|Stone Love: New Sounds from Angie Stone
by Mike Heyliger
So you don't know who Angie Stone is. Well,
join the club. Despite the fact that each of her
two solo albums have approached platinum
sales and she's been a figure in the music
industry for a quarter century, Angie's one of
those artists that sells a ton of records but no
one outside of the core R&B community knows
who she is.
So here's a quick refresher course-Angie was the first female MC ever on
wax. As 1/3 of the group "Sequence", she recorded "Funk You Up", an
early rap classic. About a decade later, she returned as the lead vocalist
of the smooth-soul Sade/Soul II Soul hybrid band Vertical Hold. She
toured with Lenny Kravitz (as his SAX player!). She had a baby with
"Brown Sugar"-era D'angelo. She finally released her first solo album in
the late 90's, right in the middle of the neo-soul female era that
spawned Erykah Badu, Jill Scott & Lauryn Hill. "Stone Love"'s her third
solo album, and it contains an interesting mix of traditional soul songs
and attempts to keep Angie contemporary.
The album starts off with a bunch of interesting collaborations. One of
the better ones is "U-Haul", a sassy breakup jam with a definite
old-school flavor that's helmed by Missy Elliott & Tweet.. I've always
believed that Missy had much more talent as a singer than a rapper, and
this song bears that theory out. On the flip side of things, there's "I
Wanna Thank Ya", the first single. The song has a mellow finger-snappin'
groove, but is ruined by a completely unnecessary rhyme from Snoop
Dogg. Thankfully, there's a rap-less version at the end of the album.,
Angie gets major props for recording a duet with Anthony Hamilton.
"Stay For A While" is a fairly pedestrian mid-tempo love song, but any
excuse to hear Hamilton's voice is worthwhile, and he doesn't disappoint
on this track. Another interesting collabo is the sunny 70s flavored ballad
"You're Gonna Get It". This easygoing jam represents the debut of
Stone's daughter Diamond.
The album's best collabo is "That Kind Of Love", a funky, hand-clapping
groove based on a Dramatics sample with the co-lead vocal handled by
one of the queens of Seventies southern soul, Betty Wright. The two
met while working on "The Soul Sessions" for British soul phenom Joss
Stone, and the result of their collaboration is this song, which manages
to sound vintage and like a breath of fresh air at the same time.
While the entire album is enjoyable, the best moments occur when
Stone jumps out of the familiar neo-soul bag, like on the awesome
"Lover's Ghetto", which rides on top of a jazzy sample from early 80's
disco band Dynasty. It's kinda strange that the most interesting songs
on this album (such as the harp-enhanced, trance like "Come Home (Live
With Me)" are based on samples, but I guess that's to be expected from
an artist whose two best-known hits were based off of hefty chunks of
Gladys Knight's "Neither One Of Us" and The O'Jays' "Back Stabbers".
There's also the shimmering, seductive "Cinderella Ballin'" and the
beautiful "Karma", which calls to mind equal parts late-era Chaka Khan
and "Rhythm Of Life"-era Oleta Adams. This musical lesson on How To
Live by Oleta Adams is only slightly marred by the anonymous 2Pac
soundalike (THC) that raps towards the end of the song.
In my opinion, Angie has yet to make her definitive musical statement.
While there are parts of "Stone Love" that are excellent, there's the
occasional stumble that prevents it from putting Angie up there with the
Jills and the Alicias of the world. However, despite the occasional clunky
moment (and one Godawful rapper cameo) "Stone Love" is another
solid, dependable album from Angie Stone.