BMG - 2001 - 74 minutes

Stone stepped into the solo spotlight (having previously fronted R&B crew Vertical Hold and worked with the likes of Mary J Blige and D'Angelo) with her 1999 debut 'Black Diamond', an album which announced the arrival of another soul diva and went multi-platinum in the process.

Fans of that album's polished sound will find much to delight in on her latest platter, but even they'll admit it's not as good as what went before. The main problem is, that like many other divas, Stone doesn't know when to call it a day. With 17 songs over 74 minutes, 'Mahogany Soul' recalls double lp excess of days gone by. It could say what it needs to in ten songs and under an hour.

The sounds on the likes of 'Mad Issues', 'Soul Insurance' and 'If It Wasn't' are all too interchangeable and, while Stone's voice is superb, you'll be convinced think you've spent an hour stuck in a coffee shop which only has one song on CD. The finest moments come when she thinks outside the horizontal grooves and livens things up.

'Wish I Didn't Miss You' - a can't live with him and miserable without him classic - samples the O'Jays 'Backstabbers' to devastating effect, 'Brotha' harnesses a delicious guitar lick to hip-hop while its remix, featuring Alicia Keys and Eve, suggest that Stone should call on these sisters more often.

There are gold singles and sounds on this album, but you have to wade through a lot to find them.

Harry Guerin

Tracklisting: Soul Insurance - Brotha - Pissed Off - More Than a Woman - Snowflakes - Wish I Didn't Miss You - Easier Said Than Done - Bottles & Cans - The Ingredients of Love - What U Dyin' For - Makings of You – Mad Issues - If It Wasn't - 20 Dollars - Life Goes On - The Heat - Time of the Month - Brotha (Remix)