Joss Stone
The Soul Sessions
2004
C



y’all acting like you ain’t never seen a white person before. Such is the media kerfuffle and splurge that surrounds every Joss Stone review and article, the girl becomes less a musical act and more of a modern day freakshow. SEE the 16 year old white girl from Devon play music that isn’t normally associated with 16 year old white girls from Devon! THRILL as she covers “Fell In Love With A Girl” in a style that differs somewhat from the original! GROAN as you realise that bloody ?uestlove is involved in all this!

Gimmicks gimmicks gimmicks. It’s what’s causing me to not jump up and salute this album as soon as it goes in the player. And it’s what is going to be the critical beating stick reviewers that don’t like it are going to use to beat it into a coma. And that’s a shame, because when you strip all the wackiness and gimmicks aside, Joss Stone does have a voice on her. It’s a voice of warmth, and one of the clearest attempts to recreate some sort of Muscle Shoals for the new millennium we’ve had so far. However, while the lazy will drag out Aretha Franklin comparisons, she’s not in that ballpark. At all. It’s a good voice. It’s not a great voice, because she’s still 16 and doesn’t know what to do with it yet. That’s why “The Cheatin’ Kind” sounds like Mariah Carey.

But, anyway, begin on the indie talking point, which is her take on Jack White’s messing-about-on-the-river “classic”, gender-switched to be entitled “Fell In Love With A Boy”. Because God forbid anyone thinks she’s a dyke. So the characters names get changed, and… well, it tells us nothing, really. It’s not a brave new reinventing of a song from a challenging female perspective. Instead it just comes across like those weird-ass cover versions people use on car adverts, when they just take any old famous song and make it acoustic/reggae. “Red hair with a curl” also seems really unappealing when singing about a man as well.

Taking a break from any logical discussion of the album, here, I’d like to take a break to point out that the opening seconds of “Victim of a Foolish Heart” are EXACTLY the same as the beginning moments of “Diamonds and Guns” by shampoo advertising punkas Transplants. Not quite sure what that proves, but still….

Look, it’s a good voice, but it’s not a good album. It’s unvaried. It’s too forced. It’s not challenging enough, its as if ?uestlove’s just sat back and said “Oh, she’s white but sounds like she isn’t, that’s enough to sell an album”. And it is. This’ll probably be the biggest selling album by a British artist this year. Her marketing to an indie audience makes sense, because the Radio 2 audience are going to scoop this up. Rest assured that your mother will put this on at dinner parties within the next three months. Not that’s there’s anything wrong with that per se (my mother bumps Dean Martin on rotation at dinner parties, and I’ve got mad love for Dino), but… it’s bland. It’s comfort music, but with no taste. Joss Stone is a definite talent, but this isn’t a definite album. It’s a freakshow, and, like a freakshow, the pleasure you get from watching it just leaves you with guilt at enjoying it afterwards.
Reviewed by: Dom Passantino
Reviewed on: 2004-02-06
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