The musical bond between Neil Sheasby and Neil Jones is as concrete as their band name: Stone Foundation. It needed to be to survive over a decade of trial, error and frequent returns to the drawing board before finding the right direction, one that's finally led them to Street Rituals, an album that is both rainbow's end to their journey so far and starting pistol for new adventures to come. Produced by and featuring Paul Weller, its ten tracks realize Stone Foundation's vision of a vibrant modern UK soul band, the kind who can play with the best of the genre's American legends including Bettye LaVette and Stax's William Bell while never losing their own distinctly British identity – the sound of Memphis, via the Midlands.
The spontaneous studio chemistry is tangible throughout Street Rituals, the opening "Back In The Game" setting the tone both in terms of ambience – a buoyant coalescence of strings, horns and soulful rhythm sending Godspeed to the vocal relay of Jones and Weller – and its lyrical themes of community and positivity in the face of social struggle. An urgency for change quakes through the Temptations-like "Open Your Heart To The World" and the moody funk of "The Colour Of...," likewise the spiritual questioning of "Love Rediscovered" and the happy Hammond rush of "The Limit Of A Man" with its infectious Isley Brothers style chorus.
The album's latter half is built around its three big vocal cameos: William Bell on the Muscle Shoals shuffle of "Strange People," Paul Weller on the summer jazz swing "Your Balloon Is Rising" and Bettye LaVette who was so taken with the message of "Season Of Change" she added a few lyrical changes herself. Bookending its latter trio of guest appearances are the title track, opening with ambient street sounds recorded on Jones' walkabout in Birmingham (Midlands, though it may as well be Alabama), and the anthemic finale "Simplify The Situation," a last call to "wake up everybody" to a soul jazz fanfare spurred by Nile Rodgers-esque guitar.