By the tail-end of the Sixties, Sly and The Family Stone were riding about as high as anybody could. The group topped the American pop charts (no mean feat), performed for many the show stealing performance at Woodstock and were continually lauded for their grounbreaking synthesis of Soul/Funk and Rock, releasing songs that were irresistably catchy, lyrically savvy and dancable. For whatever reason, though, the Family Stone (especially in Britain) are a footnote in many people's musical history, whereas they should have chapters dedicated to them straight after Elvis, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Their music is rich, deep and complex and I don't think any other album by the band depicts the truth of this more immediately than 'Stand'. Right from the off we are assaulted with this wonderful combination of soul, funk, pop, rock, etc not coming at us seperately or diversely, but all at once in that blended way that the best and most inventive bands offer. Just Listen. 'Everyday People' is still one of the freshest sounding, upbeat, cheerful songs ever recorded. It bounces along in a spirit of optimism and the chorus hits us like a blast of sunshine. 'Stand' is also imbued with a sense of positivity before morphing into a funk-fest during the coda. 'Don't Call, Me N****r, Whitey' is a brutally funky, lyrically inventive song that looked at things from both sides of the racial divide. It would have acted as a real musical jolt at the time and is still surprising today. The band can hit hard ('Sing A Simple Song'), do playful sounding (albeit lyrically sinister) pop, ('Somebody's Watching You') and build a groove so relentless that you won't even notice until your trance breaks ('I Wanna Take you Higher'). Sly Stone hit his songwriting peak at this point and the album was shortly followed by a couple of fantastic singles and b-sides in 'Everybody Is A Star', 'Hot Fun In the Summertime' and arguably the group's finest and most influential moment with 'Thank You...'(listen to the bass). Those songs aren't here but are essential to what the group did at the time. What they recorded after this period was just as groundbreaking with the slower, bubbling, complex rhythms and grooves of 'There's A Riot...'and 'Fresh', but it's the far ranging sounds and sheer excitement imparted in this record that sets it (barely) just above those others. It's influence on black music for the following decade is as profound as that of James Brown and as a piece of music in it's own right, deserves to be sat alongside all those records of the period (Sgt Pepper, Let It Bleed, Blond On Blonde, Electric Ladyland, etc, etc, etc) that are afforded the position of 'classic' in our shared musical consciousness. It is criminal that this album has to be sought out, it should be rammed down our throats. It's that good.
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