The Art of Love & War
Though the copyright says 2007, it wouldn’t be hard imagining this album as a lost treasure from 1974; its lush grooves and old-school soul flourishes — shadowing backing vocals, cinematic orchestrations — bring alive R&B’s golden era with a few quick shots of funk. The beats tilt towards modernity. “Make It Last” uses a melodic loop that recalls hip-hop’s smoothest potential. But it’s the duets with Betty Wright (“Baby”) and James Ingram (“My People”) that highlight this collection that Stone recorded at Marvin Gaye’s Los Angeles recording studio. This South Carolina diva knows her history and wrote and co-produced most of the material here for her most intimate album to date. This is the sound of a young woman trapped in an old soul’s mind and body. She reveres an inner peace (“Happy Being Me” with Pauletta Washington), treasures her leisure (“Play Wit It”) and immerses herself in gospel roots and expert harmony compositions (“Go Back to Your Life”). Stone captures an admirable balance between pop and soul, past and present, never losing her voice in the process.