November 26, 2009

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Joss Stone, Colour Me Free
Virgin Records, Oct. 20

In general I leave the Godzilla divas to the glossy payola mags whose mission it is to remind you that you’re the little people, but Stone’s PR-hype BS does make one feel a little protective of her. Repeat, a little, not a lot: unlike her dark counterpart, fellow Brit and ’70s-throwback Amy Winehouse, Stone’s a vegan without a nightmare boyfriend, but when she proclaimed her independence as a recording artist, many folks had to be sighing in relief — she’s a much looser animal than Macy Gray, the model for her over-processed radio-pop horror “You Had Me,” a vision of what would have happened to Janis Joplin if she’d been a commodity of this generation’s major label production line. Now I don’t believe a syllable about Colour Me Free being a collection of impromptu jams (you can, if it’ll make you feel good, but it ain’t), but it’s certainly no glitzy, disposable tosspot of overproduced nu-soul, either; in fact it may be the best oldfangled ’60s girl-group slab of the decade, stuff so sticky that you can sing along for the rest of each tune after one verse. Standouts include “Free Me” (straight out of a Blues Brothers sequel when an angry wife shows up) and “Could Have Been You” (Mariah Carey could only hope to be this soulful), while Nas deposits some 5-star-hotel rhyming into the otherwise unadvisedly political “Governmentalist.” AEric W. Saeger