The on-going Essential-series is pretty much the definitive in best of's- having all the one's you'd expect & a few more obscure tracks to make it more interesting (the joys of a 2CD format). So this one's as great as the previous Cohen & Dylan Essentials & as lots of Sly's releases are only on import (eg Stand!, Life) this is quite handy.
The first disc starts with that early classic stuff, the next step on from James Brown- culled from Dance to the Music, Life and Stand! (where politics entered the spectrum) here are absolute reasons as to why Sly & the Family Stone are considered to be one of the key outfits of the late 60s/early70s. Their influence was as vast as that of Jimi Hendrix- their varied line-up pushed Miles Davis towards the experimental rock/jazz fusion of Bitches Brew, On the Corner & Jack Johnson (Davis also plays on There's a Riot Goin' On & like Sly got lost in coke-inflected abandon). Another great 70s album, Gene Clark's No Other (1974) also displayed Sly's influence- as have bands since- from Magazine (who covered Thank You), Screamadelica-Primal Scream, Arrested Development (who reveresed Everyday People in the early 90s), The Charlatans (who covered Time for Livin' with the Chemical Bros for 1995's War Child project) & any dance act who has gone on about getting high- see I Get High On You or I Want to Take You Higher. That pulsing dancebeat of Dance to the Music (here in digitslly remastered glory) found itself requoted in such records as Magazine's The Light Pours Out of Me (1978), The Stone Roses I Am The Ressurection (1989), Primal Scream's Rocks (1994) & Sebadoh's Flame (1998). Disc One has all the early groovy tracks (M'Lady, Dance) & the burgeoning political consciousness that tied with the era of Civil Rights, from X to Black Panthers to Haight Asbury (prior to all this destructed). Stand!, Everyday People & (especially) Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey show Sly et al on prime form- the latter pre-empting songs like Rock'N'Roll Nigger and the reclamation of the word 'nigga' by many rap artists (J-Lo using the N-word in the 21st century is certainly not very controversial compared to this). Sonically Don't Call Me...& Thank You are more than pleasing- no Rick James, no Prince, no Paul's Boutique etc without...
Disc 2 focuses on the last two great releases There's a Riot Goin' On (1971) & Fresh (1973)- after that the band split and Sly Stone became one of those tragic casualties (think Arthur Lee, Rick James, Gene Clark, Roky Erikson, Brian Wilson) who got burnt...Most of There's a Riot...is included, easily one of the great albums, from hit single Family Affair to the disturbing Smilin' to the incendiary title track (& the meltdown of Thank You...Africa- which fits somewhere between Can and Parliament). From Fresh we get the previously mentioned Time for Livin', Loose Booty & one of the greatest pop singles ever (perfect, just over 3 minutes long & wonderful on EVERY level)- If You Want Me To Stay (which has been terribly covered by bands like the Chili's & Mercury Rev- it also got a life of its own on the great 70s soundtrack Dead Presidents). Imagine if James Brown had wanted to sound like The Beatles & you're near...
A great compilation, everyone needs a Sly-best of and this is the best one currently available-
This 2CD set is a near-perfect primer for Sly & The Family Stone neophytes,as it contains pretty much all the best music they ever recorded-including most of their undisputed masterpiece There's A Riot Goin' On (Family Affair,Thank You For Talkin' To Me,Africa,etc).
The miracle of this best of is that while this music is of it's time (using Frere Jacques as an intro is an idea that only would have been used in the late sixties) it is also timeless,and in this genre only James Brown,Curtis Mayfield and Parliament/Funkadelic can claim to have as great a back catalogue.
on 18 January 2015
"The Essential Sly & The Family Stone" is a stunning two disc, 35 track compilation. Covering the most fertile 1967-75 period, it surpasses all previous anthologies, both in its remastered sound and inspired song selection. This comp is currently the best way to explore the soulful, funky brilliance of Sly Stone and his dynamic backing band (unless you want to spring for the fantastic, but much more in-depth, box set "Higher!").
The first disc starts with a few pre-superstardom highlights from the first three (good, but not essential) studio albums ("A Whole New Thing", "Dance To The Music" and "Life"). These tunes, recorded in 1967-68, include the enthusiastic vibes of the 45s "M'Lady", "Life", "Fun" and, the greatest of S&TFS's early singles, the pulsating "Dance To The Music".
Next up THE vintage Sly & The Family Stone era (1969-73) begins in earnest. From '69's life-affirming studio LP "Stand!" we are treated to all but one of its mighty songs, including the stone cold classics "Everyday People", "I Want To Take You Higher" and the stirring title track. The only track omitted is the rambling 13 minute jam "Sex Machine". This isn't missed, and actually helps the flow of the collection.
To finish disc one we have the three non-album A-sides, also from 1969. Initially issued on the record "Greatest Hits" back in 1970, "Hot Fun In The Summertime", "Everybody Is A Star" and, especially, "Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" carry on with the joyous grooves: rarely would Sly and his group sound this positive again.
The second disc commences with the bulk of 1971's darkly hypnotic magnum opus "There's A Riot Goin' On". The eight selections here contain some of the deepest funk you'll ever hear. The songs chosen are all incredible. They include the stellar singles "Family Affair", "Runnin' Away and "(You Caught Me) Smilin'". However, "... Riot... ", being one of the all-time great funk/soul albums, is best listened to as a whole piece (much like fellow genius/pioneer James Brown's stupendous "The Payback").
The mood brightened considerably with 1973's "Fresh". Sly & The Family Stone's third bona fide classic in a row, this compelling record influenced George Clinton, Miles Davis and the Red Hot Chili Peppers (amongst others). Six of its 11 tunes are on here, including the horn-driven "Skin I'm In" and another of Sly & co's greatest, the supremely catchy "If You Want Me To Stay".
Rounding off disc two, and this amazing comp, are three selections from 1974/75. Although, at this time, the innovation/inspiration was slowly diminishing Sly (with or without The Family Stone) was still producing some wonderful music. From '74's mellow "Small Talk" there are two strong 45s; the poppy "Time For Livin'" and the uplifting "Loose Booty" (sampled later on by the Beastie Boys). Finally, from Sly Stone's underrated solo LP of 1975 "High On You", there's the effervescent "I Get High On You".
However, in spite of all the magnificent songs that ARE here, I think there was room for a few more. I would have added the strutting funk rocker "Dynamite!" and the exhilarating "Into My Own Thing" (again famously sampled, this time by Fatboy Slim). Both are from '68's "Life", the record where S&TFS really started to get their groove on. Also I would have included a couple more from "Small Talk"; the chilled pair of "Say You Will" and "Can't Strain My Brain". The exuberant "Crossword Puzzle", a seldom heard single from "High On You", should have made the cut too, and would've been my final addition.
But, hey, that's just minor nitpicking. What HAS been chosen is all top grade, prime Sly & The Family Stone, and I would wholeheartedly recommend this fab compilation to anyone. GUARANTEED to get the party started!
on 14 February 2008
Really great double cd compilation, which succeeds in drawing in all the main S&TFS highlights. I will, however, be very mean and give this only a four-star rating. You'll think i'm being a bit churlish, but it's mainly because of a relatively ungenerous playing time of about 60 minutes per disc. In other words, there was plenty of room for more. There was room for "Sex Machine" from "Stand!", or the remaining tracks from "Riot". Granted, it's absolutely not in the record company's interests to do this, and i will readily admit to being terribly unreasonable. But it's never nice to see that a company is not giving the best value-for-money.
My moan is over. In spite of the relatively disappointing running time, this double cd would still probably represent the best overall S&TFS compilation on the market.
on 23 May 2011
I brought this 2 CD set recently and have not stopped playing it since.
Songs such as 'Life', 'Everyday People', 'Fun' and my favorite track 'I Want to Take You Higher' are classic songs that get better through age and are catchy, funky and very inspiring to my ears.
Disc 2 contains longer, instrumental and less commercial sounding songs but remain very exciting and enjoyable to listen to.
I have not been this excited by a CD compilation such as this in a long time.
Buy this, put it in your car and play VERY LOUD !