Review Summary: Funky, fresh, and forward, Joss Stone delivers an excellent third effort that finds this gifted vocalist stepping out just enough to make a big difference in her young career. Sounding great and building on her vast potential its a winner from note one.
A success story from the start in her home country of England and to some extent on the U.S. R&B charts (her last album even hit #11 on the pop chart), teenage soul sensation Joss Stone has set her sights on coming out anew for her third release "Introducing Joss Stone". Not that she had to start anew, as her debut and more successful follow up "Mind, Body, & Soul" saw a steady upward climb of sales and accolades which brought the singer British Music Awards and Grammy nominations alike. But turning 19 years old is a big step in a girls life, and perhaps even more so in a girls life who also happens to be a globally embraced recording artist still looking to crack the top 10 in America. So now a woman Joss has come to us all grown up and who's new recording is, in her own words "truly me. That's why I'm calling it Introducing Joss Stone. These are my words, and this is who I am as an artist". Pretty confident for 19, as many artist never figure out who they are in a lifetime. So, does she have the goods to back up such a strong statement? Well, quite frankly, yes. Joss Stone is, as they say, the real deal. And from the sound of this record she is in it far the long haul.
On Stone's first two efforts she brought smooth and silky soul music almost exclusively, perfectly suited for "30 something" retro R&B aficionados to sip cappuccino's to in their favorite coffee shops, or perhaps a great soundtrack to light some candles with and settle in for the night with an object of affection. Sometimes funky and sometimes uptempo, the overall vibe was one of soulful slow jams nonetheless, and the albums indeed had the feeling of someone looking back for inspiration rather then looking to themselves for creative energy and force.
On Introducing Joss Stone producer Rapheal Saadiq flips that switch from the start giving Stone a more contemporary sound to work with and a funkier base to exercise her considerable vocal chops from. The opening track "Girl They Won't Believe It" exhibits a buoyancy not often found on the previous two Stone albums with its shuffling R&B groove and compliment of spirited back-up singers engaging Joss in soulful call and response style vocal play, and the fun first single "Tell Me 'bout It" samples Deelite's early '90's hit "Groove Is In The Heart" while Joss does in fact groove all over this retro feeling yet modern sounding recording. "Tell Me What We're Gonna Do Now" explores some minor hip hop beats as does the sexually charged "Put Your Hands On Me", which is not to say they are hip hop by definition. Its just to say with some turntable scratching here and some broken rhythms and beats there, Joss has managed to avoid falling into a "what is expected" mode with this album and instead has freshened things up just enough to open up space for the future.
Some may complain that while the production and stylistic changes are welcome on Introducing Joss Stone they come at the sacrifice of the songwriting and simple soul which showcased her considerable vocal talent on previous work. And while songs like "Baby Baby Baby" and "Arms Of My Baby" do seem thin at first blush, never do they fall into the realm of cheap pop music or shallow diva like hyperbole. Stone holds it all together with confident, measured vocals and jumps right into the musical fray producer Saadiq has set up for her, singing her own lyrics like she means it and certainly sounding more mature then the 16 year old who first introduced herself a few years ago. Introducing Joss Stone has the sound of an artist who is beginning to go places, not of one coming from somewhere or standing still. And thats a good sound to hear in the hands of one so obviously gifted in music and song.
Perhaps the best thing about this "new" Joss Stone is that it is also the old Joss Stone. Nothing is radically different from what came before, but what is different is just enough to crack open the door just that much more to catch a glimpse of an artist truly ready to go down a road that doesn't stop with the next round of bubble headed pop stars or self proclaimed R&B diva's. More Diana Ross And The Supremes on Introducing Joss Stone then the sultry soul singers she is usually compared to, Ms. Stone sounds fully in charge, engaged, and most of all like the young woman she is rather then the mature vocal stylist many would like her to exclusively be. Fun, freedom, and liberation should be the part of any young artists life. Perhaps most of all a young artist who is basically just out of high school. Introducing Joss Stone has the spirit, soul, and funk of someone discovering themselves perhaps for the first time and starting to lead rather then follow. And if this album of rockin' R&B and soulful, impeccable vocal work is any indication of what is to come from young Ms. Stone, its a lead I'll be happy to follow for many years to come.