Friday, June 25, 2010

Joss Stone

Joss Stone has some fine music behind her already, especially considering she's only 24 years old.

Her first outing was 2003's The Soul Sessions, a deliberate attempt at some old-school that actually worked. Still remarkable today, Super Duper Love, Fell In Love With A Boy, I Had A Dream and For The Love Of You are all gutsy and soulful, with a warm production and first-rate arranging.

Mind, Body And Soul followed in 2004 and kept the idea moving right along. Right To Be Wrong, Don't Cha Wanna Ride, You Had Me and Security were all strong, and the record stayed a pretty fine course.

Introducing Joss Stone 2007 tried to update the formula with hip-hop beats and guest rappers, and I suppose it succeeds, even if I hate to say so. There are many solid tracks, and there's still that voice, an amazing instrument. The raps don't add much in my view (street cred?), but they may have opened her up to a wider audience. They may have also sent some of her core audience packing.

I just spent the last week with her latest, 2009's Color Me Free, a return to her more traditional soul styling. The upbeat songs are all excellent, with Free Me, Parallel Line (with it's Stevie Wonder funk styling), Incredible, and You Got The Love (a Candi Staton Gospel-Disco cover) all standouts. The record gets a little heavy on the ballads near the end, but many of them are good. Nas gets a brief rap on Govermentalist, but it doesn't detract from the song's message. A cover of Ray Charles' I Believe To My Soul is the only obvious misstep, and the closing thirteen-minute Mr. Wankerman is at least better than it's title would lead you to expect.

The first two can't be beat for those of you you love your sixties soul and are open to hearing it done right anew. Introducing is very good, especially if you don't mind a little new skool mixed in. Color Me Free is better than the mixed reviews it received on release, but it's not quite the first two.

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