Sly & the Family Stone
Reviewed by Christopher Gray, Fri., April 4, 2003
Sly & the Family StoneThe Essential Sly & the Family Stone (Epic/Legacy) He was once arrested for brandishing a toy pistol at a New York stereo shop, but Sly Stone rarely if ever shot blanks. Incredibly, despite having been a seminal influence on popular music, his groundbreaking, outlandishly talented ensemble has not been anthologized since Epic's Best of in 1981. This 2-CD offering corrects that oversight, giving equal weight to early-Seventies LPs There's a Riot Goin' On and Fresh and providing enough deep-throated, loose-limbed soul rock to keep the party going for days. Disc one offers all the standard hits; best are the still-exhilarating "Dance to the Music," funk templates "I Want to Take You Higher," and "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)," and afternoon delight "Hot Fun in the Summertime." Larry Graham Jr.'s bass is as bountiful as brother Freddie Stone's guitar is tight on lesser-known cuts like first single "Underdog" and "Love City." Disc two opens with "Family Affair" and simmers low-key until stretching its legs on the magnificent "If You Want Me to Stay" and closing with twin rump-shakers "Loose Booty" (reborn on the Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique) and "High on You." The Dallas-born Stone (né Sylvester Stewart) disbanded the family in 1975 to go completely off his nut, but these 35 songs are proof there was genius in that whacked-out brain.