Saturday, 26 December 2009

Angie Stone - Unexpected - 2009 - Stax

I will freely admit that I have not liked ANY of this Lady's solo material, prior to or following on from her stellar work with Vertical Hold. I have found her seriously lacking on many fronts and feel that she has aimed too much for the bling bling generation too much, relying on street cliches, sampling and heavy beats. Not exactly what gets my juices flowing. I read a pre-release amble on this CD saying that this was 'more youth orientated' than previous albums. This I struggled to imagine so with trepidation sat down and listened to the album thinking it would be far worse than anything else I had heard to date. I was very nicely surprised, actually and think that this has to be the best material she has recorded since the last Vertical Hold CD way back in 1995! Most of the CD does pander to the Akon / Chris Brown / name your faceless act here sort of artist but some songs really do shine and it's on these nuggets I wish to labour upon.

"I Ain't Hearing You" is a really great jam which, I admit features a sample and some turntable scratching, BUT isn't exactly what your local hoodie would appreciate. It has a wonderful upbeat vibe, a catchy melody and a feel of a classic Emotions song. I really recommend this song as one that will lift the spirits on these dark, cold nights. An instant panacea for the post Christmas pre new year blues! The ballad contribution, "Maybe" is also a very adult cut which would possibly bewilder owners of her previous works. Her soulful vocals do shine brightly here and I think that fans of her supremely impressive works with Vertical Hold in the '90s will take to this a lot easier than tracks such as "Free" which will easily impress daytime BET viewers. Similarly, "I Don't Care" with it's interesting bassline harks back to her 90s work, and the beat ballad "Why Is It" easily triumphs over her previous solo material. This is a great song, and the more you hear it the more ingrained it becomes. This is definitely more like it, Angie! If the recent N'Dambi album was your cup of tea then "I Found A Keeper" plays up to the particular strengths of that album. OK, I see where this 'youthful' comment may come from BUT as far as I am concerned this album contains more tracks of note than any and all her previous solo works. All thanks, possibly to the encouraging atmosphere of Stax Records. Whatever the case, "Unexpected" lived up to it's name and as such comes recommended.

Barry Towler
The Vibe Scribe

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