Music

Sly and the Family Stone: Greatest Hits

Greatest Hits is not only an excellent, high-spirited party disc, but it also serves as the perfect headstone for the optimism that defined the early part of Stone's career.


Sly & the Family Stone

Greatest Hits

Label: Legacy
US Release Date: 2007-08-28
UK Release Date: 2007-07-23
Amazon
iTunes

When it was released in 1970, there was probably nothing to indicate that Greatest Hits was an instant classic. At the time, the normally prolific Stone was holed up in the studio, laboring over what would become There's a Riot Goin' On, and the label was getting nervous. So they cobbled together a greatest hits disc from the four albums Stone had recorded so far (as well as some b-sides), and rushed it to the stores so listeners wouldn't lose interest. Never conceived as anything more than a stalling tactic, Greatest Hits doesn't even bother to adopt a chronological presentation to illustrate the group's growth into a soul/rock/psychedelia powerhouse.

Maybe that slapped-together feel is part of what makes Greatest Hits work so well, as if it was put together with the same freewheeling spirit that characterized the band. As it turned out, Greatest Hits would become not only an excellent, high-spirited party disc, but it would also serve as the perfect headstone for the optimism that defined the early part of Stone's career. After Greatest Hits summed all of the sunshine into one package, There's a Riot Goin' On came along to show not only Stone's increasing feelings of hopelessness with America's social problems, but also the effects of his addictions. A harrowing, seductive record, the anger of Riot stands as a monumental accomplishment that fully balanced out 1969's jubilant (although no less politically-conscious) Stand!. Stone had always been socially conscious, the messages in his songs acting as common ground for his diverse audience, but Riot was where the cracks started to show.

But while There's a Riot Goin' On is a classic, its dark allure on par with the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street, it's the Sly Stone of Greatest Hits -- the Sly Stone of film soundtracks and car commercials -- that everyone knows. And why not? Songs like "I Want to Take You Higher", "Dance to the Music", and "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" sound as fresh today as when they were released. Roughly a decade before Funkadelic issued the challenge, "Who Says a Funk Band Can't Play Rock?!", the Family Stone were pioneers at putting the notion into practice by mixing rock, funk, and soul. With an infectious communal atmosphere, Stone and his band played in lockstep rhythm, freely traded vocals, and generally cut loose in wonderfully unselfconscious fashion.

The release of this remastered version coincides with other recent reissues from Stone's catalog. Many of those records are well worth seeking out on their own, but as a starting point, it's hard to do much better than Greatest Hits. It doesn't cover the bulk of Stone's career, but the four years it does cover -- pretty comprehensively -- were pivotal years not only for Stone but also for popular music.

8

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less
10

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image