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Joss Stone, "Colour Me Free" (Virgin) [2 out of 4 STARS]

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When British ingénue Joss Stone first hit the music scene, she was a welcome change of pace from the many other teen pop princesses. For one, she actually could sing, with a smoky, soulful voice that belied her age. For another, she showed a genuine affinity for old-school R&B, even as the producers of her first two albums, "The Soul Sessions" (2003) and "Mind, Body & Soul" (2004), did their best to obscure it with an overly pristine sound pandering to commercial gloss.

Like so many of her peers, however--see also: Avril Lavigne and Kelly Clarkson--the now 22-year-old Stone began to buck against the system that had fostered her, and her frustrations are given full voice on her fourth studio effort, which she claims to have written and recorded in about a week in her native Devon. The controversial cover art depicts her crammed into a cage with limbs numbered like the cuts on a chart in a butcher's shop, while the first single, "Free Me," spells out her gripes with her music-industry oppressors. "Don't tell me that I won't/I will," she sings with throaty defiance. "Don't tell me that I'm not/I am/Don't tell me that my master plan/Ain't coming through."

Noble sentiments, to be sure, but the problem is that Stone doesn't really have a master plan, or the discerning ear to tell her best moments (the more fiery, up-tempo, Aretha-lite grooves) from her worst (the schlocky slow jams, the worst of which, a dreadful cover of the Nat King Cole standard "L-O-V-E," thankfully was cut from the American edition of this album). She inexplicably reteams with two of the producers, Jonathan Shorten and Connor Reeves, responsible for her earlier, watered-down sounds; she trots out the pointless celebrity cameos (Jeff Beck, Sheila E., Nas and David Sanborn, though Raphael Saadiq is a welcome presence), and most of all, she seems more than a bit hypocritical railing against the system while remaining in its ranks and issuing this disc as yet another exclusive corporate commodity, available only through Target and iTunes.

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Thank heavens she put out another album! Not all of us are lucky enough to live in Chicago, and develop a discerning ear listening to above average singers in local clubs. I'll settle for Joss singing pages out of the phone book - with the "Commitments" horn section backing her, and gladly stop into Target to buy the recording. I believe that Mr. Jim should pull out some old Stax wax and try to count how many cuts aren't "worthy of an American edition". Sing away Joss - and don't disappear into the Anita Baker underworld where you share your talents with a select few!

Oh course you don't like it Jim. Maybe she should dress in all blacmk, and sing of how there's no hope for her or anyone else in this miserable, pathetic, corporate greed world? Maybe instead of such people as HALL OF FAME guitarist Jeff Beck she should have had Al Jourgensin (sic) or maybe some assortment of artists from "oh the world is unfair to me" psuedo-pop groups that are half your age. Obviously Joss Stone's first and biggest mistake was not contacting Jim DeRegotis for advice and consul before she made her album. How dare you Joss.

Joss doesn't control the distribution of her albums. EMI does. That was her label's deal to sell exclusively through iTunes and Target, not hers. EMI stifled her again by modifying her album cover. Go to Target or iTunes and see for yourself.

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This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on October 21, 2009 10:24 AM.

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