Sunday, April 8, 2012

Angie Stone: Black Diamond (1999)


(Arista)

This is another bargain bin item, but with its pedigree -- Stone cowrote much of, and sang backup on, both of D'Angelo's albums -- it seemed worth a plunge. The impression that there's something here is aided by a contemporary memory of the song and video "No More Rain (In This Cloud)," both of which hold up as a strikingly individualistic "moment" of sorts in the often compromised and homogenized, "safe" world of neo-soul.

Unfortunately, this well-meaning album has very little presence and is fatally backward-looking, the semi-hit owing considerably to a Gladys Knight & the Pips sample which is by far the most musically audacious moment of the sprawling, overlong record. Stone has a pleasant if sometimes overworked, actorly voice, but what she lays down here is the same sort of benign, easily acceptable R&B that stormed the charts in the late '80s thanks to the likes of Anita Baker. Well-sung, technically proficient, thoroughly inoffensive -- well, until the generic lite-jazz cover of "Trouble Man," which is pretty offensive. This is elevator stuff; it probably sounds great at the Limited but isn't much fun to actually listen to.

But Stone's had a hand in some superlative popular music, so we'll assume the production (by about twenty different people) here is just misguided and won't write her off.

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