Our phone wasn't ringing in over the weekend, and we had been thinking about getting a new one for quite some time now (our old phone's handset had died, so we were using another one that didn't have an answering machine, so I had jury rigged both phones together so I could receive messages), so I bought a new phone Saturday night. Well, actually, I put it on a credit card. And because I put it on a credit card, the little "spend money" devil on my shoulder said "Hey, there's the CD by that Joss Stone chickie that you saw on VH1 the other night! And it's only $8.95! Why don't you throw that in, too!" So I did. I thought, well, this might be interesting if she (or her people, anyway) is/are as faithful on record to the retro-soul leanings as she was on the VH1 Divas show I saw the other night. And on that score, she succeeds 100%. Most of the songs on her Soul Sessions CD are very much influenced by Aretha Franklin and Miami Soul, not to mention early Bonnie Raitt, an apparent influence that doesn't get mentioned in the hype. There are some impressive, nicely done tracks like "Fell in Love With a Boy" (A funked-up, gender-corrected cover of the White Stripes song, by far the best thing on the record) opener "The Chokin' Kind", "I've Fallen In Love With You"; a ballsy Carla Thomas cover blessed with a nice string arrangement, and a cover of that chestnut "Some Kind of Wonderful", which is given a laid-back but driving arrangment which pleases. On the negative side, "Dirty Man" is a would-be showcase for Stone's pipes, but has a bare-bones blues arrangement which bores me to tears, and a couple of cuts towards the end are would-be soulful, but just come across to me as dull and lifeless, with her band tinkling around in the background while Joss wails and coos and Janises around ("I Had A Dream Last Night", "For The Love Of You"), and these do nothing for me either. Will our 17-year-old wannabe LaVern Baker have staying power? Will she go on and have a long career, or will she be the next Joan Osborne or Macy Gray? Will she stick to her Stax guns, or will she go all Britney & Christina on us? When will Madonna enter the picture? Who knows. But right here right now, this is a fine little early 70s-style recording- nothing world-changing or anything, but a heck of an accomplishment for a young lady her age and well worth a listen on your part.
The other newish album I've been listening to lately is from Dublin's The Thrills, titled So Much For The City. Even though they're from Auld Eire, they have an affinity for Americana, in the Van Dyke Parks/Beach Boys circa 68/Monkees/Byrds/Neil Young tradition and their debut album is full of it- every song cobbled together from this group or another. And fortunately, these fellows know how to borrow with style. Every song is listenable and often very clever and tuneful- for example, the song "Old Friends, New Lovers" borrows liberally from Nilsson and the Midnight Cowboy soundtrack, and opener "Santa Cruz" sounds like the Old 97's performing songs from Parks & Brian Wilson's Orange Crate Art collaboration of a few years ago. Not a bad album overall, but I'd like to hear a bit less creative borrowing next time and a little more originality before I become an acolyte.
Finally, I really like the song from that ESPN commercial, in which the Black Eyed Peas redo their "Let's Get Retarded" into a more PC-friendly "Lets Get It Started". Catchy as hell, it is.
More later, hopefully.