STONE FOUNDATION RELEASE THEIR 10TH STUDIO ALBUM - OUTSIDE LOOKING IN AND IT'S A LITTLE BIT SPECIAL.
Notching up their tenth studio album release with ‘Outside Looking In’, which lands in March 2022 through 100 Percent Records, the 8-piece Midlands-based Soul band Stone Foundation continue their rich vein of form. Their last three albums all charted within the Top 40 and ‘Outside Looking In’ seems certain to repeat the trick. The album is available digitally and on a range of physical formats: CD / 2CD / LP / LP (Pink) / LP (Yellow).
Throughout their nearly 25 years together, the band have always been known for their collaborative spirit and inclusive approach. ‘Outside Looking In’ is true to that. Recorded (as always) at Paul Weller’s Black Barn Studio, and featuring the man himself with a few Backing Vocals and instrumental contributions, the album also features a knockout guest lead vocal from legendary disco diva Melba Moore on ‘Now That You Want Me Back’. The album also boasts slots from Sulene Fleming, Laville, Sheree Dubois and Graziella Affinita; whilst Stone Foundation always bring a fresh new approach to each record, and a point of contrast to what came before, some things just do not need to be altered.
Neil Sheasby said, “When creating music the goal is always to recreate the sound you’re imagining in your head, sometimes it’s achievable, sometimes you fall short. With this record I believe it’s the closest we have come to realising what we set out to achieve. It was important to push ourselves and not get caught up in a musical cul-de-sac of complacency, it had to sound fresh and a leap forward into uncharted territory. I think the songs reflect that.”
Neil Jones added, “I think this is one of our most optimistic and uplifting records to date. We’ve all experienced so many negative things over the past few years and it was really important for us whilst writing this record to not dwell on the past but instead look forward to the future and all the amazing possibilities that lie ahead for everyone. Musically and lyrically it feels completely fresh and exciting, like a brand new chapter in our ever evolving story.”
This release feels like yet another big step forward for this constantly evolving band. Along the way they have always ploughed their own furrow and made their own luck. Yet they have enjoyed national airplay from BBC 6 Music, BBC Radio 2, rave reviews from a huge range of publications, played Glastonbury and sold out headline shows at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire and the Electric Ballroom. The album title ‘Outside Looking In’ reflects the fact that they are established, but never the establishment, Stone Foundation may be ten studio albums in, but still feel like the underdog. Just don’t bet against them…
Digging into the album
1 – Soon you’ll return – This wonderfully layered production with its chilled out vibe treats the listener to softer side of the band and is a fantastic introduction to a diverse collection of songs included in the album. If you can imagine relaxing on a beach in a far off country with a cool drink in hand, this would encapsulate that feeling perfectly.
2 – Turning up the hurt – Stepping up the pace a little the band start getting into their stride with this piece of mellow funk driven loveliness – slightly more uptempo than it's predecessor we are still very much in late summer evening vibe, a nice toe tapper showcasing the bands effortless style and grace.
3 – Outside looking in – The title track of the album launches us into an uptempo dancer. Utilising a 4x4 beat with lots of electro influences, this bass driven track is very reminiscent of 80’s futurist funk (is that a genre? it is now...) and is a true representation of the bands forward thinking attitude to breaking boundaries and resetting the moulds.
4 – Now that you want me back featuring Melba Moore – The first of the band's guests to appear on the album, soul legend and all round disco diva Melba Moore's vocal is outstanding on this four to the floor piece of perfection. Earlier in the album we are treated to the bands softer side but this track harks back to the hedonistic days of disco, straight off the dancefloor of New York's famous studio 54 nightclub lovingly recreated using the band's unique nod to the genre.
5 – I need your love – After the last two offerings on the album designed to move the listeners feet it's nice just to chill out for a moment with the band who deliver this perfect antidote for sore toe tappers. As with the whole album lead singer Neil Jones' vocal once again delivers another punchy vocal performance over this soulful ballad which will undoubtedly have Stone Foundation fans singing along to at future gigs.
6 – Echo’s of joy – Wow, from the first few bars of Echo's of joy Stone Foundation show us just how diverse a band they can be with what can only be described as a conscious step into the house music arena, this track delivers a driving baseline very reminiscent of early house music days where piano riffs and soaring uplifting vocals were very much order of the day, if you are a fan of this genre imagine the crafting's of legendary producers Inner City mixed with a little Sheer Bronze and Mass Order's 'Lift every voice' and you would be half way there, If you're not a fan of the genre you can still appreciate it as a damn good pop song.
7 – Moving on – Takes us back to lazy summer days, opening with a wonderfully chilled out piano Neil's vocal entwines beautifully with the bands backing, this time using breaks as a background beat, bongos, lazy horns and chilled piano for that hazy summer vibe. Just perfect...
8 – Stylin’ featuring Sulene Fleming – A brilliantly serious heavy based modern funk anthem with what sounds like early Harlem influences. If you watched the film Summer Of Soul you would be forgiven if you thought this was lifted straight from the soundtrack, with guest vocalist Sulene’s dynamic voice absolutely killing this monster of a tune. The only negative comment I could make is that it could do with being longer, standing in at just over 2.30 minutes it's crying out for a 12 inch rework.
9 - Feel the colours - Slipping into the bands more dreamier side this tune wouldn't be out of place played at a late night venue full of fans hugging each other and singing along with the band to this instant Stone Foundation classic. A real warm piece played wonderfully. It's tracks like this that showcase the bands 25 year experience perfectly.
10 – Heaven knows why featuring Laville and Sheree Dubois – This is Modern soul at it’s very best, the vocals of this dynamic duo sets the tone for this instant modern soul midtempo masterpiece. Another guaranteed foot shuffler backed by a very accomplished band of musicians not frightened to glide from genre to genre with effortless ease.
11 – Reach up higher with Graziella Affinita and Sheree Dubois – As we head into the penultimate track on the album we are treated to a solid soulful performance with guests Graziella and Sheree who pack a punch with the bands lead Neil to deliver a slow swayer of a tune that again would work well towards the end of a gig.
12 – Somewhere a voice – The final track on the album returns to where we began, in the sun kissed tropical loveliness of the minds of these fantastically talented musicians that are Stone Foundation, who once again have produced a powerful album that delivers to all the senses. From the hazy summer vibes of 'Soon you'll return' to the sublime 'Somewhere a voice' we are treated to a sandwich of genres that have been expertly crafted by artists who have been honing their skills over the last 25 years. This, the 10th album continues to push boundaries but in that unique Stone Foundation way, surrounding themselves with talented artisans, pushing forward but with their feet firmly planted in the soulful roots of the past. Outside looking in is an incredible album and is sure to become a firm favourite on players over the spring and into summer, and rightly so, it's brilliant, uplifting and joyful but would you expect anything less......
Stone Foundation - Outside looking in (9/10), It would have been a 10/10 if 'Stylin' would have been a little longer, get that 12 inch out guys.......
(Reviewed by Cris Davies)
PRE-ORDER STONE FOUNDATION'S OUTSIDE LOOKING IN HERE
CATCH STONE FOUNDATION LIVE AT THE BELOW EVENTS.
28th March - Brighton - Resident Records
29th March - Kingston - Banquet
30th March - Bristol - Rough Trade
31st March - Leeds - Vinyl Whistle
5th April - Nottingham - Rough Trade
6th April - London - Rough Trade East
25th Feb - Nuneaton - Queen’s Hall
27th Feb - Cambridge - Junction
2nd April - Skelmersdale - E Rooms
8th April - Newcastle - Hoochie Coochie
10th April - Leicester - The Musician
15th April - Darlington - Forum
16th April - Stoke - The Sugarmill
22nd April - Truro - Mount Pleasant Eco Park
29th April - Birmingham - O2 Academy
11th Nov - London - KOKO
For more info on the band check out their website HERE