I reviewed the 1990 CD of "Greatest Hits" some time ago and complained that the great catalog of Sly & The Family Stone had been neglected for far too long. Indeed the sound on those early CDs was thin and did no justice to the music. As most readers must know by know, Legacy has recently remastered and exapnded the catalog of one of rock and soul's greatest bands ever, eight albums originally issued on Epic from 1967 to 1974. (I guess 1975's "High On You" and Sly's 1976 farewell album for the label, "Heard You Missed Me Well I'm Back" are considered too minor to bother with, though the former especially has some strong tracks on it). Even if one has the newly remastered studio albums issued earlier this spring, a restored "Greatest Hits" is worth having. Originally issued in 1970, when the band was at the peak of its commercial success, "Greatest Hits" sounds fantastic, and includes three of the greatest 'non-album' singles ever, all released after "Stand!" (1969) and before "There's A Riot Goin' On" (1971). Each was a chart topping hit as well as a true classic. "Hot Fun In The Summertime" was a terrific, sexy summer song that came out a bit late in the season (8/69), yet spent four months on the "Billboard" chart. From the shimmering keyboard intro, the production is spectacular, worthy of Brian Wilson's most evocative soundscapes. Four months later the band closed one decade and opened another with a double sided masterpiece: "Everybody Is A Star" is as incandescent as the greatest doo-wop, yet was utterly contemporary, a melodically gorgeous affirmation backed with a far darker side, "Thank You", five minutes of irresistable hard funk boasting one of Sly's all time finest lyrics. Its pessimism marked a real change from themes Sly had been exploring on the group's first four albums. In fact it was one of the original band's most powerful performances, and one of the last to feature the whole talented Family Stone, since by the time the long delayed masterpiece "There's A Riot Goin' On" came out in late 1971 things had become much more desperate for Sly, and band members soon began to leave (bassist Larry Graham and drummer Greg Errico were the first to split).
Is twelve bucks worth it for just under 12 minutes of music? Sometimes the answer is yes. Certainly pick this up if you don't already have these tracks on 2003's "The Essential" compilation. It goes without saying "Greatest Hits" collection hangs together quite well, and is sonically much better than any earlier versions of this material. And the cover art has been faithfully restored.
Incidentally, it would be nice to have some of Sly's hard to find "Riot"-era material produced for his Stone Flower label (distributed by Atlantic)during 1970 - 71. At the moment Little Sister's full-length "Your The One" and its followup, "Somebody's Watching You" can be found on the Eric label compilation "Hard To Find 45s On CD: Sweet Soul Sounds" (highly recommended), while the latter single's excellent b-side, "Stanga" and another Stone Flower single, 6ix's "I'm Just Like You" have been issued on Rhino's recent box set "What It Is! Funky Soul and Rare Grooves 1967 - 77", which is a treasure trove of rare and classic material from the vaults of various Atlantic and Warner Bros distributed labels. Finally, after he was dropped by Epic Sly continued to make strong music, even if it didn't sell as well as his earlier classics. The limited edition "Who In The Funk Do You Think You Are: The Complete Warner Bros Recordings" on Rhinohandmade is still available as I write this, featuring 1979's "Back On The Right Track" and 1983's "Ain't But The One Way" in superb sound, plus several fascinating outtakes.