Joss Stone | LP1

Album Review: Joss Stone | LP1
by Brent Faulkner

Joss Stone’s recent career has seemed to be a bit less stable than when
the neo-soul singer first bowed in the U.S. On 2007’s Introducing,
Stone tried to position herself as recharging or reinvigorating a career
that had already been solidified by two critically acclaimed efforts
(not to mention Grammy-nominated). Her exclusive Colour Me Free
suffered from only being available at Target, not to mention the lack of
a distinct promo single to stir up the buzz. And now, here arrives the
independently released LP1, following an unfortunate downgrade of her
‘rising stardom’ (Adele rules this roost) and a bizarre, failed murder
plot against the talented vocalist. LP1 is another ‘reinvention’
sometimes suiting the singer perfectly while at other times selling her
ever so slightly short. That said, Stone still possesses madd pipes.

The album opens with “Newborn,” a departure for the singer, finding
Stone accompanied by acoustic guitars and embodying more of an adult
contemporary sound. The track gradually evolves into a more soulful
vehicle (thanks to organ), not unlike Dave Stewart’s production work on
Stevie Nicks’s most recent affair, In Your Dreams. The enjoyable
refrain brings it all together: “everybody walk hand in hand/get hold of
your land/push together yeah/everybody get over hate/ you turned up too
late/that trick’s over…” Not a bad cut, “Newborn” proves to be a bit
clunky. “Karma” is a funkier cut, featuring songwriting credits from
Martina McBride, Brad Warren, Bret Warren, Joss Stone and Dave Stewart.
The clavinet may be the best instrumental highlight of the cut,
hearkening back to Stevie Wonder’s pioneering use of the instrument.
Vocally, Stone sounds as ferocious as ever, rivaling her electric
performance on past hit “You Had Me.” “Don’t Start Lying To Me Now” is
even better given it’s bluesy nature and gospel-tinged sound. Of all
the cuts on LP1, “Don’t Stop Lying To Me Now” may be the most fitting,
natural setting for Stone.

“Last One to Know” is a bit ambiguous at first, but like much of
Stewart’s production work, there is a sense of evolution about the cut.
The drawbacks of this cut are the lengthiness (nearly five minutes in
duration) and the departure from previous, more soulful cuts. Joss
saves the day from any momentum loss with the soulful, rock vocal
histrionics at the end. “Drive All Night” possesses a nice, low-key soul
vibe. Despite the sound and capable production, the songwriting could
use more structure. The other rub again is the extravagant length,
clocking in at over five minutes in duration where four might’ve been
more ideal. “Cry Myself to Sleep” is a ‘sleeper’ and brings down the
momentum of the effort. Thankfully the brief, but enjoyable “Somehow”
resurrects the soul-rock vibe of the best cuts on this effort. The
production is superb and the songwriting is strong. “Landlord” finds
Stone as soulful as ever, but the effect of the cut is somewhat bland.
“Boat Yard” starts out promising, but again length proves to be a con.
Closing cut “Take Good Care” is forgettable, yet appropriately placed in
the sequence of cuts.

Overall, LP1 is an enjoyable album, but it is also a flawed effort.
Hardcore fans will miss some of the overt neo-soul stylings of previous
efforts. All fans – casual or ‘tried-and-true‘ will appreciate Stone’s
vocal grit throughout the effort, which is never compromised. Next
go-around, a return to Stone’s neo-soul roots might be just the formula
to truly reinvigorate her promising career.

Brent Faulkner
The Urban Music Scene

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