When Allen Stone first began to nab widespread attention in the industry, it was for his self-titled second album and the retro-rooted soul music which pervades it. Seen as a “hippie with a soul” for an emotive vocal gravitas and general vibe that doesn’t necessarily fit the stereotype of his look, Stone became recognized overnight for his surprisingly good soulful flairs and, in the case of breakout cult hit “Unaware”, strong political statements. A feature the following year on Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s The Heist (“Neon Cathedral”), appearances on Conan and Ellen, and two nods from MTV later, and Stone seemed to have fashioned himself into the next big up-and-comer in the soul revival. All of this together lent itself well towards the notion of Stone coming up on a major record deal, which he did with Capitol, releasing his first big-time album, Radius, four years after his initial mainstream success in 2015.
Not unlike many indie acts of varying sound when they reach new heights, such as the Avett Brothers, Stone’s fans had entered into a period of major label growing pains. Compared to the organic fusion of rootsy rock and soul that garnered him acclaim between his first two albums’ worth of material, Radius, is a soul record that still wears Stone’s most obvious influences on its sleeve, but with the added bonus of a Capitol budget. Whether that bonus was also a benefit depends on who you ask. For every appreciator of Radius and what it introduces to Stone’s encompassing sound, there are those who would rather he remain in the precious bubble left behind with the Allen Stone era of years past. One would argue, though, that underneath all of the studio magic remains the same old Stone, appreciator of good soul music and curator of some decent tunes himself.
This is reflective in the seven bonus tracks which comprise the deluxe edition of Radius, Stone’s 2016 offering. “Loose” comes roaring through with all of the modesty of a gaggle of charging elephants, a bombastic, danceable track that exemplifies Stone’s vocal strengths and showmanship, with a sing-along bridge, bouncing keys, and stellar backing harmonies lifting his performance up further. In contrast, “Voodoo” is a slow-burning, Southern-drenched type of soul, Stone maintaining a pleasing swagger and a masterful command of rhythm that makes it infectiously listenable.
Elsewhere, fan favorite song “Bed I Made” makes its way into tip-top studio form, giving off epic vibes not dissimilar to when Eric Hutchinson had finally released a studio version of “Breakdown More”. Stone sustains that aforementioned soul-man swagger and showmanship on “Pressure”, and makes for a scintillating listen on the breakdown-heavy “The Weekend”. “Faithful” showcases Stone’s natural knack for an emotional, storyteller’s performance as it melts into his impeccable prowess with digging into a groove’s pocket. As a bookend, the alternate version of “Freedom” should do well in shushing those who weren’t such a fan of Stone’s more polished, pop style in Radius as a whole, as its been meticulously crafted to replicate the sound that initially made him a name to look out for.
These seven songs serve themselves well as must-have additions to Stone’s overarching catalog—perhaps even better than the original whole of Radius itself. Ultimately, there are worse ways to usher out more promotion for an album released the previous year, especially when Stone only comes across as more of a vivacious staple in soul as time goes on and the records stack up.
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