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Sly and the Family Stone's There's a Riot Goin' On (33 1/3) Paperback – 15 May 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 132 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Continuum (15 May 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826417442
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826417442
  • Product Dimensions: 12.2 x 0.9 x 16.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 840,447 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'A brilliant series of pocket-sized books focussing on a classic album. Each one a work of real love.' --NME Magazine

About the Author

Miles Marshall Lewis is the author of Scars of the Soul Are Why Kids Wear Bandages When They Don't Have Bruises (Akashic Books, 2004), an acclaimed essay collection dealing with the decline of hip-hop culture and his upbringing in the Bronx at the time.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Steven Dedalus on 22 April 2007
Format: Paperback
"There's a Riot Goin' On" has always held a very special place in the hearts of music fans. Sly and the Family Stone are one of those bands who (at their peak) transcend genre and appeal to a much wider audience, irrespective of tastes. So it is fitting that their masterpiece gets the 33 1/3 treatment.

Part of the appeal of these books is that they have such an esoteric style, and upon turning to the first page, you can never really be sure what to expect. Whether its straight analysis, whimsical fantasy, or hard hitting commentary, there are always a few surprises in store for the reader. Miles Marshall Lewis' contribution to the series does not disappoint, with cutting insights, intelligent observations, and a narrative style that lives up to the mood of the album.

Beginning with a dialogue between an un-named father and son (the author and his father, one can only imagine), we are then treated to a fairly comprehensive history of the band. This 'scene setting' becomes an essential part of the story of the record, and one doesn't really notice that we don't even begin to touch upon the actual record in question until about 3/5 of the way through the book. But the reader looking for insight into this dark and mysterious album will not be disappointed.

In a way, the pacing is the major strength of this book. Miles Marshall Lewis has a good way with a tale, some of his asides are genuinely funny, and his research is comprehensive, but his brilliance in writing this book is to realise the genius of "There's a Riot Goin' On" is all in the timing, and his book follows suit.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 6 reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
The missing manual to Sly Stone's RIOT album? 27 May 2006
By J. Lund - Published on
Format: Paperback
If not manual, then perhaps liner notes. THERE'S A RIOT GOIN' ON (1971) is one of those paradigm-shifting albums of which there is a before and after, musically speaking. Although the book has 117 pages of text -- lyrics take up the remainder of the 132 page paperback -- Miles Marshall Lewis actually doesn't begin discussing the album's tracks until page 86. That leaves a lot of space to set up the scenario for the album, mixing musical achievements, biographical info, and even gossip into a concise yet informative background study of Sly & The Family Stone. While some of the biographical details are sensationalistic (drugs blah blah blah more drugs), hopefully they won't obscure the brilliance of the group's music.

The album itself is examined in detail, including an attempt to separate fact from fiction in regard to the personnel. For one, it turns out that all or part of the Family Stone is missing from much of the album, with Sly often playing the parts himself (or using such guests as Bobby Womack). The book gets into the details, but suffice to say that the original lineup of S&TFS came to an end at this point in time. Although there's probably more to the story that is known at this time, the author does a good job of detailing the album sessions, attempting to decipher the lyrics, and pointing out many of the ways that the album influenced pop culture. Perhaps one indication of the albums' importance regarding Sly's career is that eight of the cuts were lifted for the 2-CD THE ESSENTIAL SLY & THE FAMILY STONE. The book does have a few errors, and I disagree with some of the author's opinions (for one, I think HIGH ON YOU from 1975 is an excellent, highly-underrated album). Still, this book is recommended to anyone who wants more info about Sly and the album RIOT.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
A Riot in Meditation 20 Mar. 2007
By matthewslaughter - Published on
Format: Paperback
Miles Marshall Lewis tackles the challenge of writing about Sly and the Family Stone's infamous fifth album "There's a Riot Goin' On" (1971) in a very personable way. By presenting a presumably semi-autobiographical conversation between him (nee Ploot Parsley) and his long-ago scenester father when he was fifteen about Sly and the Family Stone, we get a sense of what Sly meant to his listeners, particularly the African American community. Lewis's approach is not academically tangential, a la Greil Marcus, or one of hero-worship (like so many other rock critics), but one that is grounded in the contradictory realities that Sylvester Stewart presented to his listeners -- an optimistic musical genius whose descent into drug abuse and the whirlwind trappings of fame rendered him null and void, a gloomy reflection of the paranoid times in which he lived.

Lewis's chronology of Sly and the Family Stone is fairly boilerplate, often interrupted by references HIGHLIGHTING Afrika Bambaataa, Puff Daddy, Prince, Andre 3000 and De La Soul instead of Sly, which can get tedious. But once Lewis gets into the album, his analysis is fairly convincing. I even smiled when he redeemed one of my favorite tracks on the album, "Spaced Cowboy," which is usually dismissed as the least effective track on the album.

The only weakness of Lewis's book is that he points out the flaws of this album, but never really gets around to saying why this album is as important as it is, warts and all. Can a record be flawed and masterful at the same time? He never really tackles this question of aesthetic sensibility head on. Sure, this book doesn't shed any new light on the crazy days and nights spent making this album, but it does mostly account for it's challenging appeal after all these years.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
No soul. 27 April 2009
By Hucklebuck - Published on
Format: Paperback
Here is a passage from this book: "Around the making of Riot things were as chaotic for Sly as they were for Dirk Diggler in the third act of Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights." I'm not kidding. This is typical of the entire book.

After reading Douglas Wolk's excellent "James Brown Live At The Apollo" in this same series I was really looking forward to this. What a disappointment! Hardly a page goes by where the author doesn't try to tie Sly's legacy with modern rap music, as if Sly's impact on hip hop was ever in question. The writing style is trendy and cute and the author never misses a chance to include himself in the text. There is nothing here that can't be found in cd liner notes or David Marsh's "For the Record" Sly and the Family Stone oral history (which I do recommend).

"There's a Riot Goin' On" is genius, and deserves a much better book. Miles Marshall Lewis' work here is thin, uninspired and ultimately soulless.
22 of 29 people found the following review helpful
By B. Thompson - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Riot is one of my favorite records, and there has been very good articles about the chaoic making of this seminal LP. This is not one of them, in fact I think this one is a piece of garbage.

The writer usually uses artists from today to a-historically connect the dots between a product of the early 70s and a product of the late 90s using passages like "Unlike the self-taught Diddy's sampling production for his early hits by the likes of Mary J Blidge, Sly had...." Please tell me what sense juxtaposing these two people makes at all as at the time of "There's a Riot Goin On" Sean Puffy Combs was 2 years old, and Mary J Blidge was barely born as well. Ugh, this writer always does this too. It is always the "Badu-ness" of this, the author making some imaginary link between Riot and LL Cool J's "Mama Said Knock You Out" or even the connection Sly has to Hip Hop via Freddy "Rerun" Berry on What's Happening. They must have paid this author by the word.

As a reader, I know it was a seminal record or I wouldn't have bought the stinkin' book off the internet. So talk about the record, don't just blather on about Music and Social History you don't really know then lift all your relevant information from other already published texts.

In the end, the writer lifts 80% of his informative information from the For The Record series by Dave Marsh. If you want to know about this record find the Marsh text that actually covers the entire arch of the band front to back or at least, find the Mojo article (which also draws heavily from the Marsh text, but is fairly hip about it).

Terrific overview of Sly and the making of an iconic album 8 May 2015
By DDD - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
completely satisfied w/ this purchase...very entertaining read.
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