Category: Sly & The Family Stone

Sly & the Family Stone – Dance to the Music

ARTIST: Sly & the Family Stone  220px-Slyfamstone-dance

TITLE: Dance to the Music

YEAR RELEASED: 1968

CHART ACTION:  #142

SINGLES: Dance to the Music (#8 US, #9 R&B, #7 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Higher (the original version, not the hit)

LINEUP: Sly Stone, Freddie Stone, Larry Graham, Rose Stone, Cynthia Robinson, Jerry Martini, Gregg Errico. The group Little Sister did some backing vocals as well.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: “Hits, we need hits!” While they weren’t a fan of it at first, they found a formula that combined their egalitarian vocal arrangements, the upbeat politics, and their funky grooves and it struck gold. 

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: First, you keep the peace and love lyrics, but then add each member getting a solo turn on vocals and / or their instrument, and keep the funky beat while making the record swing and radio ready. “Dance to the Music” was the result of their first experiment with that, and it was a smash success.

While there were some kinks to work out (the material wasn’t consistent and the medley at the end of side one kind of is a filler riffing on the single for the most part), the joyous nature of the songs and arrangement shine through.

It’s still not the place to start with this important band, but you can’t get the entire experience by compilations. Their albums from here until the mid-70’s were important culturally, as they reflected the optimism and the reality of the times.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Sister Rose Stone joined the band, and everyone joined in on ‘vocal improvisations’.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, some B-sides and stuff left on the cutting room floor.

GRADE B+: Yeah, there’s some filler here, but there’s some funky joy here and it points them toward their creative peaks.

Sly & The Family Stone – A Whole New Thing

ARTIST: Sly & The Family Stone 220px-Sly-wholenewthing-1967origi
TITLE: A Whole New Thing
YEAR RELEASED: 1967
CHART ACTION: None
SINGLES: Underdog
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Wow, this didn’t make much of an effect on radio at all. It’s forgotten, really.
LINEUP: Sly Stone, Freddie Stone, Larry Graham, Cynthia Robinson, Jerry Martini, Greg Errico
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: San Francisco DJ and producer forms a group by combining his first lineup with his brother’s band, and gets signed by Clive Davis. The record has highlights, but stiffs.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It’s hard to imagine as big of a group as Sly & the Family Stone was that their first record was a commercial failure, yet here we are. Frankly, the issue boils down to commercial hooks. These 12 tracks are fine, and demonstrate the versatility and chops the band has, but only the single “Underdog” had any memorable hooks that would drive radio play.

What we have here is a dilemma that forced the record company to intervene. They had talent, yes, but Sly Stone’s writing wasn’t conducive to the commercial market. They needed the hits to become successful, since they had too much rock for soul and too much soul for the psychedelic rock folks. So the next album began the hit parade, and this was quietly left in print but not promoted.

It’s a decent album, but not where I’d start for Sly. “Underdog” could have been a hit had it been six months later after they were established. Timing, you know.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The backing vocal group on some cuts were the band Little Sister, which Sly started on request of his younger sister.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, B-sides and extra cuts. There’s an instrumental that’s pretty tight.

GRADE: B: Good, but needed a couple of hooks here and there.