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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

...about nothing important. Just whether or not I like Joss Stone.

I hadn't heard of her (haven't seen the Gap commercial, the VH-1 Diva thing, nothing) before seeing her do a set on Austin City Limits after Michael McDonald. My first impression was that she was a Joplin rip-off, but she and her band were good enough to keep me interested for a half-hour. I didn't know she's a mere 17 years old until I looked her up, but being young's never been good enough to impress me. Although, what often does impress me about young people--yes, even young white people--doing old school R&B stuff is that they'd even attempt that music. They tend to get all of five minutes on somewhere like MTVH-whatever.

Anyway, I got ahold of her albums, and they didn't really make an impression, even for someone addicted to blue-eyed soul and worships at the altar of Bill Champlin like me. And, then it hit me.

Part of the problem is her voice; she's simply not done growing, yet. Period. The bigger problem, though, was the production on both her albums. Her backing band--there or on ACL--just isn't helping her any. You could replace them all with canned tracks and I don't think I'd notice. Now, that could be a decision on the producer's part: dumb down the musicians rather than risk the spotlight shining on anyone other than the vocalist for a micro-second (which is almost always a reason for me to burn an album). Or, those cats really can't play. In any case, I feel like I've only got half of what I paid for. I mean, her songs really only come in three tempos, and three or four different grooves. Now, whether that's limiting her or revealing her limitations remains to be seen.

It's the same reason I was never really into the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Although they have the opposite problem: kick ass band, but I can't stand that dude's voice.

Say what you want about Macy Gray, but at least she delivers the whole package, from writing, to the recording, through to the live performance. She could walk off the stage and let her band play, and I'd still listen intently. There's some real meat to those recordings, too. Same thing with the current Earth, Wind & Fire. Sure, everyone knows it's really only Philip Bailey, Verdine White, and Ralph Johnson, et al, but that doesn't mean they let anyone be part of et al. They walk off stage and the band still burns; I'll be damned if that little dude they have doing the Maurice White vocals can't keep a show going.

In any case, it's that sense of "the whole package" that I'm missing when I'm deciding whether or not to like Joss Stone. I dunno, I'll give her albums a few more listens.
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