Thursday, January 17, 2008

Music Review: Introducing Joss Stone

The oddest thing about Joss Stone's third CD is the title, Introducing Joss Stone. Well forgive me for being obtuse, but Stone released two other disks a 2003 effort with covers of obscure soul sounds and 2004's Mind, Body & Soul. Now the three years since Mind, Body & Soul might account for the oddly titled third album, but as Stone's bio proclaims, this thrid disk is the first where she is truly her.

At any rate, the time between Stone's disks probably allowed her to produce a much more solid effort, as Introducing is as strong, and in parts, much stronger an effort than Mind, Body & Soul. Stone writes all but one of the musical tracks on the newest disk, only Diane Warren's "Bruised but Not Broken." Stone penned the rest herself.

To be sure, the young Briton's soul music captures the ear and gets the listener into the groove quickly. After a spoken word intro track, the diks launches into two of the stronger tracks on the disk, "Girl They Won't Believe It" and "Headturner." The tracks are the type of soul infused music that Stone fans have come to expect. While the staccato of the verses of "Girl" can be a little distracting the power of the chorus and the 1960's era girl-group feel more than makes up for the minor annoyance.

"Headturner," though is pure power and soul from Stone. Perhaps the strongest track on the disk, there is no denying the power of beat, the groove and Stone's voice. The husky tone of verses doesn't hide the power of Stone's voice and when she and her back up singers cut loose on the chorus, you can't help but feel the groove.

"Headturner" along with "Put Your Hands on Me" also gives an insight into the growing up Stone has undergone since her adolescent debut. There is an implicit understanding that Stone, as a woman, can turn heads and can seek out lovers without being beholden to anyone else. In a sense the song is much more liberating than the overtly sexual songs of some of her American contemporaries. "Put Your Hands" is certainly more overtly sexual, but it is that way without being so in your face with references.

Stone, who possesses a powerful voice, sometimes tries to tame the voice, making it a bit more ballad-esque in tone and volume, for example on "Proper Nice." It is in these points that album feels a little flat. The appeal, at least for me, of Stone is the power of her voice. While mixing up the form of songs, she should not hide the force of her voice. Even with a simple piano arrangment, Stone should let her voice loose and literally smack people on the head.

Still, if Stone can offer some musical options while not covering her voice, I can forsee a very long career for the songstress.

Now for the top three:

"Headturner," as you might imagine. I think this to be the strongest cut on the disk. It is pure soul power and the groove and backing vocals are stellar.

"Music" is a collaboration between Stone and the now less heard from Lauryn Hill. The groove is infectious and the combination of Hill and Stone make the track memorable.

"Put Your Hands On Me"--another soulful classic. Stone lets loose with the full power of her voice and womanhood. It makes me actually want to do what she asks--if I didn't feel like a dirty old man doing so.

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