U.K. vocalist Joss Stone will return this spring with her third album, "Introducing Joss Stone." Due March 20 via Virgin, the set was produced by Raphael Saadiq and features guest turns by Common ("Tell Me What We're Going To Do") and Lauryn Hill ("Music"). Other songs set to appear on the album include "Headturner," "Tell Me What We're Gonna Do Now," "Tell Me 'Bout It," "Nothing Better Than (The iPod Song)" and "I Wish I Never Met You." Additional contributions were provided by rapper/producer Novel (Kelis, India.Arie) and Beau Dozier, the son of Motown titan Lamont Dozier. "Introducing" is the follow-up to 2004's "Mind, Body & Soul," which debuted at No. 11 on The Billboard 200 and has sold more than 1.2 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
In the run-up to this, her third album, Joss Stone told a phalanx of glossy magazines that the difference between this disc and the two that preceded it was a newfound clarity of vision. Whereas the other records--their gold status notwithstanding--represented the fumblings of a huge-voiced kid being bossed around by experienced music-biz types, this one, she promised, would reveal the real her. Thus, the titular "introduction." To which anybody who spins the 14 groovy and fully unbuttoned tracks herein will wish to reply not "nice to meet you"--far too lame a sentiment for so fully realized a disc--but "Where have you been all my life?" As good as Joss Stone's previous efforts are, Introducing Joss Stone
represents a giant step forward: there's a freshness to these songs that suits her age (19 as of the album's release) and a funkiness that suits modern pop sensibilities. There's also a cross-hatching of visions with artists like Lauryn Hill and Common that will rightly advance her reputation as an artist who can sling disco, R&B, and rock almost as convincingly as soul. Splicing girl-group harmonies with blaxploitation-style funk with Joplin-esque and, at times, Shelby Lynne-reminiscent vocals, Stone works these Raphael Saadiq-produced beats with the stealth and steadiness of a '70s-era legend who's still going strong. "Girl They Won't Believe It," she wails against the tight hoo-hoo harmonizing of talented backup singers on the opening track; get a load of how much she's accomplished in the space of three albums, and you won't believe it, either. --Tammy La Gorce