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Tuesday 29 November 2022

Rise Above It - The Story of Stone Foundation a Film By Mono Media Films

For 25 year Stone Foundation have been flying the flag for longevity, commitment and sheer determination. A group of people who have been making records for this long are proof that creativity cannot be stifled in the most collective of gangs. All good bands are gangs and Stone Foundation are no different. I remember hearing about them in around 2010 when that early 10's almost "soul revival" was rearing its head on the scene down south. Those sussed enough to know about the likes of Stone Foundation and New Street Adventure in the north were lucky to be part of a soul secret for a little while... This little scene almost paved the way for what would bring this genre to the forefront of popular culture in the twenty tens and beyond. Stone Foundation were a key player in this well deserved renaissance. Looking retrospectively at the volume of work SF have put out there, it was only a matter of time before Mono Media (lead by creative connoisseurs Mark Baxter and Lee Cogswell) doffed their proverbial cap to the band and made a film which showcases their journey. "Rise Above It - The Story of Stone Foundation" is a heartwarming, informing and genuinely lovely piece of film from the forever onward pushing Mono Media, here are my thoughts...

All bands begin life in some way, shape or form and it was no different for Stone Foundation. Like many a good football team, SF were aware of the competition and carefully plucked the best players to form their own starting 11 (or nearly in SF's case they're in double figures for numbers!). Sheas and Neil Jones once together in the rehearsal rooms, quickly formed a bond that was unbreakable and became brothers in arms from the off. Speaking about these early days, the lads knew they were on the same wavelength musically and they look back with fondness at the beginnings of a band that they probably didn't realise would become their lives for the next 25 years.  It's beautiful to see people reflect in this way and the Mono Media team have captured this perfectly with enough time for Sheas and Jones to reminisce on times that were pivotal in the bands formation. Like all bands the early lineups can mirror a football team with several managerial changes in a matter of months with incomings and outgoings. The level of talented musicians in and around Stone Foundation was mind-blowing as everyone of these guys who featured in the band could fucking play! 

Over the years the SF lads have worked with some amazing artists spanning the globe's soul sphere. One notable mention in the early days was the legendary Nolan Porter who sang on a few tracks with the band. In the archive footage he comes across and an absolute gentlemen who thrives on working with younger people into the same beautiful thing. It's apparent here just how much hard graft Stone Foundation have ploughed into their career in order to keep pushing their message. Relentless touring and playing to crowds across the country isn't always the rock 'n' roll journey it's made out to be. Another life affirming story from the band's earlier existence was when they had Joe Harris playing on a few shows with them. His links with The Temptations and Norman Whitfield were enough to swoon any audience and the radio session SF did with him on Craig Charles' Funk & Soul Show has gone down in the show's history as one of the greatest to ever air. One of the more alarming moments documented here, was when the band were playing a gig at the well known Fiddler's Elbow, Joe was set to get up and sing a few tunes with the lads. The band then play the intro to one particular number 3/4 times before Joe exits the stage and heads for the dressing room... Ever the professionals SF carry on until a rather rejuvenated Joe returns to the stage to leave the Camden faithful in awe. Turns out Joe had a toke on a rather funky jazz cigarette before the gig. Boss! 

In 2012, Stone Foundation started to reap the rewards of their dedication to the cause with a string of support slots with The Specials. This meant playing to packed arenas to crowds in the thousands. Seas and Jones remember this period with fondness as it definitely felt like the turning point in their story, when the wheels in motion starting to turn that little bit more quickly. The came, "To Find The Spirit" and tune that I feel encapsulates the bands wonderful soulful nature. The music video directed by Mono Media's Lee Cogswell and starring a young Calum Mcnab looking immaculate in a stone Baracuta G9 begs you to ask the question what's not to like? Following this, "A Life Unlimited" was released and featured on Cass Pennant's film, "Beverly" proving once again that people with a sussed ear were digging the Stone Foundation message! The likes of Dr Robert and Graham Parker also featured on the record making it that even more notable. Let's not forget the sublime stuff they've put out with Mr Weller  and how both artists compliment one another perfectly, "Your Balloon Is Rising" is a song which has always stuck with me throughout life's more challenging times. The band have achieved all this whilst remaining the solid, down to earth fellas they are and I feel this has been key to their longevity of fine purveyors of modern soul music. What's great about the Mono Media film really knowing their craft is their use of archive footage. Some that amazed me was the band's visit to Japan as part of the "Visit Britain" campaign which approached from a different angle from the usual "British Heritage" route. With the help of a Modernist living in Japan the band played a series of gigs over there to showcase their talent and persuade our culture kings from Japan to maybe hope across the globe to see what else we have on offer. As always the Japanese welcomed the band with open arms creating Beatle mania esque scenes in small boutique venues which harkened back to the days of of Ham Yard and The Flamingo. 

Once again Bax and Lee have kicked it out the park with their latest film, Stone Foundation are a success story and one that has put the hard miles in to get there. The band are going from strength to strength in their 25th year and are still putting out music which warms the heart and makes the soul dance. They're proof in the pudding that the "rat race" is a load of you know what and that music, clothes and most importantly friendship are the real things that truly matter. Buy or watch 


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In loving memory of Denise Pottinger