Joss Stone – Mind Body & Soul

Aged at just 17 years old Joss Stone is living in a dream. Picked from obscurity in Devon she was whisked off to record an album of soul covers with the legendary Betty Wright with the idea this would showcase her amazing vocal process before launching, “Mind Body & Soul”, the first album proper on the world. Of course “Original Soul Sessions” outsold it’s original expectations and became a phenomena in its own right reaching out as much to the pop idol generation as Radio 4 listeners and a re-gendered cover of the White Stripes “Fell In Love With A Girl” drew in skinny white indie kids. Co-writing 12 of the 14 tracks on “Mind Body And Soul” with the likes of Lamont Dozier and the aformentioned Betty Wright this album doesn’t so much move on from the original template as complement it.

Within the first 30 seconds of “Right To Be Wrong” it’s clear that vocally Stone has grown so much in the past 12 months. The palette is richer, slightly grittier and so much more expressive; a fact that is no doubt helped by the fact that her life experiences have grown so much and despite the appearance of a typically giggly teenage girl, Joss Stone has a wise head on young shoulders. The lyric “I gotta sing my own song, I might be singing out of key. But it sure feels good to me” sums up the spirit of the album and although the songwriting is steeped in tradition, Stone has avoided the plague of being known as just a covers artist. The single “You Had Me” is actually the most contemporary sounding track on the album and even though it sounds like a lost Anastacia single, the music underpinning it could equally be Stevie Wonder. “Spoiled” slows things down in one of the more emotional ballads on the album. A moving string section stirs the emotions while the stop-start drama of the percussion creates an almost uncertain outcome which is fitting with the lyrical theme of should she leave the boy she finds so hard to resist.

“Less Is More” breaks away from the soul blueprint via a Commissioner Gordon production for Songs Of David. Over a roots reggae backing Stone begs her man that the overblown gestures and intense relationship just isn’t for her. The albums closer “Sleep Like A Child” is backing by a hypnotic insistent beat while a nursery box plays a subtle melody. Apart from flourishes of creeping strings this track serves as a fitting ended to showcase the voice of Joss Stone.

“Mind Body And Soul” cements Joss Stone’s place in the international music scene. Where she goes musically from here is anyone’s guess as she has a voice that could continue to produce timeless soul music. Alternatively she could equally strip things back acoustically or head in a more contemporary R&B direction. When you’ve got genuine talent you can turn your hand to any genre of music and it will work regardless.

Alex McCann

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