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Sly & the Family Stone - Greatest Hits Print E-mail
Monday, 01 October 2007
format:    16-bit CD
performance:    8
sound:    7
released:    2007
1st released:    1970
label:    Sony Legacy
reviewer:    John Sutton-Smith

ImageFor one shining moment in the late ‘60s and early ’70s, Sly & the Family Stone were about as exciting and funky as rock and roll could get. Their pop grooves and social stance made them the party political broadcast of a generation.

The newly re-released Greatest Hits album was originally released in this configuration back in 1970. Containing all the early hits – “Dance to the Music,” “Stand,” “Everyday People,” “I Want to Take You Higher,” and more – it chronicles Sly’s explosive burst of soulful funk-pop, culminating in their legendary Woodstock performance in 1969.

Never conceived as anything more than a stalling tactic, when Greatest Hits was first released Stone was holed up with the band in the studio, laboring over what would become the classic and more exploratory fifth album, There’s a Riot Goin’ On. Epic, nervous about the lack of impending product, rushed together this compilation disc from the four albums Stone had recorded so far, plus some indelible, non-album B-sides. The emphasis was on the group's third and fourth albums, Life and Stand, most recent at the time, but it also includes the classic single tracks “Hot Fun In the Summertime,” the celebratory “Everybody Is a Star,” and the ultimate existential funk classic “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again).” The thrown-together feel of the album 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. However, Greatest Hits would also serve as the high point for the career of Sly & the Family Stone, after which There’s a Riot Goin’ On depicted Stone’s increasing hopelessness with America’s social problems and the effects of his drug addiction.
More pop savvy than a funk band, and too damn funky for pop, Sly and his band made provocative, cross-cultural music that straddled AM radio and the street. This compilation comprises the very best of the first four of the seven Epic albums, all recently re-mastered and re-released in their original form.

Greatest Hits truly summarizes Sly's original vision of an all-encompassing, racially- and gender-integrated group, with political and social statements over an endlessly funky rhythmic groove.

Like the seven Epic albums in their entirety, Greatest Hits is re-mastered from the original tapes in glorious funkadelity. From the eclectic 1967 debut A Whole New Thing, a blueprint for much of what came next, to Dance To the Music and Life, the Family Stone remain remarkably fresh, musically inventive and, with the benefit of mixing from the original masters, by Bob Irwin, a magical master map of funk gone by.

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