ANGIE STONE is beaming - just one look at her expression and you know she's right where she wants to be, in Marvin Gaye's studio on Sunset Blvd.
She's putting the finishing touches on The Art of Love & War, her debut CD for Stax Records, and the vibe surrounding this album feels like she's channeling the inspiration of her soul predecessors.
"I'm happy and I'm blessed," Angie explains. "To me, this album and this opportunity, is a rebirth. Everything in life is a journey, and The Art of Love & War defines this time and this place in my life."
When Stax Records' Collin Stanback entered Angie's life, she was feeling stalled in her career - stuck at a plateau. The opportunity he presented to her to be one of the debut artists on the newly activated Stax label offered a challenge that she was more than ready to take on.
"Collin made me stretch," Angie smiles. "Well enough was definitely not good enough. He encouraged me to go where he knew I could go. And even good enough was not acceptable."
Angie Stone on The Art of Love & War is better than good enough - This is Angie as she is meant to be seen and heard, and the sentiment is all hers. Stone wrote over 90% of the album and the thirteen tracks on The Art of Love & War showcase every nuance of her vocal range. She is in turn powerful, playful, and coy, and her voice permeates every corner of every note.
"Baby" is the first song to radio - produced by Co-T and featuring Betty Wright. The album is rife with singles, so this track should definitely whet your appetite for what will follow. Pick a groove and there's a track that will satisfy. How about "Reasons" produced by DOA, "My People," produced by Idris Elba and Mike McClain featuring the one and only James Ingram, or "Here We Go," or "Sometimes," two of the six tracks produced by Jonathan Richmond, "Play With It," "Sit Down," or "Pop Pop"…it's hard to choose.
"I think 'Happy Being Me' might be my favorite track on the record," comments Angie. "I wrote this song because it describes right where I am and what I'm feeling right now, mentally and spiritually."
The South Carolina native began singing at First Nazareth Baptist Church as a child, and attended local gospel performances by her father's quartet and by the Singing Angels and the Gospel Keynotes. She had a well grounded if uneventful childhood, enjoyed sports, and was offered several basketball scholarships upon graduation. Her love of poetry was the only indication of the songwriter she would someday become.
Angie saved every penny she could from a variety of go-nowhere jobs to record some demos, and at age sixteen she formed the rap trio, The Sequence, with Gwendolyn Chisholm and Cheryl Cook…step one on Angie's climb to the top. Their hits for Sugarhill Records, "Funk You Up," "Funky Sound," and "I Don't Need Your Love," showcased Angie's vocal chops to the world beyond her Carolina home, and by the mid-'80s she had worked with Mantronix and Lenny Kravitz and formed the neo-soul trio Vertical Hold, who signed with A&M Records. The Vertical Hold CD included the singles "Seems You're Much Too Busy," and "ASAP," and Angie had climbed another rung on the music business ladder.
By the mid-'90s Angie was working with Lenny's cousin Gerry Deveaux in Devox, recording one album, Devox Featuring Angie B. Stone, released by Toshiba/EMI in Japan, and she met her new recording mentor, Clive Davis.
In 1999 Angie Stone released her much-heralded debut solo album, Black Diamond, on Arista Records. For the hard-working singer/musician it felt like she was nearing the top rung of the ladder.
The word on Angie's Arista launch was that she was a modern day-Aretha Franklin providing an exuberant return to classic soul in the tradition of her heroes, Franklin, Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye, and Curtis Mayfield. She brought a whole new energy and sensibility to the material and a whole new spectrum of fans joined the Angie fan club when they heard her Top 10 R&B hit "No More Rain (In This Cloud)." Black Diamond was followed by the J Records releases Mahogany Soul, Stone Love, and a live recording of her greatest hits, Stone Hits: The Very Best of Angie Stone. The Arista/J Records CDs made Angie Stone a certified-gold CD artist, a national and international star, and a much-in-demand guest on the albums of her peers and friends. But Stone remained unfulfilled, stuck on a plateau. She still had not reached the top of the ladder, and felt like she was never going to get there. And then last year, Stone had a bout with congestive heart failure.
Enter Stanback and Stax Records, bringing with him a whole new creative family for Angie to call her own. The reactivated Stax imprint, acquired by the Concord Music Group, is committed to the power and legacy of its forbearers, and poised to be a dynamic new force in contemporary R&B music. Stax holds a critical place in American music history as one of the most popular soul music record labels of all time - second only to Motown in sales and influence, but first in gritty, raw, Southern-steeped soul music.
As one of the first major signings to the new Stax Records, Angie Stone has found a home, and is diva-ready. "I'm healthy, have a wonderful new creative family, two great kids, a new man in my life, and a whole new chance to show what I'm made of. I'm ready to get loud," Angie proclaims, "so watch out!"