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Review: Joss Stone – ‘Colour Me Free!’

Although she’s only 22 years old, up to this point Joss Stone had released three albums, which each being more commercially successful than the one before it. Now, on her fourth album, Colour Me Free! (released in the U.S. on Oct. 20, 2009), she further expands her creativity and songwriting abilities and has come up with an album that fuses the old-school Soul feel of her first two albums with the hip-hop influences of her third record. The result is a great balance of well-written, beautifully sung and expertly-produced new-school Soul songs that, when put together, make up the best album of her career so far.

Truly Free

Early in her career, when she was in her mid-to-late teens, Joss Stone was basically just a singing puppet, with her label pulling the strings. As a result, her first two albums were well-sung but ultimately lacking the raw emotion that all good Soul artists put into their work. Her third album, 2007’s Introducing Joss Stone was basically her Emancipation of Mimi – it was a personal statement declaring herself free of the control of others and charted a new course of her own devising. Joss continues that course on Colour Me Free and at the same time makes a statement about her past via the album’s cover. The controversial cover illustration presents Joss as a colorless mannequin locked in a small, tight cage, all folded up and get to be free. The drawing is presumably supposed to reflect how she felt in the past and that this album represents her getting free. And in fact, the album’s opening song – and first single – is a declaration of independence called “Free Me,” where she determinedly sings “don’t tell me that I won’t: I can, don’t tell me that I’m not: I am … don’t tell me that I won’t: I will.” But the track that maybe best exemplifies the fact that Joss is a grown woman now is “Lady,” where she sings about having to maintain self control around the person she desires so that she doesn’t come across as a slut: “My oh my how you’re lookin’ so fine but my lips can’t say it, in my mind, these lips are all over you. There’s some things that a lady just cannot do. And I just can’t let you closer to my skin, and I just can’t accept what you’re offerin’.”

Richly Powerful

It’s not just the mature topic of “Lady” that’s signifies how much of an adult Joss it, insomuch as it is the way she sings the song. As mentioned above, she she was younger, Joss’s voice was beautiful but emotionally vacant. But on “Lady,” you can hear the longing and emotion in her voice as she sings about wanting to submit to the person of her dreams although she knows she can’t. Another stellar track on the album is “Governmentalist,” a slightly paranoid song about shadowy government actions. The song (which isn’t as grim or dark as the description makes it out to be), features a cameo verse by the rapper Nas that will have you repeatedly reaching for the rewind button ’cause you’ll want to listen to it over and over. Interestingly, Joss expands her musical horizons a little on this album with “I Believe It to My Soul,” a jazzy number featuring saxophonist David Sanborn; and Stalemate, a sweeping pop duet with British singer-songwriter Jamie Hartman. Although Joss’s forte is gritty urban Soul, she manages to carry herself very well on these two tracks and manages to master the material instead of having it overwhelm her. Including Sanborn and Hartman, five of the dozen tracks on Colour Me Free! have guest performers, with the others being the aforementioned Nas, plus Raphael Saadiq (on “Big Ole Game”) and the unusual but fluid combo of Sheila E. and Jeff Beck on “Parallel Lines.” Fortunately, these artists are incorporated into the mix without adversely sacrificing the album’s overall sound, mainly due to Joss’s rich, powerful voice holding everything together.

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October 27, 2009 - Posted by | 1

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