Album review: "Colour Me Free!" by Joss Stone

Patrick Varine

U.K. soul songstress Joss Stone gives her considerable pipes a good workout over the dozen tracks that make up "Colour Me Free!" And combined with a flawless Motown-style backing band, she puts together the best retro-soul record since Raphael Saadiq channeled the ghost of Marvin Gaye with 2009's "The Way I See It."

"Colour Me Free!" plays like a great Motown soul record you never heard, from the bouncy "Big Ol' Game," which features Saadiq on background vocals, to the doo-wop strut of "4 and 20."

Stone fights to keep herself under control in a man's presence over the slinky melody of "Lady," and lets jazz saxophonist David Sanborn wail over the straight-up blues of "I Believe It to My Soul."

Queens rapper Nas stops by to drop a verse on the political "Governmentalist," where Stone asks "How many lives will you sacrifice?/Will you ever be satisfied/If in God you trust/Can't you hear him still/I ain't no preacher but/Thou shalt not kill" over a bluesy reggae-inspired melody.

"Colour Me Free!" is a pretty perfect record, breaking the spot-on retro vibe only on the last two tracks. Most modern R&B has the potential to be emotional, but something about that classic soul instrumentation, combined with a rich female voice that hearkens back to Aretha and Diana Ross, really packs an emotional wallop at times.

Stone has gone from an interesting oddity - the white girl who can really belt like the classic soul singers - to a full-fledged R&B giant in her own right.

Sussex Countian