Like many soul singers, Angie Stone began her life listening exclusively to Gospel music. Her father was a member of a noted Gospel group in their native Columbia, South Carolina and the music played at the family household was of a similar nature. However, as she hit high school her musical world expanded, as did her burgeoning talent as a singer and songwriter.
Following school she began working as a vocalist with a number of acts, including the rap group Sequence and guitarist Lenny Kravitz, before becoming lead singer for the soul/smooth jazz group Vertical Hold. That group scored a minor hit in 1993 with "Seems You're Much Too Busy," and Stone's husky, Betty Wright-like vocal performance was the star. Vertical Hold dissolved a few years later and Stone was signed by Arista, for which she released her solo debut, Black Diamond, in 1999. It hit the Soul Top 10 on the strength of the single "No More Rain (In This Cloud)," the first of many Stone songs that liberally sampled classic soul numbers - in this case, Gladys Knight's "Neither One of Us."
In 2001, Stone signed with Clive Davis's fledgling J Records label, and scored with "I Wish I Didn't Miss You" -- a gorgeous midtempo based on the O'Jays' "Backstabbers" -- and the fine singles "Bottles and Cans" and "Brotha." The album went platinum and created significant buzz around Stone as the "queen of Neo Soul" and a leader in the bridging of classic soul and modern R&B sounds.
Much anticipation awaited her third release, 2004's Stone Love, and it opened strongly, becoming her first disc to land in the Pop top 20. Including guest appearances by Floetry, Snoop Dogg and the aforementioned Wright, Stone Love was another solid addition to Stone's discography, and featured the catchy single "I Wanna Thank Ya," based largely on DeBarge's "All This Love." She followed its release by joining the touring cast of the stage musical, "Why Good Girls Like Bad Boyz" with Charlie Wilson.
In 2005, Stone released the CD Stone Hits: The Very Best of Angie Stone as well as a Live DVD. Stone Hits is a fine compilation of Stone's greatest solo cuts, including all of her major singles and some excellent album tracks. It also includes some tracks not included on her 3 albums, the best of which is her duet with Joe, "More than a Woman" (Mohogany Soul included a version with Calvin Richardson). While one can quibble that perhaps Stone's best songs have been thinly disguised remakes of classic soul songs, there is no question of the effectiveness of her interpretations or the quality of the results. And though her solo albums have all been notable, they may have been underappreciated by music buying fans. Stone Love should solve this and should help introduce her impressive body of work to a broader audience.
In 2006, Stone signed with the revamped Stax Records label and in 2007 released her excellent Stax debut, The Art of Love And War.
by Chris Rizik