Top critical review
More Heart, Less Soul
on 23 January 2015
Although I quite enjoyed Joss Stone's debut album "The Soul Sessions", it didn't really live up to the hype. It proved that Stone can sing, but so what? Lots of people can sing. Hear'Say could sing, but that didn't really help them much in the long run, as you need to be able to back up a decent singing performance with a decent song.
Stone managed that part of things admirably, at least, by putting out an album of mostly soul covers, albeit soul songs with a pop edge. Whilst this proved to be a nice change from the standard bubblegum pop sound around at the moment, it caused a number of people to put her on a pedestal, comparing her to the likes of Aretha Franklin. This seemed to me to be a bit of an over-reaction, as Stone's got a good voice, without a doubt, but not that good.
The one down side to her "The Soul Sessions" album was that it felt in parts as if Stone was just singing the songs she had been told to, not the songs she wanted to. Whilst they were all well performed, there were times where it didn't quite feel as if Stone was putting all her heart into it. That was enough to make me wonder how she might sound once she got into recording her own songs. With "Mind, Body & Soul", I'm about to find the answer to that question, as more than three quarters of the songs here were co-written by Joss Stone herself.
Unfortunately, after the promise of a new soul influenced pop sound that was "The Soul Sessions", Stone has done what I most feared she would. On "Mind, Body & Soul" she has become a copy of pretty much every other artist in the pop-soul and r 'n' b genres. On most of the tracks here, it is only her admittedly very good voice and a slightly more laid-back vibe that makes you realise this is a Joss Stone album and not one by any other artist.
How you feel about this is going to be a personal choice. I'm not a great fan of the r 'n' b sound as a whole, so it was the more soulful efforts that appealed to me the most, although I will admit that Stone seems to be enjoying herself a little more with these songs that with the cover versions on "The Soul Sessions". However, fan of the likes of Alicia Keys and Destiny's Child may well find themselves enjoying this album greatly. If you are a fan of those artists, or pop influenced r 'n' b generally, the album isn't bad value for an hour of music spread over 15 songs.
Whilst I'm personally disappointed by this album, I do feel that there is a little hope for the future. The variety of influences on the album suggests that Stone hasn't quite managed to find her own voice as yet. This suggests that she could return to a more soul based sound on future albums or continue to blend in with a number of other artists. The first single from her next album, whenever that may be, will answer that question. For now, this is what we have, although I'll just keep listening to "The Soul Sessions" and hoping that and not the sound of "Mind, Body & Soul" is to be the sound of Joss Stone's future.