Coast scene.

The new group of classic stars, Pacific Soul Ltd., cultivates a sound of pure enchantment, blending their rich vocal harmonies over fun-tastic musical concoctions of Philadelphia soul, Motown grooves, 70s pop and dance…everything needed to soothe the mind and energize the feet.

After teasing fans of the greatness to come with a short EP release, PSL has finally opened up their treasure trove of tuneful triumphs to bring us their full length debut, The Dance Divine. This is musical alchemy at its finest and most fun…hit after hit of summertime glow and the rhythm of city lights streaking across the fenders in search of love, peace, and the never ending natural high of the richest musical vibes.

The Dance Divine is pure escapism; a warm cocoon of sound and mood and energy, drifting from the amazing vocal introduction of “Love and Harmony” into the pounding groove of “Pacific Soul Time” (which should be the theme song for the Pacific Soul Ltd. Saturday morning cartoon, when it gets made). These two openers will prime you for everything this supergroup is about. Go ahead if your tapping feet end up lifting you out of your chair. We’ll wait.

Tomorrow Brings Tonight”, the lead single, deserves to be one of the year’s biggest hits. Showcasing Norman and Teresa trading lead vocals with Adam’s buoyant harmony and riffs, this is hook after hook. The balletic counterpoint of lines as the song fades is a symphony of sweetness.

Crazy” is one of the most fun tunes, blending both funky and slightly heavy guitars for an infectious rock groove and playful vocal lines that won’t prepare you for the next track; the group’s sole cover. “God Only Knows” is an ambitious record to reproduce, and Adam does the wise thing as both producer and vocalist, which is not to try. The warm surf sound of the Beach Boys is replaced by a relaxed, soulful pondering of the mysteries of love sounding like a cross between Ray Charles and Boz Scaggs. Attempting a tune this beloved and failing would be a disaster, but by placing the song in the context of the Pacific Soul Ltd. vision turns the familiar into something new, but just as engaging.

Blue Summertime”…oh, “Blue Summertime”. If you want to make the case that Pacific Soul Ltd. is THE group to watch out for in the coming year (and I do), this track would be Exhibit A. It’s a perfect blend of mood and sound, like a colorful warm breeze of musical enlightenment. Layer upon layer of melodic instruments and soaring vocal arrangements anchored by a groove of unbridled joy turn this from a pop song into a masterpiece for sensory fulfillment. It paints a California summer day with laughing, lyrical watercolors. For the adventurous, it’s worth your time to check out the extended version of this track that’s floating around, because it’s a sensation you will never want to end. This track could be an hour long and not even begin to wear out its welcome.

Aching For You” wears sweet sentiment proudly, with words and music that reflect that painful perfect joy known as being in love. Norman has recorded his own version of this song in the past, but with Teresa and Adam lending their magic, the PSL version soars to new majestic heights.

Teresa then offers the gleeful “Road Trip”, with a melody wrapping around the beat like the winding road she describes, as Norman and Adam provide the eloquent punches of background harmonies like flavorful roadside attractions. Seriously, if this song and playful vocals doesn’t make you smile and shuffle off the blues for three minutes, my prescription would be to re-cue the track for a double dose.

Adam returns to the front for another soulful solo as the road trip ends in “Portland”. The car is relaxing as it nears its destination, the engine is cooling, and the sounds of 70s soulful harmonies are dripping from the radio like honey.

The album finishes with two slices of sugary delight: the unapologetically bubble gum sentiment of “We Go High”, with a ray of musical sunshine that may warm your memory to the sound of The Archies, which is a high compliment in my book. The sound of PSL shows that soul is all about the attitude, and can be expressed in multiple mashups of genres.

Then it’s off to the stratosphere in a chariot of fire into the “Sunset Golden Love”, a serving of 5th Dimension-styled soaring harmonies over funky acoustic guitar and electric piano. It peels the sky away one rainbow layer at a time to explore worlds of sonic serendipity. This song isn’t just smooth…it’s “smoove”.

Seriously, where has music like this been for far too long? We can’t have gone too far into the world of the mechanical, synthetic, auto-tune pop designed for MP3 earbuds and simplified by extracting the soul from the sound to turn back and remember what music is supposed to be all about…real songs played by real instruments and performed by real people who create magic with melody and not machines.

I’ve had this disc for only a few hours, and I’ve spun it on my home stereo speakers and with a pair of Beats headphones. Pacific Soul Ltd. puts the high back in hi-fi with brilliant production and engineering that services great songs and fills your ears with fluid frequencies. Every track is a new experience…for those of us old enough to remember music that was meant to be REALLY listened to and not just colorless background noise, this is like a throwback throwing forward and a lesson in pop perfection and sonic architecture.

And at the heart, three stars forming a new supernova to wake us from our doldrums and to take us to their special fairy tale world where the summer never ends…the sound of the surf and the rhythm of the freeways.


For more information on Pacific Soul Ltd., or to contact the band, or to order your own copy of The Dance Divine, visit their website!