LP1 marks the third successive album from Joss Stone where she’s attempting to hit the restart button on her career, to usher in a new beginning for the neo-soul diva or, better yet, find the right setting for her considerable gifts. This journey began with 2007’s splashy modern R&B set Introducing Joss Stone, a makeover she rebelled against on her major-label kiss-off Colour Me Free, and now that she’s truly independent, she’s aligned with Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart for LP1, returning to the classicism of her earliest work. There is a difference. Stewart is naturally reluctant to present Stone in a strictly soul setting; R&B is the foundation, but he dabbles in tight funk, folk, blues, Euro-rock, and modernist pop, giving LP1 just enough elasticity so it breathes and just enough color so it doesn’t seem staid. Then, there’s Stone herself. She may still have a tendency to over-sell her songs, but she doesn’t sound like she is patterning herself after her idols; she’s developing her own style, somewhere between classic soul and the pyrotechnics of modern divas, her settings leaning toward the former and her phrasing the latter. LP1 doesn’t always achieve a balance between the two extremes, not to the extent Stone and Stewart desires, as some of the ballads are a little formless and some of the funk a little too restricted, while some of Joss’ posturing is a little affected, but it has more moments that work than anything she’s done since her actual debut in 2003. If this winds up being the first album of many that mine this style, LP1 will serve its purpose well.
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine