RISE ABOVE IT: THE STORY OF STONE FOUNDATION
Mono Media Films (DVD)
By John Curley
Directed by Lee Cogswell, who also helmed the excellent 2020 Style Council documentary Long Hot Summers: The Story of The Style Council, the new documentary film Rise Above It: The Story of Stone Foundation provides an overview of the powerhouse British soul band’s 25-year history. The band’s founding members, lead vocalist and guitarist Neil Jones and bassist Neil Sheasby, discuss their pre-Stone Foundation days with other bands and how their paths first crossed when Jones’ band supported Sheasby’s. The band got their name from the title of a music press feature on Sly and the Family Stone’s drummer Gregg Errico.
Like most bands when they are starting out, Stone Foundation had to do some things that they would rather not have had to do. One example of that is an appearance by the band on a U.K. home-shopping channel to promote an early EP. And there were teething pains early on. Sheasby describes the band’s first album, Happiness Was Here, as a band “struggling to find its own identity.”
Over the course of the band’s next few albums, they began to become what they are now: a powerful band creating positive, uplifting soul music.
A five-song EP that they did with the Detroit-based soul singer Steve Calloway began Stone Foundation’s much-heralded collaborations with other artists. Jones and Sheasby speak with great affection about the soul singer Nolan Porter and of the band’s collaborations with him. They also talk with fondness about the band’s collaborations with vocalist Joe Harris that included a BBC Radio 6 Music live session on the DJ Craig Charles’ show.
In 2012, Stone Foundation performed in arenas for the first time when they served as the support act for The Specials on a U.K. tour. The Specials’ drummer John Bradbury had seen Stone Foundation perform at Fiddler’s Elbow in London’s Camden Town and impressed with them, suggested to his bandmates that they serve as the support band on the tour. Regarding that tour, Sheasby states that that band could feel things changing while on the road with The Specials.
Stone Foundation’s collaborations continued on their next two albums, as Carleen Anderson, Joe Williams and Andy Fairweather-Low sang on the To Find The Spirit album while Dr. Robert, Graham Parker and Nolan Porter guested on the A Life Unlimited album. The band also did the soundtrack for the film Beverley, which was directed by Alexander Thomas and told the story of a teenage Black girl during the Two-Tone era of the late 1970s and early 1980s. And they performed in Japan for the first time as part of a Visit Britain campaign.
One of the most fortuitous collaborations of Stone Foundation’s career has been the one with Paul Weller. Jones discusses the surreal moment when, driving back from a rehearsal session one day, he received a call from Weller, who wanted to do a song with the band. That initial contact led to the Street Rituals album, which Weller produced and on which he plays on every track. Bettye LaVette and William Bell also appear on the Street Rituals album. Weller is interviewed in the film and clips of two of the songs that he did with the band for the Street Rituals album, “Back In The Game” and "Your Balloon Is Rising," are shown.
While the Street Rituals album was a triumph for the band, it was an emotionally difficult experience for Sheasby. His mother died during the recording sessions for the album, and he speaks with raw emotion about going back and forth to the hospital between sessions to see his mother.
The band’s Everybody, Anyone album included collaborations with The Average White Band’s Hamish Stuart as well as The Style Council’s Mick Talbot and Steve White. Stone Foundation supported Weller on his 2019 U.K. tour. Weller returned the favor by doing the lead vocal on the song “Deeper Love” on Stone Foundation’s Is Love Enough? album. Sheasby states that the song reminds him of the House music that Weller was doing at the end of his time with The Style Council. Durand Jones also did a guest vocal spot on the Is Love Enough? album.
Some of the songs on Stone Foundation’s most recent album, Outside Looking In, were originally supposed to be for a recording project that the band was going to do in Memphis. When the pandemic forced that trip to be scrapped, the band decided to use them instead on the album. Melba Moore was a guest vocalist on the album.
At the film’s end, Sheasby and Jones discuss the band hitting its 25-year mark and how they are looking toward the future. Sheasby quotes Joe Strummer by exclaiming “The future is unwritten!”
The film runs 90 minutes.
The DVD of the film can be purchased at https://www.stonefoundation.co.uk/products/rise-above-it-dvd.
The teaser trailer for the Rise Above It film can be seen below:
The trailer for the film can be viewed below:
Goldmine’s review of Stone Foundation’s concert on August 26th of this year at St. Peter’s in Brighton, England that was part of the This Is The Modern World exhibition can be read at https://www.goldminemag.com/reviews/stone-foundation-perform-stellar-brighton-show-as-part-of-this-is-the-modern-world-exhibition.