Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Joss Stone LP1 2011

Let's start with the scorecard. Ten songs, four very good or excellent. That's not a very good percentage. In fact, based on that standard, this is the weakest Joss Stone record yet.

Who can we blame? Two people mostly, Ms. Stone herself and producer, songwriter, guitarist David A. Stewart of Eurythmics fame. Stewart is not the first name I'd come up with as a producer of a soul record, and if Stone isn't going to sing soul, what's the point? This is also the first Joss Stone record where she is co-songwriter on all tracks, and frankly, she could use more help than she gets from Stewart and a scant few others.

Betty Wright did a fine job on the first two, and Nas and Raphael Saadiq (and several others) helped assemble the next two, which updated her old school soul with more contemporary fare. But David A. Stewart is just not the guy for this job, and this is the fist Joss Stone record that can't really be defined as soul. Recorded in Nashville. Nashville?

Newborn starts things off on a high note, and it's a good rock/soul ballad with a dynamic arrangement and one of Stone's better lyrics. Karma keeps the quality high, with a strong, angry Martina McBride lyric. It's not really a soul song though, and almost sounds like Pat Benatar. It has a Stevie Wonder funk-lite piano line as it's only concession to soul. Don't Start Lying To Me Now is a funky rocker with a strong lyric, great vocals (and background vocals), and that spit-the-words-out angry thing Stone does especially well. Somehow is a funky, slinky soul groove with a hooky chorus that Stone sings the crap out of. That's the four good ones.

Last One To Know is another rock ballad that sounds like a Melissa Etheridge song and goes on for too long. Drive All Night is an OK slow burner with deliberately sparse instrumentation that just doesn't do anything interesting. Cry Myself To Sleep is a mellow folk-rock thing that Cat Stevens might have done. Landlord is an acoustic guitar/vocal tune that is a failed attempt to pull off a Janis Joplin  vibe. The lyric sounds forced. Boat Yard is a mid-tempo rocker  that could have been filler on a Tom Petty record. And Take Good Care  is an acoustic guitar-led folk song that sounds like the winner of a high school songwriting contest.

Ms. Stone has been screaming for her independence for years now. Her third record was called Introducing... and now her fifth is titled LP1. She didn't want those record company guys pushing her around. Turns out she was wrong. For a singer with such a soulful delivery, this rock product is way off the mark.

The four good ones are really good.

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