100 Percent Records [Release date 11.09.20]
Ever since Stone Foundation’s 2005 bow ‘Small Town Soul’, the band’s ethos has been collaboration. With their new album ‘Is Love Enough?’ this approach spills over into the thematic content of the record too.
Sonically sitting somewhere between Incognito and Soul II Soul, opener ‘Freedom Starts!’ is a plea for harmony and building bridges through music. Inspirational lyrics like “freedom starts with happiness” or “if the music takes you there, it’s alright” could seem trite in less capable hands but fortunately founders Neil Jones and Neil Sheasby are capable of producing authentic-sounding soul.
‘Changes’ is a creeping slow number, that evidences an awareness of their soul history – calling to mind Bootsy Collins’ ‘I’d Rather Be With You’ or it’s more recent copycat ‘Redbone’ by Childish Gambino. With layered backing vocals, high pitched synthesizers and an opulent horn breakdown, the end product is class all the way. The Funkadelic comparisons later return on the penultimate number, ’83: This is Our Time’.
Paul Weller’s guest appearance ‘Deeper Love’ has of course garnered the most column inches, with its showbiz lead vocals. The song fits nicely into the husky, blue-eyed soul niche Weller has been cultivating for the last decade plus.
The album was recorded at Weller’s Black Barn Studios and his involvement only elevates an already quality album. Again the “come together” theme is in play as the band chant “we know you’re strong enough, to give somebody love”.
The guest appearances continue with Durand Jones taking lead duties on ‘Hold on To Love’, a pleasant mid-tempo number that could be an Amy Winehouse outtake, while Laville brings a disco groove to ‘The Light In Us’, delivering a gorgeous, silky vocal.
The title track is slinky funk with crisp drums and a luxurious woodwind section. A highpoint in the already strong collection is the anthem-like, ‘Learn to Love Again’ replete with sing-along chorus and church organ.
Every soul album worth its salt needs to throwdown and ‘Af-Ri-Ka’ is a foot stomper in the vein of ‘Sugar Lee’ by Donny Hathaway, all showboating musicians and chants.
If there is criticism to be made of the album, it’s that at 17 tracks ‘Is Love Enough’ is not a slender collection however the package is nicely pulled together by several interludes pondering the main theme of love, including an appearance by a Time Lord himself – Peter Capladi, reciting words by Vincent van Gogh. ‘Is Love Enough?’ is a confident collection, completely assured in what it’s doing; delivering polished, A-grade soul. ****
Review by Phillip Beamon
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 20 September 2020.
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