Joss Stone Mind Body & Soul

It was easy to be a little cynical about Joss Stone when she burst on the scene with her multi-platinum debut, The Soul Sessions (over two million copies sold internationally). Would she have got the huge record label push and the media hype if she’d been a middle-aged black woman, rather than a young white English rose? If you put those reservations aside, you had to admit that this was one damn fine record of convincing old-time soul music. Stone has wasted no time in delivering a sequel, one that confirms she’s the real deal. The singer has been smart in surrounding herself with some top-notch production, songwriting and instrumental talent. Topping that list is soul diva Betty Wright, who serves as both co-producer, co-writer and a role model for Stone. Joss took a greater role in the songwriting this time, and acquits herself relatively well. That voice remains her key weapon, though. It is full-blooded enough to handle an upbeat funky tune like "You Had Me,” yet sensitive and expressive enough to carry ballads like "Spoiled” (co-written by soul legend Lamont Dozier) and the gospel-inflected "Security.” Thankfully, she avoids the histrionic vocal gymnastics you get from the likes of Whitney or Christina. There is no moment of genius like the decision on the debut to cover Grand Funk classic "Some Kind Of Wonderful,” but Mind Body & Soul is a real solid sophomore outing. (S-Curve)