First Impressions: Joss Stone's Independence Day

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Twisted up in a fight for freedom of expression and legal strife with her record label, Joss Stone's fourth release, Colour Me Free naturally exudes a sense of willpower and class. After being not that impressed with Joss' albums as a whole, as 2007's Introducing Joss Stone kind of left me feeling luke-warm with the British songstress, as there was some hesitation to dive into Colour Me Free at first. To me, Joss hadn't really found herself just yet, as she had some great singles (see "Spoiled" and "You Had Me") but her albums never stood up, no matter how much Bluesy swagger Miss Stone projected, the filler just fell flat and found itself pigeonholed into the generic Soul zone. Not to say there wasn't potential, as Joss can sing a ring around some of today's singers, yet she just never had an album that let her really shine. Now with album number four, Joss actually delivers a consistent twelve song set that feels much more tangible, convincing and memorable. Unattractive cover arts aside, this is actually quite an elegant little album as Joss tackles a jazzier mind set, mixed in with a little funk, soul and Southern styled Blues. What is strange to hear, is that the weaker songs are when Joss tries to play-by-the-numbers. It can be heard in the lead-off single,"Free Me", which alone is enjoyable, but nestled in the package of Colour Me Free it gets swamped by the better constructed cuts.

For example, "4 and 20" recalls the quiet purr of 1950's jazz, where "Lady" is a spacey sonic soul burner that feels like you stepped into reflective cigarette smoke room, with wine glasses and pensive thought processes are taking place. On these two cuts, Joss takes a risk, and the risk is welcomed. Even though the style approaches aren't anything new, those elements are enhanced for the modern mind, and it works. She's not done yet as standout cut, "Could Have Been You" possesses strong phrasing and stays thick and succulent like dripping honey. A nice slice of Philly influence Soul right here. Jeff Beck adds some slicing guitar work that gravitates you into the funky paradise of "Parallel Lines" which is another knockout of a track. Sheila E. backs up with her conga drums to complete the trio of talent on board.

Things do get soggy towards the middle as political cry, "Governmentalist" just kind of goes through the motions, and looses lack of grit the original leak had back in 2008, possibly due to Nas kind of being an afterthought on the track. Yet its still has grower potential. Raphael Saddiq assists on "Big 'Ol Game" which is delightful, yet we've heard this type of 60's Motown song before and that's what makes it quite stale bread. After wallowing in some mis-steps, Joss' cover of The Source's collaboration with Candi Staton, "You Got The Love", rises up and sparkles on demand.

At 22 years of age, its forgivable for Joss Stone to still be searching to craft that perfect album, and she is closer to achieving a much broader sound scape than ever before with Colour Me Free in her cannon. There is a bittersweet element to Colour Me Free, as the album was produced and will possibly be promoted solely by Joss Stone due to the issues with her record label, and those who know about independent artistry, it takes a strong soul. Yet, Ms. Stone shouldn't have to worry too much, as Colour Me Free is one album that will change all doubters minds as well as give loyal listeners a lovely session of soulful quality to soak their ear drums in.

Rating: 9.5/10
Release Date: October 20, 2009

Could Have Been You

Parallel Lines (ft. Jeff Beck and Sheila E.)


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