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Sunday, 14 August 2011

REVIEW: Joss Stone - LP1 [2011]

This may be something of an oddity for this blog, but Joss Stone is probably my favourite female solo artist, which is quite the achievement considering up until about two months ago I hadn't heard any of her albums. But it's always nice when you start listening to an artist just as they're making a new album, as it means you don't have to wait long for new material.

Here then is Stone's 5th album, heralded as something like the third re-invention of her career, after exploring terrain such as traditional R&B and alternative hip-hop (as in 2007's "Introducing"). This album focuses more on the rock/funk side of the soul genre, with its share of ballads (such as the album opener "Newborn" and "Boat Yard") to the more aggressive tracks (such as "Karma" and "Don't Start Lying To Me Now"). That being said, Joss isn't exactly the heaviest of musicians, so perhaps 'agressive' is the wrong word. 'Fiery' may be more accurate, in a 'my lover left me but I'm still going strong' kind of way.

This album is full of traditional funky instruments, which give it a very warm feel. However, in some places (the track "Karma" being the biggest culprit of this) the electric organ and cheesy slap bass, combined with Joss' extremely feminine wails and moans make the music sound ever-so-slightly suspicious (at least, enough to turn the head of whoever's sat next to you on the bus when you're listening to it). Furthermore, on some tracks on this album you can really hear Stone straining her voice in ways she hasn't on previous albums, but then on others it sounds as subtle and reserved as it did on her debut, eight years ago.

For this album, Joss has teamed up with Dave Stewart (formerly of Eurythmics) which has resulted in an album sounding like it's being played live. Any studio wizardry that has been used has been very well concealed by the Stewart/Stone superstar production tag team. Other than that, there isn't really a great deal more I can say about the production, it hasn't exactly made the album but it certainly hasn't hindered it.

Overall then, this is probably the most fulfilling of Joss' albums so far (upcoming supergroup effort Superheavy notwithstanding), but even though it's a conscious return to more traditional R&B styles, it doesn't quite nail it in the same way as "The Soul Sessions". Lastly, in the wake of fellow 'Soul-er' Amy Winehouse's death, where everyone is going out and buying "Back to Black" again, if you want a much more consistent and - frankly - much better soul/R&B album, get this instead.


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