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Funk - Released August 23, 2013 | Epic - Legacy

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Pitchfork: Best New Reissue
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Funk - Released January 16, 2007 | Epic - Legacy

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
It's easy to write off There's a Riot Goin' On as one of two things -- Sly Stone's disgusted social commentary or the beginning of his slow descent into addiction. It's both of these things, of course, but pigeonholing it as either winds up dismissing the album as a whole, since it is so bloody hard to categorize. What's certain is that Riot is unlike any of Sly & the Family Stone's other albums, stripped of the effervescence that flowed through even such politically aware records as Stand! This is idealism soured, as hope is slowly replaced by cynicism, joy by skepticism, enthusiasm by weariness, sex by pornography, thrills by narcotics. Joy isn't entirely gone -- it creeps through the cracks every once and awhile and, more disturbing, Sly revels in his stoned decadence. What makes Riot so remarkable is that it's hard not to get drawn in with him, as you're seduced by the narcotic grooves, seductive vocals slurs, leering electric pianos, and crawling guitars. As the themes surface, it's hard not to nod in agreement, but it's a junkie nod, induced by the comforting coma of the music. And damn if this music isn't funk at its deepest and most impenetrable -- this is dense music, nearly impenetrable, but not from its deep grooves, but its utter weariness. Sly's songwriting remains remarkably sharp, but only when he wants to write -- the foreboding opener "Luv N' Haight," the scarily resigned "Family Affair," the cracked cynical blues "Time," and "(You Caught Me) Smilin'." Ultimately, the music is the message, and while it's dark music, it's not alienating -- it's seductive despair, and that's the scariest thing about it. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Soul/Funk/R&B - Released May 3, 1969 | Epic - Legacy

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Stand! is the pinnacle of Sly & the Family Stone's early work, a record that represents a culmination of the group's musical vision and accomplishment. Life hinted at this record's boundless enthusiasm and blurred stylistic boundaries, yet everything simply gels here, resulting in no separation between the astounding funk, effervescent irresistible melodies, psychedelicized guitars, and deep rhythms. Add to this a sharpened sense of pop songcraft, elastic band interplay, and a flowering of Sly's social consciousness, and the result is utterly stunning. Yes, the jams ("Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey," "Sex Machine") wind up meandering ever so slightly, but they're surrounded by utter brilliance, from the rousing call to arms of "Stand!" to the unification anthem "Everyday People" to the unstoppable "I Want to Take You Higher." All of it sounds like the Family Stone, thanks not just to the communal lead vocals but to the brilliant interplay, but each track is distinct, emphasizing a different side of their musical personality. As a result, Stand! winds up infectious and informative, invigorating and thought-provoking -- stimulating in every sense of the word. Few records of its time touched it, and Sly topped it only by offering its opposite the next time out. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Soul/Funk/R&B - Released January 1, 2003 | Epic - Legacy

The Essential Sly & the Family Stone does what a double-CD best-of/career overview should do: it packs a lot of career highlights into a two-disc set for listeners who want more than the basic greatest hits, but don't want every last album. Of course, all of those greatest hits are here, including a few from 1970 that didn't make it onto album releases at the time. As you'd expect, the fattest slice comes from Sly & the Family Stone's late-'60s/early-'70s peak: in fact, most of the tracks from the Stand! and There's a Riot Goin' On albums are here. The fun extras come in the not-too-well-known tracks from pre-Stand! albums and Fresh (which is actually amply represented, with six cuts). This doesn't quite deserve the highest rating, as the post-There's a Riot Goin' On material doesn't keep up the momentum of the rest of the set. Small Talk and Sly Stone's 1975 solo effort, High on You, are wisely lightly plucked, though at least the hits from those albums are the three cuts selected. This deserves better annotation than the cursory liner notes, but otherwise it's an excellent summary of a major rock and soul band. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Soul/Funk/R&B - Released June 30, 1973 | Epic - Legacy

Fresh expands and brightens the slow grooves of There's a Riot Goin' On, turning them, for the most part, into friendly, welcoming rhythms. There are still traces of the narcotic haze of Riot, particularly on the brilliant, crawling inversion of "Que Sera, Sera," yet this never feels like an invitation into a junkie's lair. Still, this isn't necessarily lighter than Riot -- in fact, his social commentary is more explicit, and while the music doesn't telegraph his resignation the way Riot did, it comes from the same source. So, Fresh winds up more varied, musically and lyrically, which may not make it as unified, but it does result in more traditional funk that certainly is appealing in its own right. Besides, this isn't conventional funk -- it's eccentric, where even concise catchy tunes like "If You Want Me to Stay" seem as elastic as the opener, "In Time." That's the album's ultimate charm -- it finds Sly precisely at the point where he's balancing funk and pop, about to fall into the brink, but creating an utterly individual album that wound up being his last masterwork and one of the great funk albums of its era. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Soul/Funk/R&B - Released March 19, 2007 | Epic - Legacy

Sly & the Family Stone came into their own with their second album, Dance to the Music. This is exuberant music, bursting with joy and invention. If there's a shortage of classic material, with only the title track being a genuine classic, that winds up being nearly incidental, since it's so easy to get sucked into the freewheeling spirit and cavalier virtuosity of the group. Consider this -- prior to this record no one, not even the Family Stone, treated soul as a psychedelic sun splash, filled with bright melodies, kaleidoscopic arrangements, inextricably intertwined interplay, and deft, fast rhythms. Yes, they wound up turning "Higher" into the better "I Want to Take You Higher" and they recycle the title track in the long jam "Dance to the Medley," but there's such imagination to this jam that the similarities fade as they play. And, if these are just vamps, well, so are James Brown's records, and those didn't have the vitality or friendliness of this. Not a perfect record, but a fine one all the same. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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R&B - Released November 20, 1971 | Epic - Legacy

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Pop - Released July 23, 2007 | Epic - Legacy

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Released in 1970 during the stopgap between Stand! and There's a Riot Goin' On, Greatest Hits inadvertently arrived at precisely the right moment, summarizing Sly & the Family Stone's joyous hit-making run on the pop and R&B charts. Technically, only four songs here reached the Top Ten, with only two others hitting the Top 40, but judging this solely on charts is misleading, since this is simply a peerless singles collection. This summarizes their first four albums perfectly (almost all of Stand! outside of the two jams and "Somebody's Watching You" is here), adding the non-LP singles "Hot Fun in the Summertime," "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)," and "Everybody Is a Star," possibly the loveliest thing they ever recorded. But, this isn't merely a summary (and, if it was just that, Anthology, the early-'80s comp that covers Riot and Fresh would be stronger than this), it's one of the greatest party records of all time. Music is rarely as vivacious, vigorous, and vibrant as this, and captured on one album, the spirit, sound, and songs of Sly & the Family Stone are all the more stunning. Greatest hits don't come better than this -- in fact, music rarely does. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released April 30, 2013 | Epic - Legacy

Sony/BMG's Legacy imprint decided to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Woodstock by issuing a slew of double-disc deluxe packages by catalog artists who played the festival. Each slipcase contains the featured artist's entire performance at Woodstock and, as a bonus, an LP sleeve reproduction of a classic album issued near the time the festival occurred, as well as fine, individually designed 16" X 24" double-sided posters. Sly & the Family Stone were riding the chart success of Stand!, their fifth album in three years(!), that had been released the previous May for Epic when they played the Woodstock Festival. Going on at 3:30 in the morning of Sunday, August 17, 1969, they brought their West Coast meld of soul, R&B, gospel, positive vibes, and the newly emerging funk to the tired masses and turned them into a stomping, screaming, joyous, army of believers. Hearing this set reconstructed in its original context is a gift. The band came storming out of the gate with "M'Lady," and didn't stop for 50 minutes. The music that had previously been heard on the Woodstock albums -- "Dance to the Music," as well as the medley of "Music Lover/"Higher," and "I Want to Take You Higher" -- actually took place in the middle of the band's concert. Before and after are six other performances that have never been issued before. The gig was comprised mainly of tracks from the then-current album: the title track, "Everyday People," "Sing a Simple Song," "I Want to Take You Higher," and "You Can Make It If You Try." "Love City," a little known jam from the M'Lady LP is also here. "Stand" closes the album on a somewhat mellower groove than they'd started with at its 100-miles-an-hour pace, but it's presented with the ease and flawless execution of a group of master show men and women who can take a crowd to the outer edges of excitement and bring them back seamlessly. The funk groove at the end of the track assures concertgoers that what they'd just heard was real. Sonically, it fares a little better than some of the volumes in this bunch: Eddie Kramer did a fantastic job of mixing. This is a surprise and one of the best titles in the series hands down. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 20, 2004 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Soul/Funk/R&B - Released August 15, 2006 | Epic - Legacy

Sly & the Family Stone's debut album is more restrained and not nearly as funky or psychedelic as their subsequent efforts, owing far more to traditional soul arrangements. These aren't that traditional, though; Sly is already using goofier and/or more thoughtful lyrics than the soul norm, and taking some cues from rock in his adventurous and unexpected song construction. The Family Stone, similarly, aren't as innovative as they would shortly become, but are already a tight unit, particularly in the interplay between lead and backup vocals and the sharp horn riffs. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Soul/Funk/R&B - Released August 15, 2006 | Epic - Legacy

Just a matter of months after Dance to the Music, Sly & the Family Stone turned around and delivered Life, a record that leapfrogged over its predecessor in terms of accomplishment and achievement. The most noteworthy difference is the heavier reliance on psychedelics and fuzz guitars, plus a sharpening of songcraft that extends to even throwaways like "Chicken." As it turned out, Life didn't have any hits -- the double A-sided single "Life"/"M'Lady" barely cracked the Top 100 -- yet this feels considerably more song-oriented than its predecessor, as each track is a concise slice of tightly wound dance-funk. All the more impressive is that the group is able to strut their stuff within this context, trading off vocals and blending into an unstoppable force where it's impossible to separate the instruments, even as they solo. The songwriting might still be perfunctory or derivative in spots -- listen to how they appropriate "Eleanor Rigby" on "Plastic Jim" -- but what's impressive is how even the borrowed or recycled moments sound fresh in context. And then there are the cuts that work on their own, whether it's the aforementioned double-sided single, "Fun," "Dynamite!," or several other cuts here -- these are brilliant, intoxicating slices of funk-pop that get by as much on sound as song, and they're hard to resist. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Soul/Funk/R&B - Released March 19, 2007 | Epic - Legacy

A new bass player and drummer signaled a toned-down Sly & the Family Stone sound. Partially in keeping with changes in much of popular music in the early '70s, and maybe the result of marriage and a child, Sly became more introspective, quieter, and calmer, even employing a string section on various cuts. A less exhilarating album than earlier efforts, there is still much of merit here, including the Top Ten R&B hit "Time for Livin'." © Rob Bowman /TiVo
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Rock - Released April 1, 1976 | Epic - Legacy

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Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I'm Back, Sly Stone's ninth album for Epic, features a reunited Sly & the Family Stone. Sly's previous album, the funk-filled High on You (1975), had been a solo effort. The sentiment here sure seems inviting -- Sly optimistically reuniting with his group in an aim to recapture the magic of his late-'60s prime -- yet the result is sadly disappointing. Rather than revisit the funk of High on You or the psychedelic pop/rock of late-'60s Sly & the Family Stone, Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I'm Back seems modeled after the Philly soul sound of the time. This in itself is fine -- this was 1976, after all, and the Family Stone seemed well-suited for the horn- and chorus-filled style of Philly soul, which was then in vogue -- and it certainly makes for a curious entry in the group's catalog. However, neither the songs nor the music here is especially engaging beyond the level of curiosity. The marketplace didn't respond well to Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I'm Back, and it's fairly easy to hear why -- nothing here sticks, even if the music is pleasant enough and even if Sly is in an optimistic mood. Sly & the Family Stone may be back here, as the title proclaims, but this isn't the same band spiritually or musically. One suspects Epic may have pushed Sly in the Philly soul direction, given the label's treatment of the Jackson 5 on Goin' Places (1977). After all, the label didn't care enough about Sly to keep him around for long; following the commercial failure of Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I'm Back, he was dropped from his contract after only two albums. © Jason Birchmeier /TiVo
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Soul - Released October 5, 1979 | Rhino - Warner Records

By the late '70s, Sly Stone had been so thoroughly written off as a has-been that few listeners checked out Back on the Right Track. Nor have listeners been inspired to rediscover the album, since his late-'60s/early-'70s classics cast such a huge shadow over his subsequent work. It comes as somewhat of a surprise, then, to find the basic Stone soul/rock/funk foundation still firmly in place here. There were two problems: the foundation didn't make any notable advancements on the territory he'd already mapped out by the early '70s, and the songs themselves weren't that special, sounding more like basic vamps or promising scraps than fully baked ideas. Judged solely on its own terms, it's actually a respectable slice of funk; it's only when stacked against Stone's other works that the disappointment becomes intense. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Rock - Released April 2, 2014 | Maestro Entertainment Corp

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Rock - Released March 22, 2019 | Epic - Legacy

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Rock - Released February 8, 2019 | CLASSIC WORLD ENTERTAINMENT

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R&B - Released March 28, 2006 | Charly Records

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Soul - Released March 23, 1983 | Rhino - Warner Records

Ain't But the One Way was the last in a series of comeback albums attempted by an increasingly dispirited Sly Stone and ended up being his swan song. On the surface, it's a relatively poor Sly & the Family Stone album, one that only dedicated fans, completists, and the historically curious will want to seek out. So if you're just a casual Sly listener, steer clear! But if you do fall into that category of Sly fanatics curious about those hazy final days before the funk legend descended into semi-obscurity, you'll find some insight here if you put the album into its proper context. To backtrack for a moment and frame that context, remember that Sly had been struggling, both commercially and creatively, for years. Following a long dry spell, he left Epic and moved to Warner Brothers at the end of the '70s, resulting in Back on the Right Track (1979). That album didn't prove to be the comeback it was planned to be, and Sly then drifted toward Warner labelmate George Clinton, with whom he would plan his next comeback. If you dig into the credits of P-Funk songs of this early-'80s era such as "Funk Gets Stronger" (from Electric Spanking of War Babies, 1981) and "Hydraulic Pump" (Urban Dancefloor Guerillas, 1983), you'll note some co-writing credits for Sly. And if you attended some P-Funk concerts back then, you may have seen him open for Clinton and company. But when it came time to record Ain't But the One Way, problems arose. For one, Clinton had a serious falling out with Warner Brothers. Secondly, urban legend says Sly simply disappeared after half-recording these songs around 1980 or so, leaving the album in an uncompleted state for a while. Whatever the truth, Clinton's presence is indeed lacking here on Ain't But the One Way (despite evidence of a demo version of "Who in the Funk Do You Think You Are" later arising on the first volume of the odds-and-ends George Clinton's Family Series), and Warner did bring in producer Stewart Levine (Jazz Crusaders, Simply Red) to pull the album together for release. (Another urban legend claims that the cover photo of Sly dates back to Back on the Right Track, further proof perhaps that Sly was AWOL.) The resulting album confirms such speculation: in general, the songs are sketchy funk vamps along the lines of what Clinton and company were recording around that time, and the innumerable studio musicians and the overall stitched-together feel of the album do suggest Levine earned his production paycheck. In any event, there are some glimmers of Sly's genius here, albeit momentary glimmers. "Ha Ha, Hee Hee" is a gem -- a gentle ballad à la "Runnin' Away" with curiously cryptic lyrics -- while "Who in the Funk Do You Think You Are" stands out with a bracing guitar riff, if not much else too noteworthy going for it. Elsewhere, "High, Y'All" is an "I Wanna Take You Higher" rewrite, "Sylvester" is a spooky a cappella minute, "L.O.V.I.N.U." is a perky pop song, and yes, "You Really Got Me" is a run-through of the Kinks classic. Taken together, these songs amount to less than a solid album, let alone a good one, but as latter-day leftovers, they're fairly interesting glimpses into Sly's hazy descent into coked-out infamy. And as such, they're a little sad. © Jason Birchmeier /TiVo