Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Joss Stone

  • The Soul Sessions [S-Curve, 2003] C+
  • Mind, Body & Soul [S-Curve, 2004]  

Consumer Guide Reviews:

The Soul Sessions [S-Curve, 2003]
Sounds like a well-brought-up twentysomething with a sharp band who writes forgettable originals and smothers covers in irrelevant shows of emotion, as on the endless and supposedly climactic Isleys' chestnut "For the Love of You." But as we all now know, there's a backstory. Band, check--Miami legends like Little Beaver and Timmy Thomas, with Miami legend Betty Wright calling the shots. But Stone isn't from Florida, she's from England, and the forgettables are covers too--the kind of soul marginalia Brits have been overrating since Doris Troy was on Apple. She's only 16, which explains the failed climax. And upon reflection she's not so well brought up, else why trade in Aretha's distinct melody for "All the King's Horses" on soul clichés? Norah Jones is herself, give her that. I hate to think what this phenom will have to go through to get that far. C+

Mind, Body & Soul [S-Curve, 2004]
Eighteen-year-old Joss Stone is cursed with a great voice--a plummy yet gritty thing of tremendous range and power. Hearing her try to make like Gladys Knight on 2003's Miami-funk-styled The Soul Sessions was like watching a 12-year-old with 36D's imitate Marilyn Monroe--sure some guys find it sexy, but they're perverts. For the rest of us, perhaps paradoxically, this album's compromise with the teenpop divahood she was groomed for will feel like an authenticity move. Stone's infatuation with band grooves provides relief from radio-ready synthesizers and compressors. And processed through an instrument more solid than Christina's or Pink's, song-doctored fabrications like Jet Lag and Don't Cha Wanna Ride split the difference between guaranteed hook appeal and a decent simulation of emotional truth. [Blender: 3]