Album Short Take: Angie Stone, Rich Girl


Angie Stone’s a ‘Rich Girl’

Introduction

Traditionally a “Brent Faulkner” review is full-fledged details analyzing the musical specifics. Ordinarily I would pick

Angie Stone, Rich Girl, released via Sanguaro Road Rhythm

apart Ms. Angie Stone‘s album for every mishap and compelling nuance.  Well, ‘change’ is good…sometimes.  Actually, not putting down one of my favorite neo-soul divas that never got her just do (only gold certified albums two her name), but Stone has lost some of her luster, most notably given the shakiness of the neo-soul movement (it really “don’t” exist no mo’).  2007’s Stax release The Art of Love and War was the last album by Stone of which I was partial too, featuring the Grammy-nominated “Baby” which featured Betty Wright.  2009’s Unexpected was consistent, though couldn’t touch Stone‘s best efforts, specifically 99’s Black Diamond, 01’s Mahogany Soul, or 04’s Stone Love (featuring the Grammy-nominated “U Haul” where stone proclaims “I should’ve left yo’ a$$ long time ago”).  Yeah, I know a lot about Angie (she’s not my boo or anything of course and she’s got about 25 years on me), but she is for me the direct pipeline for Gladys Knight given her deep, rich alto.

1999’s Black Diamond was one of the important album releases during the neo-soul movement of the late 90’s early 00’s

OK, yeah this was supposed to be a short take so let me speed things along.  Basically, Rich Girl is good, not ‘great.’ To say it’s not ‘vintage’ Angie Stone would be an understatement, but to say it’s her on ‘autopilot’ would be an overstatement.  So when half-court and up-tempo compromise in basketball, you get a balanced reading (too many PS3 basketball games I guess). Balanced translates into good/average.  Rich Girl yields the same neo-soul production with lush sounds, big and lazy bass lines, rich background vocals, and of course Stone’s brilliant alto.

Angie Stone, during her “Stone Love” phase

Overview

  • The Highlights (1st Tier):

    • “Do What You Gotta Do” (Track 2)
      • a single, I initially wasn’t blown away prior to the release of Rich Girl; more likable on the album in context
      • nice use of supporting background vocals; complement Stone’s lead
      • typical old school, neo-soul production (think D’Angelo‘s “Left and Right” from Voodoo)

Do What U Gotta Do – Angie Stone

    • “Backup Plan” (Track 3)
      • clings to old-school sensibility; could’ve been from the 1970s (dusty drum programming, soul-funk guitars, keyboards)
      • solid vocals by Stone; solid supporting vocals
      • nothing ‘new’; just non-flashy, unapologetic neo-soul (blessing/curse)

Angie Stone – “Backup Plan”

    • “Guilty” (Track 6)
      • nice balladry from Stone; nice nuances/ad libs
      • a bit slow and drawn out but in the same respect relaxed and pretty well paced
      • excellent production with gospel/soul sensibility (big fat bass line)
    • “Rich Girl” (Track 9)
      • the best track; well written soul track
      • most suitable cut for Stone – complemented by the backing vocals  allowing for Stone to ad lib
      • still not ‘flashy’ but gets the job done without pulling out all ‘stops’ and ‘whistles’

Angie Stone – Rich girl

  • Good (2nd Tier):

    • “Right In Front of Me” (Track 10)
      •  excellent soul groove; not flashy, but solid and consistent
      • has a spark, but not the spark of the aforementioned
      • could use more “oomph” to make it more distinct
    • “U Lit My Fire” (Track 14)
      • fine soul groove; again not flashy
      • Stone’s vocals are a bit casual on the verse; could use more ‘oomph’
      • excellent chorus (“The first time that I met you baby… you lit my fire/you lit my fire…,” etc.)
    • “Sisters” (Track 15)
      • maybe it is a bit schmaltzy, but e’eryone likes a good ‘sistah’ anthem, right?
      • contemporary adult R&B production is solid, again not flashy but solid/consistent
      • the chorus is the selling point, as are Stone’s vocals
      • closes the album well
  • Pros:

    Angie Stone
    • Stone’s Voice 
      • rich, rides above the production
    • Production Work 
      • nothing is flashy, just consistent neo-soul
    • Songwriting
      • some solid, non-flashy cuts that suit Stone’s sensibility (old-school, etc.)
  • Cons:

    • Songwriting
      • while songwriting is also a pro, there is nothing that ‘bites’ here; consistent enough with some standouts, but not flashy
    • Ms. Stone

      Excitability 

      • Nothing makes you jump up and want to dance or even sing-along; not an exciting album
      • even the cover fails to suggest an exhilarating ride; conservative
    • Duration
      • Yeah it’s only 50 minutes, but given the ‘conservative’ approach, maybe 40 would’ve been more suitable and stripping some of the less distinct cuts
  • Verdict:

    • Solid, Soulful and consistent for the most part; Not an album for a Long Road Trip 

So Stone has done better, but she’s also older (51 I believe) and no longer at her career ‘peak,’ which was actually during the neo-soul movement (with D’Angelo, Maxwell, Musiq Soulchild, etc.)  For hardcore fans, not the casual ones.

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