HOW often does a sequel surpass an original?
You could make arguments for The Godfather II or The Dark Knight but, in music, it’s not often an easy comparison to make. At least not convincingly.
British soul singer Joss Stone has gone back to where her career began, revisiting a style of album that launched her career and she has trumped the original by some margin.
In short, she is a better singer now – more confident, more skilled; just ‘‘ more’’ in every possible way.
What remains the same is her solid taste in soulful tunes.
On her 2003 debut she was just a kid, but she worked a special kind of magic on classic songs by Aretha Franklin, the Isley Brothers, Waylon Jennings and The White Stripes.
On the new album, this Grammy and Brit Award- winning singer mines the work of The Chi- Lites, Womack & Womack, Doris Day and The Casinos, but with a voice that is impressively rich and agile.
In her early days she had a gravelly- yet- luscious tone plus plenty of promise; now that promise is fulfilled.
The material for this new record was recorded in two sessions, New York and Nashville. Stone’s plan was to gather the band that would record the album together in a room and just jam it out – spontaneity was key. If a song worked well, great; if not, it went in the bin and they moved on.
In her favour was the quality of musicians that had been tagged for the album including Ernie Isley on guitar, multi- instrumentalist Delbert McClinton and original Muscle Shoals Swamper, Clayton Ivey.
The good news for people prepared to hand over their hard- earned cash: there are no dud songs here. However, some shine slightly brighter.
Isley’s guitar solo on Summer Breeze is a thing of beauty. The last album had Fell In Love With A Girl, but this time the rock addition is a complete re- think of Broken Bell’s minor hit The High Road.
Then there is Teardrops with its charming vocal and organ lines – blissful. I Got The . . . has a swagger and attitude that is funky and soulful and just gorgeous.
Stone is very good when the music is pumping and her voice is soaring, but her restrained performance on the album’s most quiet song Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye is a reminder of her range.
OK, sure, The Soul Sessions Volume 2 is karaoke, but it’s the best karaoke you will hear all week.