Some records have "recorded at Muscle Shoals" written all over them. It’s in the groove, the delivery, the vibe of the production. This is one of them. Except that it wasn’t. Stone Foundation recorded this album in their own studio in Warwickshire and, in so doing, have captured the sound of Memphis and Detroit and mixed it with the authentic heart that percolates across every groove of this British soulboy masterpiece.
From the opening guitar and Hammond of the title track, you’re pulled into the mood. There’s an uplifting, optimistic outlook to this record, a belief in the joyous, and the right to it, once you have “found the spirit”. The sentiments expressed in the single “That‘s The Way I Want To Live My Life“ sum up this new soul vision to perfection.
There’s an impressive array of guests. Legendary northern soul singer Nolan Porter and the Q Strings (Bring Back The Happiness/Crazy Love), Carleen Anderson (When You’re In My World), Andy Fairweather Low (Hold On), Paolo Hewitt (Child Of Wonder) and Pete Williams (Wondrous Place). Not to mention the dub mix of Don’t Let The Rain by Dennis Bovell and the artwork by Horace Panter.
Standouts? Too many to mention. The line “I stopped playing games around ‘83” in the opener, the Hammond on Bring Back The Happiness (shades of Booket T?), Paolo Hewitt’s edited extract from his excellent The Looked After Kid on Child Of Wonder and the infectious horns on Stronger Than Us.
A particular favourite is the slowed-down tempo of Don't Let The Rain, complete with Tams reference and languid, hypnotic bass - it is made for hot afternoons in the Balearic sun. And then there's the line "Whatever happened to the angry young man, divided opinion time and time again" on Wondrous Place - put that in the context of the social history of the last thirty years, mix it in with an adolescence rooted in influences emmanating from the studios of Stax and Kingston, and the result is infectious.
Since its release, To Find The Spirit has been a constant feature on my stereo. I'm in good company. There is little doubt that, if he were around today, the anonymous narrator of Colin MacInness' classic Absolute Beginners would make this album the soundtrack to his long, warm English Summer. Or, to put it another way, after thirty years of searching, the young soul rebels have at last been found. And the news is they‘re on fire.