Sly and the Family Stone: Stand/There’s A Riot Goin’ On


The recently announced late 2007 New York appearances of Sly and the Family Stone will no doubt focus attention on the re-mastered limited-edition catalog titles released earlier in the year.

Platitudes and all in the titles-song of Stand, this album should be considered as the ultimate definition of Sly and the Family Stone at their pinnacle. “Everyday People” features the sing-song quality, which was one of the most infectious traits of Sly’s songs. “I Want to Take You Higher” is a gregarious mix of rock funk and modern R&B delivered with an effervescent vitality, the likes of which took the 1969 Woodstock Festival by storm.

Experience as a record producer as well as an FM disc jockey. Sly a/k/a Sylvester Stewart (his birth name) put to optimum use his honed skills here. Yet neither the compositions nor their arrangements were ever structured at expense of the tight, versatile influential musicianship of his racially-integrated band including Larry Graham Jr. and drummer Gregg Errico (who later played with Weather Report!).

The unreleased tracks included here, disappointingly, are virtually indistinguishable from the official cuts. In contrast, the demos on There’s A Riot Goin’ On, rough as they are, show some potential to alleviate the monochromatic atmosphere of the music as sequenced when released in 1971 at a time Sly’s public profile was in descent. The haunted introspection of “Poet” and “Runnin’ Away,” reflected in overly repetitive rhythms, this album resides at the other end of the musical spectrum from its high-stepping counterpart of two years prior (though if you hear echoes of Miles Davis’ seventies electric music on Riot, it’s not an accident: there was good reason the man with the horn was enamored of Sly & Co.).

Not surprisingly the one exception—apart from the ill-conceived C&W-flavored “Spaced Cowboy”– is the single ”Family Affair.” There’s a rhythmic bounce here missing from most of the album cuts, while the ingenious vocal interplay hearkens to earlier work as Sly drops to the low registers in counterpoint to Rose’s sweeter female tones.

Even bereft of the bonus cuts that expand the other seven titles (enclosed in digi-paks like all the rest with extensive liner notes within an impressive array of photos), Sly and The Family Stone’s Greatest Hits remains the primary source of gems never available on other studio albums: “Hot Fun in the Summertime” and “Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin.” Even so, it may be only slightly more essential to own than these two other choice selections.

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