on July 31, 2012
Dear Music Appreciators,
And so, nine years after her hit debut THE SOUL SESSIONS, Joss Stone returns with a sequel.
In between the two records she has grown from an ultra talented teenager of just sixteen into an ultra talented woman with legions of loyal fans.
True to the original concept, this is an album of covers, and the song selections are both interesting and appropriate. For the most part these are songs that have enjoyed a life before Joss, but may not be instantly familiar to the average casual listener - and that's a good thing, because for now they belong to Joss Stone and will thus arrive without baggage on the ears of many listeners.
Joss burns up the scenery on "The Love We Had (Stays On My Mind)." She injects a Broken Bells track ("The High Road") with a soulful power missing from the original, and helps us to understand James Mercer's cryptic lyrics just a little better. On "Pillow Talk" she smoothly plays the soulful sex kitten. While I'm not familiar with all the original versions of these songs, I still feel like she must have stamped them with her signature style - and perhaps that's the mark of a great covers album - when an artist owns the songs so confidently that the details of any previous recorded version cease to matter much.
But for those who are interested in the details of these covers, here are the writing credits for each of these tracks - in many cases the writers were also the original performers:
1. "I Got The..." - Labi Siffre
2. "(For God's Sake) Give More Power to the People" - Eugene Record (of the Chi-Lites)
3. "While You're Out Looking For Sugar" - Ronald Dunbar, Edyth Wayne (AKA Holland-Dozier-Holland), written for and originally performed by Honey Cone
4. "Sideways Shuffle" - Tim Renwick
5. "I Don't Wanna Be with Nobody But You" - Eddie Floyd
6. "Teardrops" - Cecil Womack, Linda Womack
7. "Stoned Out of My Mind" - Barbara Acklin
8. "The Love We Had (Stays On My Mind)" - Terry Callier, Larry Wade
9. "The High Road" - James Mercer (The Shins), Brian Burton (Danger Mouse) (AKA Broken Bells)
10. "Pillow Talk" - Sylvia Robinson, Michael Burton
11. "Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye" - John D. Loudermilk
Bonus Tracks on the Deluxe Edition
12. "First Taste of Hurt" - W. Turbinton
13. "One Love in My Lifetime" - Terri McFaddin, Leonard Perry, Lawrence Brown (originally performed by Diana Ross)
14. "Nothing Takes the Place of You" - Toussaint McCall
15. "(1-2-3-4-5-6-7) Count the Days" - B. O'Dell, Yvonne Williams
on July 31, 2012
Joss Stone burst onto the music scene 9 years ago with "The Soul Sessions" which comprised obscure soul covers (as well as a White Stripes cover; "Fell In Love With A Boy") and displayed a maturity well beyond her then 16 years. Largely following her own self-penned path most of the time since then, she returns to the concept of her debut for album number 6.
The funky "I Got The..." opens the album with Stone giving a restrained performance until "(For God's Sake) Give More Power To The People" which finds her unleashing her inner Janis Joplin. Other standouts are the organ-sprinkled ballad "I Don't Want To Be With Nobody But You", the incredibly groovy "Stoned Out Of My Mind", and the breezy "Pillow Talk" (which reminds me of The Isley Brothers' "For The Love Of You" and finds Stone giving a soft delivery).
My favourites are her smoldering cover of Womack & Womack's "Teardrops" (which slows down the tempo, building and almost brimming over in the chorus until the coda where she amps up the soul), the fiery ballad "The Love We Had (Stays On My Mind)" (absolutely spectacular!), "The High Road" (the "Fell In Love With A Boy" of the album, a cover of Alt duo Broken Bells given a Blues/Dub/Funk treatment with some snarling guitar in the background), and closing cut, the stripped string/guitar "Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye" on which she displays tasteful restraint exuding pain and longing in spades. The song just tugs at the heart strings.
Of the bonus tracks on the deluxe edition, standouts are the Motown-style "One Love In My Lifetime", and the Do wop/Blues "Nothing Takes The Place Of You". Earlier in her career Stone tended to overdo the belting and emoting a bit, but on this album, she displays perfect emotional resonance, soft when needed, fiery when right.
on August 31, 2012
Well, this is an unexpected turn of events....I was sure that Joss Stone doing a second volume of THE SOUL SESSIONS was going to be a huge step backwards. Instead, I now think it was the best thing she could have done at this point in time!
While I've enjoyed her last few releases (particularly 2009's COLOUR ME FREE), I just haven't witnessed the type of growth I wanted to see after almost a decade of recording, be it vocally or artistically. At times Stone has seemed like she's wanted to stretch, often even trying, but she's frequently fallen back on some bad habits.
SSv2 has played a big part in ultimately showcasing this fact. By working with her original (and VERY strong) production team and once again dipping into the meatier classics, Stone has come up with a batch of songs that really challenges her, giving her something to REALLY sink her teeth into!
Now, do I want Stone to just do Soul covers from now on? God, no....I still think there's SO much pop potential in there! (Can you imagine a trilogy of 60's, 70's and 80's material? Just the thought of her covering the Beatles, the Stones, the Kinks, the Beach Boys, the Who and the Mamas and the Papas has me giddy!). But maybe she's just not ready as a writer to do an album's worth of originals. There's no shame in doing outside material ~ the only shame comes in A) doing it badly, or B) picking bad covers.
Stone certainly didn't do either here. Opening with "I Got The...", you can just feel the joy in Stone's spirit. (You can actually hear AND feel her playing with the arrangement and instrumentation!...LOVE the little laughs!). Instantly retro AND fresh, this is a great way to kick things off!
"(For God's Sake) Give More Power To The People" is a social protest song that is as relevant today as when it was first recorded....and Stone ROCKS it! The whole thing is full of power and passion, but special mention has to be made of Delbert McClinton's harmonica riffs...WOW!!!
I've been saying for years that someone needed to get Stone the entire Valerie Carter catalog, just to see how this master class vocalist brilliantly melded Rock, Pop and Soul. Well, with "While You're Out Looking For Sugar", someone may have done just that! Easily the album's best vocal, this could very well be a Carter cover! Outstanding.
The vocal gymnastics on "Sideway Shuffle" are simply stunning. Mind you, when I say "vocal gymnastics", I don't mean the vocal histrionics that we often get on a bad national anthem performance. No, I'm talking about a lead vocal that vaults, tumbles, flips and soars like a musical Gabrielle Douglas! Absolutely A...wait!....MAZING!!!!
"I Don't Want To Be With Nobody But You" has a slow, relaxed groove to it. Stone's earthy, sensual lead vocal dances over the smart arrangement, sounding ~ and FEELING! ~ like a singer (and woman) twice her age. So, SO sweet!
"Teardrops" is the album's only real misfire....the track drags on in a dated, repetitious manner. Stone's vocal is nice enough, but both the arrangement and the lyrics just fall flat. AN endless loop repeating itself, this one's a Pass!
The only thing that I can say about "Stoned Out Of My Mind", the only thing that NEEDS to be said, is that, somewhere in heaven, Teena Marie has a big, old smile on her face! Nuff said!
"The Love We Had (Stays On My Mind)" has SUCH a classic Soul vibe to it....part Whitney, part Patti, all Joss, the song is just gorgeous. THIS is powerhouse singing, but at it's nuanced, controlled best. Once again, brilliant.
Up next is "The High Road", the disc's newest ~ and most rockin'~ cut. This is a great sound for Stone, and one she would be wise to persue. Her vocal is steely, strong and assured. (Love the way the ending just builds in intensity!). Very, very nice.
Yes, "Pillow Talk" has some amazingly dated and corny lyrics ("Let me try/To be the one who's gonna light your fire"....really?!?), but it's cool...Stone's silky smooth vocal makes up for it. Seriously...this is unlike anything she's ever done! Hands down, one of my favorite cuts!
The standard disc closes with the lovely "Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye." Delicate, intimate, heartfelt...this track comes straight from the heart. Stone's spot-on lead vocal is perfectly cushioned by an understated, yet powerful, arrangement. The perfect note to end things on!
Well, it WOULD be the perfect note if the four bonus tracks weren't so darn good! Up first is "First Taste Of Hurt"....sassy, funky and fun, Stone just NAILS it! I love the attitude, the horns, the ad-libbing....yet another fave! (And those closing notes...oh, MAN!).
"One Love In My Lifetime" is another winner....this cut could have easily been recorded forty years ago, yet it still sounds like something that would work on the airwaves today. What it all boils down to is this....Stone is an old soul with a timeless talent.
This is also clear on "Nothing Takes The Place Of You", a belter in the Franklin/Labelle/Joplin vein. However, in the past, there would have been a very good chance of Stone taking it over the top, resulting in a total screechfest. Not here....perfectly modulated and controlled, this is sheer perfection.
Things wrap up with the bright, captivating "(1-2-3-4-5-6-7) Count The Days." Stone's lead vocal just sparkles, aided and abetted by Betty Wright's great backing vocals and Latimore's vocal tag. (it's also a fun history lesson to hear the roots of rap when Stone riffs "You better get a pen/Better get some paper/And a calculator"). Love, love, LOVE this song!
So where does Joss Stone go from here? Well, she's got her work cut out for her....she's no longer the "wonder kid"...now she's an adult who has to find material ~ both original and outside ~ that both showcases and challenges her talent and ability. That said, THE SOUL SESSIONS VOL. 2 proves that she's more than up to the task! (As with all my reviews, I'm docking the disc an extra half a star for not including the lyrics....these songs need to be kept alive...including the lyrics would have better served that purpose, vs. not one, not two, not three, but FOUR pages of "Thank You's!").