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JSngry

SLY & THE FAMILY STONE - THERE'S A RIOT GOIN' ON

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Sorry, I just can't find my old bell bottoms.

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Fair enough underground, and I'll agree with you, if subtly.

Perhaps it was the "neither fish nor fowl" aspect of Sly's pre-RIOT music that was his "downfall"? Not quite rock, not quite R&B, not wholly black, not wholly white. A little bit of everything at once with a very imaginative (damn near all those songs have SOME sort of REALLY wierd musical element to them; weird but right) producer/arranger/bandleader running the show. "Something for everybody" works only until everybody wants something. Because the more they get, the more they want.

Idealism is a great come-on, it gets you in the door and to the table, but how often is it actually in the contract?

I don't think Sly read the fine print.

Edited by JSngry

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Sorry, I just can't find my old bell bottoms.

My bell bottom has turned into a bell gut. Different kinda riot goin' on there!

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One of my favorite albums of all time! Nice little write-up, Jim. There was a time when I used to drive my roommates crazy playing this album over and over, several times a day, like clockwork. Most definately on my "desert island" list.

:tup:tup:tup:tup:tup:tup:tup:tup:tup:tup:tup:tup:tup

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Least we not forget about the Chambers Brothers who kind of followed in Sly's footsteps in many regards.......'Time has Come Today'...tick tock... Time.....tick Tock....Time....

;)

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If the Non-Jazz AOTM threads will deliver instructional qualities of this order, I'm all the more for it. I have to admit I didn't get the point with Sly Stone's recordings at the time, but "In Time" from the "Fresh" album hit me as a highly sophisticated and original piece of funk.

As I cannot afford buying all the single albums right now, I'll settle for this primer:

f77725ies24.jpg

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This thread had my interest from the first post in the sense that I wanted to revisit the record before I did anything. I didn't post and I didn't read the thread beyond the first post. Tonight I burned my lp onto cdr and gave it a good listen. The burn is on as I write this.

OK. It's everything Jim says it is re: Miles etc. Actually re 70s funk. Very influential and very focused in Sly's own head. Can you really write about this record without referencing drugs? I can't. So , thru a drug haze, Sly is focused enough to turn out this gem. HOW? He focused. He had his eye on the spot - or his EAR is on the spot. And yeah...it's a coke haze but I think it's it's a scag haze too. Dope fiends. Everything and anything and deal with it. That's how I see and hear it

And I LOVE IT.

Who's playing on this? The LP doesn't really say - just some pictures on the inside of the gatefold, (You all remember gatefold lps? Very useful for cleaning certain vegetation). I vaguely remember reading or hearing that much of it was Sly overdubbed. Specifically the bass was Sly. Let me elucidate a moment about the bass on this LP. For a pro bassist operating often in bands playing this type of music it was KEY. Here's the deal - The bass on the record sounds like a Fender (Jazz or Precision) with flatwound strings and the action set very low (lower than any bassist would use AT THAT TIME) and played with for the most part with a pick (funk bassists rearely used a pick) and no mute. It all works and sounds great. It's funk bass played with a set up NO recording funk bassist is using at the time. He's not really a bassist - so he uses an easy to play set up and because he is so focused and because he knows exactly what he wants and because he's in the studio and is running the show and can get the sound he wants it all comes out great. I say that as praise - not as a put down. Larry Graham filtered through Sly. (another discussion I'd like to have. Early Graham Central Station).

OK - I'm still listening and I'd like some reaction to what I've said - agree or disagree. I'm a strange case- I was weined on early jazz and on FUNK. I played with Funk bands all througth the 60s and 70s and I'm glad this thread came up. I want to talk about THIS music too.

One more point - this is considered POP MUSIC...but to me the attitude of this music is SO related to jazz as to really be the same thing in my heart of hearts. It's improvistiory and grooves.

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Agree w/everything you say Harold.

I've ehard different stories about who plays on the album, but agreed, the bass sounds very un-Graham-like to me. But the guitar sounds like Freddy, and the drumming (where there is a real drummer) could easily be Errico, especially on the funky parts of "Running Away').

This album is such a landmark, and such a formidable musical accomplishment, that I'll join with the calls for a new issue of it, complete with extensive liner notes, interviews, as much documentation as possible, etc. But realistically, I don't see that happening. Columbia seems to be content with putting out various anthologies, which hardly does justice to Sly's formidable, if short-lived legacy. Again, damn near EVERY one of his songs contains a musical gambit that betrays a pop genius at the peak of his powers. ALL of the hits do, at least all of the ones from the RIOT album back.

Where were YOU the first time you heard "Dance To The Music", and did you think that The Rapture had just begun? :g:g:g

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Thanks for the elaboration re: the bass playing, Harold. That goes a long way in explaining why the bass sounds so chunky (to these easr), especially on "Africa Talks to You (The Asphalt Jungle)," where he sounds like he's trying to get some kind of sustain out of those high notes on the bass.

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Where were YOU the first time you heard "Dance To The Music", and did you think that The Rapture had just begun? :g:g:g

I've heard other people talk about the first time they heard "Dance to the Music." I agree that it's a great track, I love it myself, but I am interested in hearing just what it was that made it such a groundbreaking single. Obviously coming to it decades after its original release (when so much was influenced by Sly), that initial reaction is somewhat dulled. I've heard people compare "Dance to the Music" to the first time they heard James Brown's "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." These two tracks seem to have changed the way people heard music. How so?

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The energy (in the music and the round-robin vocals alike) and the over-the-legal-limit FUN that overflows from that track were like a slap upside your head, especially "GET UP! GET UP...AND DANCE...TO THE MUSIC" and "ALL THE SQUARES GO HOME". That, the beat, and the still cooler-than-shit a capella vocal breaks made it clear that THIS was a party like none other, and that it was NEVER going to end. And when the sequel (in every sense of the word) "M'Lady" came out, THAT sealed the deal.

The first time I saw the group "live" (actually lip-synching) was on one ofthose weekday afternoon teen dance shows like "Where The Action Is", or something like that. GOOD GOD A'MIGHTY! They did "Life" IIRC, and I'd never seen ANYBODY like that before. The rock bands were always either teeniebop or hippie in their vibe, and the R&B acts were either Motown-slick or from that gloriously mysteriously unknown parallel universe that black music inhabited to an interested but still mostly socially segregated white kid like me. But THESE guys! Whites, blacks, a short haired female black trumpet player side by side with a long haired male white sax player, fros a mile wide, and EVERYBODY laughing and dancing thier asses off, hell - I saw the future and lo, it was GOOD!

I still get goosebumps playing that GREATEST HITS album, because I still remember it, and I still HEAR it. Sly could have ruled the world, moreso than the Beatles, I think. That was not to be, obviously, but for a few years, "Sly" & "turn the radio up ALL the way" were synonymous in my world, and, I suspect, LOTS of other folks'.

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I still get goosebumps playing that GREATEST HITS album, because I still remember it, and I still HEAR it. Sly could have ruled the world, moreso than the Beatles, I think. That was not to be, obviously, but for a few years, "Sly" & "turn the radio up ALL the way" were synonymous in my world, and, I suspect, LOTS of other folks'.

You got THAT right! Greatest Hits albums don't start much faster, funkier, and LOUDER than this with "I Want to Take You Higher!"

Anyone else wish that their Woodstock set was available on CD? :tup

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This album is such a landmark, and such a formidable musical accomplishment, that I'll join with the calls for a new issue of it, complete with extensive liner notes, interviews, as much documentation as possible, etc. But realistically, I don't see that happening. Columbia seems to be content with putting out various anthologies, which hardly does justice to Sly's formidable, if short-lived legacy.

The AMG review tells the greater part of "Riot" is on the "Essential" 2 CD compilation I mentioned in my post above, and in good sound, as all recent Legacy issues. So that may be one to settle for, at least for the time being. I will get it and see if I get the message now that I'm a little older and wiser ...

I surely got some message from J.B., "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag" and all the hits come hit me righ taway, the groove reached me instantly, although I didn't like his screaming vocals. But Sly Stone - perhaps the surroundings for a young German to grow up in are too far removed to comprehend something like Sly Stone, ar what do you all think? Is it some non-musical level that's more important here than on the J.B. hits? Idon't know, but would like to hear your opinion.

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Well, J.B. was just so fukkin' PRIMAL on all levels that I'd think it would be like the stories you hear about people hearing Bird for the first time - you either loved it or hated it INTENSELY, even if you didn't "understand" it.

But Sly had an "intellectual" thing going on in the music that J.B. didn't. By this I don't mean that J.B.'s stuff wasn't deep, because God knows it was. But Sly liked to play tricks, to be "sly", in a self-aware way. Take the horn part on "Everyday People" where they're playing the "ooh, sha sha" lick - it took me quite a while of listening to realize that the horns were only playing "ooh, ... sha". Sly didn't have them playing the first "sha". Or "Hot Fun In The Summertime" - what's the hook on that? The title phrase, right? Well, aren't hooks in most pop tunes delivered with full production and arrangement emphasis? Sure they are. But what does Sly do with THIS hook? He underplays it, keeping the bass line playing the same gap-filled vamp that preceedes the hook, saving the full-motion bass line (and strings, another "textbook hint" that THIS IS THE HOOK) for the return of the verse. For that matter, check out the changes to "Everybody Is A Star" - that shit moves all over the place. I could go on...

So, Sly was all about the party, sure (and that's another difference: J.B. was all about let a man be a man, and Sly was all about let's all get down and party without the bullshit, which is the same thing, only different, if you know what I mean. J.B. was "pop" only by the accident of record buying habits, but Sly was POP and damn well MEANT to be), but it was a party which was being led by somebody who you just KNEW was sitting back in the corner taking notes while simultaneously leading it (thus the Sylvester Stewart/Sly Stone dichotomy), and who was going to give you what you wanted, but in a way that you knew EXACTLY who was giving it to you, even if you didn't think you noticed (and with all the different lead vocalists, it would be easy not to). Listen to the "division of labor", in both playing and singing on his pre-RIOT work - it bounces back and forth like very few, if any, bands of the time did, and not always how you'd expect it to. Sly (or more accurately, Sylvester Stewart, the "real" person behind the "Sly" persona) was a puppeteer of sorts, an entirely benevolent one to be sure, but every song had more than a few strings to be pulled, and Sly/Sylvester was pulling them all.

Which is why RIOT is such a chilling album. I can't say that the back-to-back combo of STAND and THERE'S A RIOT GOIN' ON is the most dramatically different such pair of the Rock Era, but it might very well be the most dramatically different combo of landmark albums. On STAND, it's the old Sly, playing the puppeteer as the songs about partying and brotherhood and all that good stuff unfold in truly classic fashion. But on RIOT, Sly is both the puppet and the puppeteer. It's himself that he's playing, himself he's examining, himself that he's taking notes about and commenting on. And it's pretty clear that A)Sylvester was getting tired of being a puppeteer B)Sly was tired of being a puppet and C)after taking notes on himself, he doesn't really like what he's found, that Sylvester and Sly were becoming one and the same yet wholly neither, and that sorting all that out required setting up the cycle of A &B all over again, which neither Sylvester nor Sly had the energy or inclination to do to the degree it needed doing. There was indeed a riot goin' on, and nobody was calling the cops. Intentionally. Burn baby burn.

There's an air of defiant self-destruction throughout RIOT, as if Sly knows he's soon going to be going away for a long time, but dammit, it's his show, his puppet, and his strings, and he'll do what he damn well wants with them. THAT, I think, is where the funk, an element that the pre-RIOT work never really had, comes in. These aren't the spiritual/body grooves of JB, or the joyfully dirty party grit of the Memphis cats. These are the passive-aggressive grooves of a man who is telling everybody, himself included (ESPECIALLY himself) to go fuck themselves in no uncertain terms, but is doing so in a most irresistable and charming (on the surface, anyway) manner. At the risk of being misunderstood, it's the stance of a BLACK man, the kind of black man who calls you "sir" when he's really thinking "fuck you", the kind of black man whose smile could be interpreted as a ray of sunshine or a dagger of death, depending on just how well you know what's REALLY going on in his mind. It's Eldridge Cleaver as Steppin Fetchit, if that makes any sense.

There are many lessons in the life and music of Sly Stone. Some are obvious (too much coke and such ain't good for you), some are unresolved (can an egalitarain ideal survive if everybody stays clean enough to stay on top of their game?) and some are disturbing (can you REALLY make it if you try, or, like Mingus in "The Chill Of Death", has your fate been planned - planned...but...well). Perhaps its the ultimate ambiguity of these lessons that account for Sly being held in less reverence than he is today (or so it seems to me), I don't know. You still don't hear much of PET SOUNDS on the radio either, but you sure as hell hear "Fun Fun Fun". Everybody LOVES the Beach Boys, but Brian Wilson? You tell me what that means...

I do know that Sly & The Family Stone are NOT what you're looking for if you're looking for Soul, R&B, Black (or any other kind of) Rock, or any other neatly-compartmentalized genre, and not until RIOT did they offer up the funk. What they gave us, in the end, is "Sly Stone" music, which is a genre unto itself, really.

Hope that helps.

Edited by JSngry

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Nice post Jim.You nailed the JB/Sly dichotomy plus all the other things you referenced are right on the mark too...

Sly hit big with DANCE TO THE MUSIC and I DO remember being in my car and hearing this and digging the hell out of it. WHOA ...who's this? It was original but also included elements of the past ...JB (with changes)...a show band vibe that was around at the time and THAT HORN LICK from "Harlem Shuffle". I loved it. floored.

Anybody remember seeing a Mike Douglas show where Sly and Mohammed Ali were both guests? Back in the days when TV talk/variety shows were truly unscripted. I caught a rerun on late night TV not too long ago, but I DID remember seeing it the first time around. The show did little credit to Ali. He was pretty hostile..he criticized Mike Douglas basically for being white and having a tv show. Mike was insulted and showed it and Sly stepped in and said what I thought were appropriate things - the voice of reason in this circumstance. Ali then attacked Sly for daring to disagree with him publicly. Sly came back at ALi but maintained his cool. Ali did not (and did not come off well). Mike Douglas was pissed but cool and the segment ended. Revealing TV - something we've lost. But my point with all of this is that AT THAT TIME (when was it? I can only estimate around 1970) Sly was basically a positive cat. Look at the lyrics and titles...Stand, You Can Make It If You Try, Life, Fun, Everybody Is A Star....

Then came RIOT and SLY is delivering what to me sounds like a smack version of THANK YOU FALLETTIN ME... (...and smack version or not...it's good) .

Anyway...this thread got me going a little. Last night I burned my RIOT lp to cdr and have listened to it 3x since. I was in CD World today and saw "FRESH" for $6.99 and scored. I dug up all my SLY lps... I dug up all my GRAHAM CENTRAL STATION lps.( Jim S - have you heard Patrice Banks singing "I Can't Stop The Rain"?) My intent is to eventually burn them to cdr.

Edited by Harold_Z

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Yeah, I remember Patrice on that cut. Nice, to say the least. ;)

You talk about the differences in the versions of "Thank you", and you're right, but I think this is the song that marked the personal turning point for Sly. The original was released as a single between STAND & RIOT, b/w "Hot Fun..." (which in and of itself is a pretty wack cut, what with Sly for the first time sounding REALLY loaded in his vocal, even if everybody else sounds like they always did), and it's the first musical hint of the deeper funk to come.

But the LYRICS!

Lookin' at the devil, grinnin' at his gun

Fingers start shakin', I begin to run

Bullets start chasin', I begin to stop

We begin to wrestle I was on the top

Want to thank you falettinme be mice elf agin

I wanna thank you falettinme be mice elf agin

Stiff all in the collar, fluffy in the face

Chit chat chatter tryin’, Stuffy in the place

Thank you for the party, But I could never stay

Many thangs is on my mind, words in the way

I want to thank you falettinme be mice elf agin

Thank you falettinme be mice elf agin

Dance to the music

All nite long

Everyday people

Sing a simple song

Mama's so happy

Mama start to cry

Papa still singin'

You can make it if you try

I want to thank you falettinme be mice elf agin

Thank you falettinme be mice elf agin

Flamin' eyes of peoples fear, burnin' into you

Many men are missin' much, hatin' what they do

Youth and truth are makin' love

Dig it for a starter

Dyin' young is hard to take

Sellin' out is harder

I want to thank you falettinme be mice elf agin

Thank you falettinme be mice elf agin

Well....ok. Some pretty dark stuff in there, highlighted on the original by the processed voices on the last verse. But still, the RECORD was radio-ready, and of course it was a HUGE, two-sided hit. I don't know that too many people were hearing the lyrics, they were still dancing to the music. But by the time it got remade on RIOT, the sun had set, and we were well into the night, with the ONLY hope of salvation coming in Rose's gospel-laced singing of the title phrase. Dig how more than once, the way she sings the word "lettinme" sounds EXACTLY like Mavis Staples on those Staples Singers Vee Jay sides. Even, perhaps ESPECIALLY, when going down for the count, Sly was able to pull out a sound that no doubt took him back to his childhood, his roots. This was not a case of a genius being too fucked up to function (yet), this was, as I said earlier, a fully articulate suicide note of sorts, written years before it would actually be needed.

The cat WAS positive. What happened to him, besides all the drugs, is a matter that NEEDS to be answered for some of us. At least it does for me. His self-destruction seems to have been as intentional as it was tragic (FRESH does indeed have its moments, but other than "In Time" & the maximally wack "Que Serra...", there's an air of anti-climax to it, I think, and it REALLY goes downhill after that, the occasional ultra-funky jam like "Loose Booty" not withstanding. Funky? Yes. But SLY? No.), and I want to know what happened. Everybody loses their innocence, and everybody comes to the realization that compromise is inevitable. Lots of people get really dark about all that, too. Lots of people do lots of things. But to the extent that Sly did? GOT to be an explanation, GOTS to be a reason.

I want to know. I NEED to know.

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d149049a9lf.jpg

From that to this (with a helluva ride in between)

1976:

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1979:

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Over. And out.

Edited by JSngry

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Posted (edited)

I have lots of Sly on vinyl, but I recently picked the the five-CD "Original Album Classics" CD box for cheap, which has the first five albums, through Riot.  

There are bonus tracks on all five albums, but they inexplicably couldn't find a way to include the non-LP singles "Hot Fun," "Thank You," and "Everybody is a Star" anyplace.  But for 15 bucks I'm not complaining.

I am now listening to the debut, A Whole New Thing, which I've never owned or heard before.  Rose is not yet with the group.  (She joins for the next album, Dance to the Music.). Anyway, I didn't know what to expect from this album, and I am amazed at how fully formed everything was right from the start, with rock, soul, and proto-funk elements.  Epic didn't think it was commercial enough, but it is a really great, varied album.

I listened also to Riot for the first time in ages, and I was kind of blown away by it all over again.  The instrumental bonus tracks are a nice addition.  I would like to reorganize the album so that the instrumentals are worked into the album sequence rather than tacked on to the end.  

 

 

Edited by Teasing the Korean

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57 minutes ago, Teasing the Korean said:

I have lots of Sly on vinyl, but I recently picked the the five CD "Original Album Classics" CD box for cheap, which has the first five albums, through Riot.  

There are bonus tracks on all five albums, but they inexplicably couldn't find a way to include the non-LP singles "Hot Fun," "Thank You," and "Everybody is a Star" anyplace.  But for 15 bucks I'm not complaining.

I am now listening to the debut, A Whole New Thing, which I've never owned or heard before.  Rose is not yet with the group.  (She joins for the next album, Dance to the Music.). Anyway, I didn't know what to expect from this album, and I am amazed at how fully formed everything was right from the start, with rock, soul, and photo-funk elements.  Epic didn't think it was commercial enough, but it is a really great, varied album.

I listened also to Riot for the first time in ages, and I was kind of blown away by it all over again.  The instrumental bonus tracks are a nice addition.  I would like to reorganize the album so that the instrumentals are worked into the album sequence rather than tacked on to the end.  

 

 

I have the same set.  My impression is that the first 3 albums would be much better in mono.  BTW, the 3 singles you mention are on "Greatest Hits."

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36 minutes ago, mjzee said:

BTW, the 3 singles you mention are on "Greatest Hits."

Of course, but why not add them here?  

I will have to find the old CD of Greatest Hits to get them in mono, or actually, rechanneled for stereo.  I do not like the contemporary stereo remixes of these tracks.  

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1 hour ago, Teasing the Korean said:

I listened also to Riot for the first time in ages, and I was kind of blown away by it all over again.  

I haven't listened to Riot since I upgraded my system. That's something to look forward to tomorrow.

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4 minutes ago, Rabshakeh said:

I haven't listened to Riot since I upgraded my system. That's something to look forward to tomorrow.

Adjust the bass accordingly. ;)

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Posted (edited)

There's a lot about Riot in the book about music in 1971 ("Never a  A Dull Moment") as well as the tv series derived from the book ("1971: The Year the Music Changed Everything"-- or some silly name like that.) 

Edited by medjuck

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Incidentally, Light in the Attic put out a compilation of tracks from Sly Stone's Stone Flower label, circa 1969-70.  Sly wrote all the songs.  It kind of works as the missing album between Stand and Riot.

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