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The Art of Raw Soul
on October 28, 2007
One day in October 2005, I was innocently walking down the aisles of my favorite music store. My eyes wandered back and forth until they locked on the little row of Angie Stone albums. I saw a cover picture that I'd never seen before and I was curious. I have all three of her wonderful albums released thus far... what could this be? As I stepped closer, my heart skipped a beat. 'Stone Hits: The Very Best of Angie Stone'?! A terribly random tracklisting with an incredibly ameteur photoshopped cover to boot? And it's officially executive produced by Ms. Stone herself, and not just of those cheap 'Sony specical divisions' compilations sold for $6.99? I immediately knew it was probably a way to make quick money and to fulfill her contract with J Records, but a question that I could not ignore rang in my head: is this the end of Angie Stone's music-making career? And I almost cried when I saw her name on the roster for VH1's Celebrity Fit Club 3, which, quite frankly, is a way for has-beens to make a quick buck and maybe gain a little exposure.
So you can only imagine the 'halelujahs' I shouted when I saw her video for "Baby" on TV one fine summer day. After finally accepting the fact that one of my favorite singers was gone from the industry for good, here she comes out of nowhere! The song, a collaboration with soul legend Betty Wright, remains one of my favorites off the album. The two ladies' layered harmonies over the bass-heavy and simplistic production proved to be an excellent first single. The song tells of the classic tale of a lover who forgets about the people who helped him make it to the top. (The songs is obviously about Angie's past relationship with D'Angelo).
The Art of Love and War is a perfect title for the album, whose subject matter is composed of equal parts of painful past relationships ("Go Back To Your Life," "Here We Go Again," etc.) and the hapiness of her new love with husband Ashanit ("Wait For Me," "Sit Down," more).
"Pop Pop" is another highlight. On the relaxing slow jam, which begins with the sound of a champagne cork being popped, Angie's voice oozes with sensuality as do the lyrics. I like to look at it as a full-length sequel to Stone Love's "Touch It" interlude. "Play Wit It" is a funky and confident track where Angie not-so-coyly brags about her hit-making ability; she is here to stay! The 'if you want some, come get some' attitude of the track is sure to make it a favorite.
As much as I love every single song off the album, my absolute favorite is "My People," with talented guest artist, James Ingram. Over soaring and vibrant production, Angie delivers inspirational lyrics to her people to keep their head up and keep advancing further and further. Powerful lines like "only we can save us from us/think about change, re-arrange, show our people love" really make for an emotionally touching track. After almost two minutes of James and Angie alternating turns to name influential black people of the past and present, the background of minimalistic tribal drums and African-style chants fades and Angie adds an odd person to the list... "Bill Clinton. That's right, I said it. Y'all know that was the 'first black man in the white house.'" She lets out a playful chuckle, ending the song. The five minutes of uncontrollable, full-bellied laughter that line caused me was worth the price of the album alone!
To get to the point, Angie Stone's fourth album, The Art of Love and War, is an amazing album. Each and every song is great, raw soul that carries on the tradition of the Stax label. If you love Angie's music, soul music, or just music... this will definitely be pleasing to you. Definitely one of my favorite albums of the year thus far.