Today to rap things up a final post from San Francisco, a band 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 funkrock 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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At the peak of their career, Sly & the Family Stone topped the charts with a Greatest Hits album -- in 1970, it was their first LP to crack the Billboard Top 200, peaking at number two; an argument could be made that it was the LP that cemented their stardom -- and over the years, they've been anthologized many times, almost each compilation worthwhile, but they've never been subjected to a comprehensive box set until Legacy's 2013 four-disc set Higher! (A 2007 box called The Collection doesn't count, as it just rounded up the expanded remasters of the group's Epic catalog.) Higher! succeeds because it performs a task many box sets do not: it tells a story. Placing an emphasis on narrative, sometimes achieved through rarities, does mean that there are some omissions here: "Fun," "Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey," studio versions of "Stand" and "You Can Make It If You Try," "Just Like a Baby," "Babies Making Babies," and the 1975 version of "I Get High on You" are all absent, but as the box plays, they're not missed, as the story that is told is compelling. Higher! takes its time to get to Sly & the Family Stone's streak of hit singles -- the second disc is a quarter finished by the time "Dance to the Music," the group's first genuine hit, surfaces -- but it never drags. If anything, the early material -- including five sides Sly Stone, then performing under his given name Sylvester Stewart, recorded for Autumn in 1964 and 1965, plus the 1967 single for Loadstone, "I Ain't Got Nobody (For Real)"/"I Can't Turn You Loose" -- is instrumental in laying the foundation for what came later, as they reveal Sly's deep roots in R&B, doo wop, pop, and rock & roll, sounds he spliced together when he formed the Family Stone in 1967.
Remarkably, the other rarities are equally illuminating, whether it's a clutch of terrific unreleased songs from 1967 (such stellar cuts as "What's That Got to Do with Me" and "Only One Way Out of This Mess" kick off the second disc), scorching live performances from the Isle of Wight in 1970, or the oddity "Small Fries," from the band's alter ego the French Fries, where Sly's sped-up, helium-addled voice is a clear predecessor to Prince's impish mischief. These are grace notes to the band's enormous legacy, a legacy that is clearly on display throughout Higher!, whether it's heard on exuberant hits that are pop staples to this day, rhythms that were heavily sampled during the golden age of hip-hop, or a vibrant blurring of boundaries that still sounds visionary. It's that depth of detail, combined with the masterful sequencing, that makes Higher! such a superb box set: it tells a familiar story in a fresh fashion.
Sly & The Family Stone - Higher 1 (flac 290mb)
01 I Just Learned How To Swim (by Sly)
02 Scat Swim (by Sly)
03 Buttermilk (by Sly) (Part One)
04 Dance All Night (by Sly & Freddie)
05 Temptation Walk (by Sly) (Part One)
06 I Ain’t Got Nobody (For Real)
07 I Can’t Turn You Loose
10 Bad Risk
11 Let Me Hear It From You
13 If This Room Could Talk
14 I Cannot Make It
15 Trip To Your Heart
16 I Hate To Love Her
17 Silent Communications
18 I Get High On You (Version One)
19 I Remember
20 My Woman’s Head (Instrumental)
Sly & The Family Stone - Higher 1 (ogg 122mb)
Sly & The Family Stone - Higher 2 (flac 352mb)
01 What’s That Got To Do With Me
02 Fortune And Fame
03 What Would I Do
04 Only One Way Out Of This Mess
05 I Know What You Came To Say
06 Dance To The Music
07 Ride The Rhythm
08 Color Me True
09 Are You Ready
10 Don’t Burn Baby
11 We Love All
12 Danse A La Musique (by The French Fries)
13 Small Fries (by The French Fries)
15 Into My Own Thing
17 Love City
20 Undercat (Instrumental)
Sly & The Family Stone - Higher 2 (ogg 140mb)
Sly & The Family Stone - Higher 3 (flac 423mb)
02 Sing A Simple Song
03 I Get High On You (Version Two)
04 Wonderful World Of Color (Instrumental)
06 I Want To Take You Higher
07 Seven More Days
08 Feathers (Instrumental)
09 Somebody’s Watching You
10 Sex Machine
11 Hot Fun In The Summertime
12 Everybody Is A Star
13 Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)
14 Stand! (Live From The Isle Of Wight Festival)
15 You Can Make It If You Try (Live From The Isle Of Wight Festival)
16 Dance To The Music (Live From The Isle Of Wight Festival)
17a Music Lover (Live From The Isle Of Wight Festival)
17b I Want To Take You Higher (Live From The Isle Of Wight Festival)
17c Music Lover (Live From The Isle Of Wight Festival)
Sly & The Family Stone - Higher 3 (ogg 159mb)
Sly & The Family Stone - Higher 4 (flac 395mb)
01 Luv N’ Haight
02 Family Affair
03 Brave & Strong
04 Runnin’ Away
05 (You Caught Me) Smilin’
06 Spaced Cowboy
07 You’re The One (Live From Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert)
08 In Time
09 If You Want Me To Stay
11 Skin I’m In
12 If It Were Left Up To Me
13 Time For Livin’
14 Can’t Strain My Brain
15 Loose Booty
16 Le Lo Li (by Sly Stone)
17 Crossword Puzzle (by Sly Stone)
18 Family Again
19 Hoboken (by Sly Stone)
20 High (by Sly Stone)
Sly & The Family Stone - Higher 4 (ogg 155mb)
Higher ! , features 17 previously unreleased tracks; box set offers the chance to experience the songs you know and love but often in alternate versions, including mono singles, demos, instrumental tracks, live concert and television recordings, and more
Spotlighted throughout the first three CDs of Higher! are rare mono single masters of every classic Sly & The Family Stone signature hit like they’ve never been heard before in the digital era. Paying homage to the golden age of transistor radios are mono versions of “Dance To the Music,” “Everyday People,” “Stand!,” “I Want To Take You Higher,” “Hot Fun In the Summertime,” “Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Again),” and many others, more than 30 mono single masters and mono album cuts that were a call-out to get up and dance, dance, dance. Decades after the chart debut of Sly & The Family Stone with the game-changing “Dance To The Music,” fans and newcomers will have the opportunity to dig into this far-reaching anthology, covering the recording career of Sylvester Stewart starting in 1964, and the band he masterminded from 1966 to 1977 on Epic Records.
Higher! pays tribute to the unique style of Sly & The Family Stone with its innovative ten-inch square package design, which houses the CDs in its interior pockets. The middle compartment contains a painstakingly detailed 104-page book featuring a liner notes essay, a beautifully-illustrated timeline of Sly’s career, track-by-track annotations, rare and uncirculated photography, 45 rpm label and picture sleeve repros, eye-popping vintage concert posters and ticket stubs from Sly & The Family Stone shows, and more.
Sly & The Family Stone laid down a template that not only inspired an era of youthful rebellion and independence as the ’60s turned into the ’70s, but also had (and continues to have) a potent effect on the course of modern music in general. Sly’s DNA is traceable to every cell of the musical stratosphere. “Sly Stone’s music is relevant because he was able to take from all the influencing genres before him and along side him, and combine it like gumbo," said Public Enemy frontman Chuck D. "Then inside the band, having women, having it mixed race and ethnic background - I mean, come on now. You really couldn’t point and say 'well, this is the reason why it’s funky,' it’s all this together like gumbo that’s making this happen. And Sly & The Family Stone was the epitome of a group playing the music, saying the lyrics, and also backing with the words.”
Higher! is a tribute to the far-reaching horizons of Sly & The Family Stone. Their repertoire, every composition penned by Sylvester Stewart aka Sly Stone, kept the Pop and R&B charts jumping for seven glorious years from 1968 to 1975. There are the three career-defining RIAA gold Billboard #1 Pop/#1 R&B hits, “Everyday People,” “Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Again)” and “Family Affair.” Their signature Top 40 hits began with “Dance To the Music” and went on to include “Stand!,” “I Want To Take You Higher,” “Hot Fun In the Summertime,” “Runnin’ Away,” “If You Want Me To Stay,” “Time For Livin’," and more. Their top-charted RIAA gold, platinum and multi-platinum albums include Stand! (1969), Greatest Hits (1970), There’s A Riot Goin’ On (1971), and Fresh (1973), every one a must-have.
In addition to those durable numbers (all of which are in mono up through 1969’s “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)”), Higher! opens CD One with seven pre-Epic Records tracks. These include five rare solo sides by ‘Sly Stewart’ during his time as A&R-producer-songwriter-staff musician circa 1964-’65 at San Francisco’s Autumn Records. These include both sides of the rare (and widely bootlegged in the U.S. and Europe) Loadstone Records single of January 1967 by Sly & The Family Stone, which helped win the band their Epic Records deal. One of these sides is a cover of Otis Redding’s “I Can’t Turn You Loose.” The Epic story begins with the mono single master of “Higher” in May 1967 (Disc One, track 8).
Of the many impossibly rare and fascinating inclusions on Higher! special attention is paid to the four tracks that close CD Three. They were recorded live at the Isle of Wight Festival in the UK, early Sunday morning, August 30, 1970, one year after Sly’s memorable wee hours performance at the Woodstock Music & Art Fair. Two of the Isle of Wight numbers, “Stand!” and “You Can Make It If You Try,” were subsequently issued on the Columbia three-LP release from 1971, The First Great Rock Festivals Of The Seventies. (The big multi-artist package coupled Isle of Wight performances with others at the first Atlantic Pop Festival of July 1970.) The two other numbers by Sly & The Family Stone at Isle of Wight, namely “Dance To The Music” and the medley of “Music Lover / I Want To Take You Higher / Music Lover” (a variation on their medley from the Woodstock soundtrack album), are both previously unissued until now.
Higher! serves as a new model for the most diligent and imaginative efforts that can go into a vintage collection of this nature. The box set was produced by Legacy Recordings veteran and Sundazed Records owner Bob Irwin, with Project A&R by Rob Santos at Legacy. All music was mastered by Vic Anesini at Battery Studios in New York.
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