Album: Album: Angie Stone, Unexpected (Stax)

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The Independent Culture

On her second outing for Stax, soul diva Angie Stone shifts slightly away from the neo-soul style of 2007's The Art Of Love & War – although the change is not quite as pronounced as she suggests in the title-track.

But her decision to dispense with that album's producers in favour of a phalanx of fresh faces has made an obvious difference. Thanks to Sly Williams, the complement of smoochy boudoir soul is undiminished in tracks such as "I Found A Keeper", "Why Is It" and "Kiss Me All Over", Stone's multi-layered vocal overdubs shrouding the latter like a veils around a bed. But elsewhere the throbbing R&B of the anthemic "Free" has a crossover appeal akin to John Legend – an impression heightened by guest singer Ricco Barrino's vocal similarity to Legend – while the itchy guitar groove of "I Ain't Hearin' U" recalls the slick 1980s funk-soul of such as Patrice Rushen. The only sour note is the clichéd techno groove of "Tell Me", with an irritating auto-tune tremor quite unnecessary for a singer as accomplished as Stone. Thankfully, it's the only misplaced attempt to curry favour with a younger audience, and is soon dispatched by "Think Sometimes", a slinkily reflective response to the sudden death of her father, urging us not to waste what little time we have on negativity.

Download this I Ain't Hearin' U; Free; Kiss Me All Over; Think Sometimes