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Joss Stone - Colour Me Free!

Joss Stone, Colour Me Free!

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

FIRST, the good news… Joss Stone has finally returned to the retro-soul music that first helped to turn her into one of the UK’s most promising new artists. Now the bad, it’s still not entirely successful.

Describing Colour Me Free! as Stone’s best album since her astonishing breakthrough is bestowing it with faint praise. It’s a good album, and even great in places. But the retro-soul blend of Motown and Dreamgirls is hardly new anymore and Stone has been overtaken somewhat by artists such as Amy Winehouse and Duffy (commercially) and Florence Rawlings and Beth Rowley.

Hence, that’s why Colour Me Free perhaps lacks the originality of Stone’s earliest work… or the freshness. It’s intermittently fun and reminds us of how her voice is best used… rather than in R’n‘B diva terms.

But sometimes she underlines the point a little too heavily and the album becomes more of a drag than a breeze. Her collaborations, too, seem to reflect the need to include big name guest artists on heavyweight commercial albums, rather than anything too significant – although there are some interesting inclusions.

Colour Me Free! is at its best when keeping things snappy. Album opener Free Me is a free spirited blast of Motown/Northern Soul that kicks things off in celebratory style, and is followed by the equally charming Could Have Been You, which waltzes along on a bed of twinkling piano chords, cute guitar licks and soulful vocals.

Jeff Beck and Sheila E crop up on Parallel Lines, but don’t quite gel as effectively as they should. I personally could have used more of Beck’s guitar… but you have to wait for the solo, while Sheila E and Stone don’t offer much contrast vocally. It’s a workman-like collaboration that promised more.

Big Ole Game, meanwhile, is a far better blues-soul offering that features Raphael Saadiq… and it’s more fun, while her team-up with Nas on the blues-stomp of Governmentalist is a definite highlight which, if anything, makes better use of guitar than Jeff Beck’s spot.

David Sanborn is clearly having some sax-ual fun on the frisky cover of Ray Charles’ I Believe It To My Soul, which translates well to the listener, while the vocal trade-off between Stone and Jamie Hartman on Stalemate provides another bona fide highlight.

But such moments come in stark comparison to an otherwise pedestrian cover version of Candi Staton’s You Got The Love, and a so long and so strained it’s painful 14-minute outro of Mr Wankerman… not to mention the forgettably work-manlike soul processions that are Lady and Incredible.

Colour Me Free! is a mixed bag, then… but one that still marks a welcome return to form for Stone after those R’n‘B wilderness years.

Download picks: Free Me, Could Have Been You, Big Ole Game, Governmentalist, I Believe It To My Soul, Stalemate

Track listing:

  1. Free Me
  2. Could Have Been You
  3. Parallel Lines
  4. Lady
  5. 4 And 20
  6. Big ‘Ol Game
  7. Governmentalist
  8. Incredible
  9. You Got The Love
  10. I Believe It To My Soul
  11. Stalemate
  12. Girlfriend On Demand
  13. Mr Wankerman [explicit]