CISSY STONE is something of a UK soul, blues and rock veteran. She won’t mind us saying that she’s been on the scene for quite a while! Indeed her music CV begins in the 70s when the young Brummie joined a soul band, Body and Soul which soon morphed into the Cissy Stone Band – an outfit that toured the UK extensively, packing ‘em in wherever they played. The band even supported people like Irma Franklin and Millie Jackson – with Ms Stone, clearly, picking up a few ideas from them.
In 1976 Cissy won the talent show New Faces (a less frantic precursor to X Factor et al) and she was signed by Decca Records. The first single release was called ‘Gone But Not Forgotten’ which although not a huge hit at the time won plenty of plays on the Northern Soul scene. In ’77 Decca sent Cissy over to the States where she worked with people like Steve Gadd, George Duke and Ray Parker Jr. On returning to the UK the band recruited a new keyboard player – Jerry Dammers, who, of course, went on to form the Specials.
By the early 80s Cissy found herself in Ostend, Belgium where she got to share the stage with someone called Marvin Gaye! They shared the same agent – the notorious Freddy Cousaert. The band eventually split and Cissy went into cabaret where she was later to meet bass player Des Tong from Mancunian band Sad Café. The pair hit it off and recorded an album which because of the vagaries of the UK records biz, was never released. Despite that, Cissy and Des (pictured together below) have continued to work together regularly and during the Covid lockdowns, the pair were introduced to an American record label, Fervor Records who specialise in retro recordings. The label liked the sound of the unreleased LP and agreed to release it as ‘Stonewall’.
Massivley encouraged, Des and Cissy worked on a new long player – ‘Fulfilment Of Dreams’, which has just been released on Westoria Records. The album features some top names – amongst ‘em saxophonist Chris ‘Snake’ Davis, trumpeter Bryan Corbett (Brand New Heavies), Oslo based pianist Roy Powell (Mumpbeak) and Croatian blues harmonica player Krešo Oremuš.
From the onset we need to say that ‘Fulfilment Of Dreams’ isn’t a “soul” record in the classic sense. But there is soul and emotion a-plenty across its nine tracks and Ms Stone delivers with a world-weary expressiveness that comes from her long years in the business, once again proving the adage that there really is no substitute for experience.
Most soulful track (in the classic genre sense) is the dramatic ‘Your Arms’ which features some lovely horn work. ‘If Only’ is another dramatic, heart-tugging ballad while ‘Havana’ delivers a lithe, Latin groove. The best beater is ‘Dignity’. More intriguing maybe is ‘Swayze’ – a complex, poignant piece that sees the protagonist dreaming of dancing with Patrick Swayze à la ‘Dirty Dancing’. Sadly a dream that can’t be fulfilled but the fact that after over 50 years in the music biz, Cissy has released a new album is a real ‘Fulfilment Of Dreams’.