Today a band from San Francisco, active from 1967 to 1983, the band was pivotal in the development of soul, funk, and psychedelic music. Headed by singer, songwriter, record producer, and multi-instrumentalist Sly Stone, and containing several of his family members and friends, the band was the first major American rock band to have an "integrated, multi-gender" lineup. ... N'joy
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Sly & the Family Stone harnessed all of the disparate musical and social trends of the late '60s, creating a wild, brilliant fusion of soul, rock, R&B, psychedelia, and funk that broke boundaries down without a second thought. Led by Sly Stone, the Family Stone was comprised of men and women, and blacks and whites, making the band the first fully integrated group in rock's history. That integration shone through the music, as well as the group's message. Before Stone, very few soul and R&B groups delved into political and social commentary; after him, it became a tradition in soul, funk, and hip-hop. And, along with James Brown, Stone brought hard funk into the mainstream. the Family Stone's arrangements were ingenious, filled with unexpected group vocals, syncopated rhythms, punchy horns, and pop melodies. Their music was joyous, but as the '60s ended, so did the good times. Stone became disillusioned with the ideals he had been preaching in his music, becoming addicted to a variety of drugs in the process. His music gradually grew slower and darker, culminating in 1971's There's a Riot Going On, which set the pace for '70s funk with its elastic bass, slurred vocals, and militant Black Power stance. Stone was able to turn out one more modern funk classic, 1973's Fresh, before slowly succumbing to his addictions, which gradually sapped him of his once prodigious talents. Nevertheless, his music continued to provide the basic template for urban soul, funk, and even hip-hop well into the '90s.
Sly Stone (born Sylvester Stewart, March 15, 1944) and his family moved from his home state of Texas to San Francisco in the '50s. He had already begun to express an interest in music, and when he was 16, he had a regional hit with "Long Time Away." Stone studied music composition, theory, and trumpet at Vallejo Junior College in the early '60s; simultaneously, he began playing in several groups on the Bay Area scene, often with his brother Fred. Soon, he had become a disc jockey at the R&B station KSOL, later switching to KDIA. The radio appearances led to a job producing records for Autumn Records. While at Autumn, he worked with a number of San Franciscan garage and psychedelic bands, including the Beau Brummels, the Great Society, Bobby Freeman, and the Mojo Men.
During 1966, Stone formed the Stoners, which featured trumpeter Cynthia Robinson. Though the Stoners didn't last long, he brought Robinson along as one of the core members of his next group, Sly & the Family Stone. Formed in early 1967, the Family Stone also featured Fred Stewart (guitar, vocals), Larry Graham, Jr. (bass, vocals), Greg Errico (drums), Jerry Martini (saxophone), and Rosie Stone (piano), who all were of different racial backgrounds. The group's eclectic music and multiracial composition made them distinctive from the numerous flower-power bands in San Francisco, and their first single, "I Ain't Got Nobody," became a regional hit for the local label Loadstone. The band signed with Epic Records shortly afterward, releasing their debut album, A Whole New Thing, by the end of the year. The record stiffed, but the follow-up, Dance to the Music, generated a Top Ten pop and R&B hit with its title track early in 1968. Life followed later in 1968, but the record failed to capitalize on its predecessor's success. "Everyday People," released late in 1968, turned their fortunes back around, rocketing to the top of the pop and R&B charts and setting the stage for the breakthrough success of 1969's Stand!
Featuring "Everyday People," "Sing a Simple Song," "Stand," and "I Want to Take You Higher," Stand! became the Family Stone's first genuine hit album, climbing to number 13 and spending over 100 weeks on the charts. Stand! also marked the emergence of the political bent in Stone's songwriting ("Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey"), as well as the development of hard-edged, improvisational funk like "Sex Machine." the Family Stone quickly became known as one of the best live bands of the late '60s, and their performance at Woodstock was widely hailed as one of the festival's best. The non-LP singles "Hot Fun in the Summertime" and "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" b/w "Everybody Is a Star" became hits, reaching number two and number one respectively in late 1969/early 1970. Both singles were included on Greatest Hits, which became a number two record upon its fall 1970 release. While the group was at the height of its popularity, Sly was beginning to unravel behind the scenes. Developing a debilitating addiction to narcotics, Stone soon became notorious for arriving late for concerts, frequently missing the shows all together.
Stone's growing personal problems, as well as his dismay with the slow death of the civil rights movement and other political causes, surfaced on There's a Riot Goin' On. Though the album shot to number one upon its fall 1971 release, the record -- including "Family Affair," Stone's last number one single -- was dark, hazy, and paranoid, and his audience began to shrink slightly. During 1972, several key members of the Family Stone, including Graham and Errico, left the band; they were replaced by Rusty Allen and Andy Newmark, respectively. The relatively lighter Fresh appeared in the summer of 1973, and it went into the Top Ten on the strength of the Top Ten R&B hit "If You Want Me to Stay." Released the following year, Small Talk was a moderate hit, reaching number 15 on the charts and going gold, but it failed to generate a big hit single. High on You, released in late 1975 and credited only to Sly Stone, confirmed that his power and popularity had faded. "I Get High on You" reached the R&B Top Ten, but the album made no lasting impact.
Disco had overtaken funk in terms of popularity, and even if Sly wanted to compete with disco, he wasn't in shape to make music. He had become addicted to cocaine, his health was frequently poor, and he was often in trouble with the law. His recordings had slowed to a trickle, and Epic decided to close out his contract in 1979 with Ten Years Too Soon, a compilation of previously released material that had the original funky rhythm tracks replaced with disco beats. Stone signed with Warner Brothers that same year, crafting the comeback effort Back on the Right Track with several original members of the Family Stone, but the record was critically panned and a commercial failure. In light of the album's lack of success, Stone retreated even further, eventually joining forces with George Clinton on Funkadelic's 1981 album The Electric Spanking of War Babies. Following the album's release, Stone toured with Clinton's P-Funk All-Stars, which led him to embark on his own tour, as well as a stint with Bobby Womack. The culmination of this burst of activity was 1983's Ain't but the One Way, an album that was ignored. Later that year, Stone was arrested for cocaine possession; the following year, he entered rehab.
Stone appeared on Jesse Johnson's 1986 R&B hit "Crazay." The following year, he dueted with Martha Davis on "Love & Affection" for the Soul Man soundtrack; he also he recorded "Eek-a-Bo-Static," a single that didn't chart. Stone was arrested and imprisoned for cocaine possession by the end of 1987, and he was never able to recover from the final arrest. Stone continued to battle his addiction, with varying degrees of success. By his 1993 induction to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, he had disappeared from public view. Avenue Records gave Stone a recording contract in 1995, but nothing would be recorded.
A Sly and the Family Stone tribute took place at the 2006 Grammy Awards on February 8, 2006. The original plan, to have been a surprise for audiences, was to feature a reunion performance by the original Sly and the Family Stone lineup as the highlight of the tribute. That sadly ended in chaos. The band did do a decent show at North Sea Jazz in 2007
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Sly & the Family Stone's debut album is more restrained and not nearly as funky or psychedelic as their subsequent efforts, owing far more to traditional soul arrangements. These aren't that traditional, though; Sly is already using goofier and/or more thoughtful lyrics than the soul norm, and taking some cues from rock in his adventurous and unexpected song construction. The Family Stone, similarly, aren't as innovative as they would shortly become, but are already a tight unit, particularly in the interplay between lead and backup vocals and the sharp horn riffs.
Sly and The Family Stone - A Whole New Thing (flac 311mb)
01 Underdog 3:59
02 If This Room Could Talk 3:14
03 Run, Run, Run 3:07
04 Turn Me Loose 1:57
05 Let Me Hear It From You 3:36
06 Advice 2:23
07 I Cannot Make It 3:21
08 Trip To Your Heart 3:44
09 I Hate To Love Her 3:33
10 Bad Risk 3:06
11 That Kind Of Person 4:28
12 Dog 3:07
13 Underdog (Single Version In Mono) 3:06
14 Let Me Hear It From You (Single Version In Mono) 3:30
15 Only One Way Out Of This Mess 3:53
16 What Would I Do 4:07
17 You Better Help Yourself (Instrumental) 2:19
Sly and The Family Stone - A Whole New Thing (ogg 119mb)
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Sly & the Family Stone came into their own with their second album, Dance to the Music. This is exuberant music, bursting with joy and invention. If there's a shortage of classic material, with only the title track being a genuine classic, that winds up being nearly incidental, since it's so easy to get sucked into the freewheeling spirit and cavalier virtuosity of the group. Consider this -- prior to this record no one, not even the Family Stone, treated soul as a psychedelic sun splash, filled with bright melodies, kaleidoscopic arrangements, inextricably intertwined interplay, and deft, fast rhythms. Yes, they wound up turning "Higher" into the better "I Want to Take You Higher" and they recycle the title track in the long jam "Dance to the Medley," but there's such imagination to this jam that the similarities fade as they play. And, if these are just vamps, well, so are James Brown's records, and those didn't have the vitality or friendliness of this. Not a perfect record, but a fine one all the same.
Sly and The Family Stone - Dance To The Music (flac 340mb)
01 Dance To The Music 2:59
02 Higher 2:47
03 I Ain't Got Nobody (For Real) 4:25
04 Dance To The Medley 12:11
0a Music Is Alive
0b Dance In
0c Music Lover
05 Ride The Rhythm 2:47
06 Color Me True 3:08
07 Are You Ready 2:49
08 Don't Burn Baby 3:13
09 I'll Never Fall In Love Again 3:24
10 Dance To The Music (Single Version In Mono) 2:57
11 Higher (Unissued Single Version In Mono) 2:53
12 Soul Clappin' 2:38
13 We Love All 4:30
14 I Can't Turn You Loose 3:33
15 Never Do Your Woman Wrong (Instrumental) 3:33
Sly and The Family Stone - Dance To The Music (ogg 134mb)
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Just a matter of months after Dance to the Music, Sly & the Family Stone turned around and delivered Life, a record that leapfrogged over its predecessor in terms of accomplishment and achievement. The most noteworthy difference is the heavier reliance on psychedelics and fuzz guitars, plus a sharpening of songcraft that extends to even throwaways like "Chicken." As it turned out, Life didn't have any hits -- the double A-sided single "Life"/"M'Lady" barely cracked the Top 100 -- yet this feels considerably more song-oriented than its predecessor, as each track is a concise slice of tightly wound dance-funk. All the more impressive is that the group is able to strut their stuff within this context, trading off vocals and blending into an unstoppable force where it's impossible to separate the instruments, even as they solo. The songwriting might still be perfunctory or derivative in spots -- listen to how they appropriate "Eleanor Rigby" on "Plastic Jim" -- but what's impressive is how even the borrowed or recycled moments sound fresh in context. And then there are the cuts that work on their own, whether it's the aforementioned double-sided single, "Fun," "Dynamite!," or several other cuts here -- these are brilliant, intoxicating slices of funk-pop that get by as much on sound as song, and they're hard to resist.
Sly and The Family Stone - Life (flac 259mb)
01 Dynamite! 2:43
02 Chicken 2:13
03 Plastic Jim 3:29
04 Fun 2:21
05 Into My Own Thing 2:13
06 Harmony 2:50
07 Life 3:00
08 Love City 2:42
09 I'm An Animal 3:20
10 M'Lady 2:44
11 Jane Is A Groupee 2:49
12 Dynamite! (Single Version Mono) 2:07
13 Seven More Days 3:24
14 Pressure 3:44
15 Sorrow (Instrumental) 3:19
Sly and The Family Stone - Life (ogg 102mb)
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