Joss Stone has been publicly battling her label for some time, and she may not be done, with a first single that ends with her wailing ”Free me, EMI!” Any tiffs mostly get translated into romantic tension, though, and the first half of her fourth album is the best set of music she’s done — especially ”Could Have Been You,” which throws an off-the-beat piano riff on top of a proto-?typical Al Green groove and Stone’s controlled regret. The second half succumbs to R&B overproducers, unfortunately, but for a while, she’s on the right freedom trail. B Download This: Listen to the song Could Have Been You at last.fm See all of this week’s reviews .
The "free" in the title to Joss Stone's fourth album apparently refers to the neo-soul singer breaking free from the shackles of her major label, EMI, who apparently have not let Joss be Joss. That this constricting argument happens to be the exact same story line Stone used for 2007's Introducing Joss Stone, the splashy diva power trip meant to unveil the "real" singer, is conveniently forgotten, as is the modern R&B of that makeover, with Joss returning to all the retro-soul of her first two records. The one lingering element of Introducing is a propensity for melisma-laden oversinging, a tic that stands out greatly in the warmer, funkier settings of Colour Me Free!, helping Joss seem somewhat disconnected from the emotional thrust of her music.
Quite possibly the best five-track span of songs to ever appear on a Joss Stone record lies on her 2007 masterpiece, Introducing…. From the swing of “Girl, They Won’t Believe It”, to the sassy “Headturner”, to the infectious hook of “Tell Me ‘Bout It”, to the perfect Common collaboration “Tell Me What We’re Gonna Do Now”, and finally to the overly-aggressive, in your face “Put Your Hands on Me”, it’s hard to believe the Englishwoman will ever top the brilliance of that stretch. So maybe that’s what makes Stone’s latest, Colour Me Free, a tad disappointing.