Tag Archives: Joss Stone

Joss Stone and Damian Marley make sweet reggae music

Joss-Stone-Water-For-Your-Soul-CoverA big voice. She has a big voice. I’m talking about soul singer Joss Stone. I haven’t heard much from her prior to listening to her new reggae-based album Water for Your Soul.

This 14 track set is a result of a collaboration with Damian Marley who Joss Stone worked with on his and Nas’ collaborative effort Distant Relatives, a set that at times isn’t far from a few of the cuts on Water for Your Soul. The two were also part of all-star super-group SuperHeavy together with Mick Jagger, Dave Stewart and A.R. Rahman.

Joss Stone is 28 years old. She has made music professionally for the past 12. This is her seventh studio album. That’s crazy impressive. Over the years she has tried and tested many genres. She started with R&B and has since moved effortlessly between soul, blues, funk and rock. Never stopping, always on the move.

So a reggae album isn’t really that surprising. But quite a few will probably laugh by just hearing Joss Stone and reggae in the same sentence. But they will be proven wrong. Because this album has it fair share of memorable moments, but also a bunch of less memorable ones, for example the ridiculous ganja anthem Sensimilla.

The album collects soulful, sensual and mostly lightweight reggae with a slices of funk, latin and hip-hop thrown in. The arrangements are superb with elastic and bubbling rhythms underpinning Joss Stone’s powerful vocals.

Joss Stone graces massive reggae cuts like Molly Town and Harry’s Symphony with confidence and swagger. The former borrowing from the massive Swing Easy riddim and on the latter she – together with Linton Kwesi Johnson – warns against bad boys. She also nods towards reggae singers Johnny Osbourne, Matthew McAnuff, Barrington Levy and a few others.

Water for Your Soul might be bubble-gum reggae, but it sure tastes good.

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Too many cooks spoil SuperHeavy

The newest addition to the supergroup notoriety is SuperHeavy. It’s the brainchild of Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones and Eurythmics founder Dave Stewart. Onboard is also soul singer Joss Stone, Academy Award winning composer A.R Rahman and Damian Marley, whose contribution to this project is the sole reason for this review.

One might wonder what Damian Marley is doing in this company. But neither Mick Jagger nor Dave Stewart is a stranger to the reggae genre. Mick Jagger has sung with the late Peter Tosh and Dave Stewart has worked with Jimmy Cliff.

This diverse and eclectic line-up boasts no less than eleven Grammy Awards individually. But can these highly talented and skilled musicians bring forward a consistent album?

Supergroups usually offer a great promise on paper, but at the same time they are often short-lived, as witnessed with groups such as Velvet Revolver, Audioslave and The Traveling Wilburys, even though the latter suffered from the premature death of band member Roy Orbison.

SuperHeavy’s self-titled debut album was recorded in different studios all over the world and assembles 12 tunes on the regular edition and 16 on the deluxe version. The sound is thick and bears traces from pop, reggae, electronica, rock, Indian music and so called world music.

Reggae is not just present through Damian Marley’s vocals. He has brought with him his rhythm section – bass player and composer Shiah Coore and drummer Courtney Diedrick. And they are tight with a nice groove on several songs.

And it might not come as a surprise that I believe that Damian Marley is the best ingredient in this dish. He has proven before that he is huge in cross-genre collaborations, such as last year’s Distant Relatives album.

But SuperHeavy doesn’t even come close to the spirit and greatness of that effort. SuperHeavy suffers from too many cooks and strays in too many different directions. Even though the first single Miracle Worker proves different.

I’m sure that SuperHeavy had a blast in the studio when recording this album and that the label was thrilled over the idea of a supergroup with Mick Jagger in the front seat. But this set probably works better on paper than in reality.

SuperHeavy hits the streets in the U.S. on September 20th and on September 19th in the rest of the world.

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Mer hiphop än reggae från Nas och Damian Marley

Så har den äntligen kommit. Rykten om en platta med Nas och Damian Marley har florerat ända sedan samarbetet Road To Zion från 2005, och i april förra året bekräftades det av Nas.

Förväntningarna på Distant Relatives har varit höga och singlarna har lovat gott. Framför allt öppningsspåret As We Enter som bjöd på både orgel à la The Doors och feta hockeykörer. Andrasingeln Land of Promise fick det också att vattnas i munnen. Den tuffa rytmen, baserad på Aswads Love Fire och Dennis Browns Land of Promise, visar hur tung roots reggae kan vara.

Den tredje singeln Friends släpptes härom dagen och är betydligt lugnare än sina föregångare. Rytmen är huvudsakligen hiphopbaserad, och när jag lyssnat igenom hela plattan så är faktiskt Friends mest representativ för den övergripande känslan. Distant Relatives är betydligt mer hiphop än reggae. Och ibland är det nästan inte hiphop. Jag kan tänka mig att om Fugees och Massive Attack hade hängt i en studio i Addis Abeba, så hade rytmerna kunnat låta ungefär så här.

Distant Relatives
är baserad runt Afrika och har budskap om att alla människor hör ihop, därav titeln. Damian Marley för in sin fars budskap i 2000-talet. Och ärligt talat så är det uppfriskande med omväxling. Här finns inga gräs- eller vapenhyllningar.

Plattan är producerad av Damian Marley, men på några spår har halvbrorsan Stephen hoppat in. Därför är det lite förvånande att skivan andas så mycket New York, vilket i vanliga fall får mig att rygga tillbaka. Men den här gången funkar det ruskigt bra. Mestadels i alla fall. Produktionen är kanske väl slick på sina ställen och texterna om Afrika kan kännas klyschiga. Dessutom frossas det i gitarr åtminstone två gånger för mycket.

Men det finns gott om snygga samplingar och sköna beats. Lyssna exempelvis på pianodrivna My Generation med Joss Stone eller de elaka slagverkarna i Tribes At War, som för övrigt är plattans kanske bästa spår.

Distant Relatives kommer att locka både kepsar och dreads. Men för de mest inbitna traditionalisterna rekommenderar jag en provlyssning före köp.

Skivan finns i butik tisdagen den 18 maj.

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