If funk was first created by James Brown and his peers of that time, Sly and the Family Stone pushed it to its commercial and experimental limits. Like many of the greatest musical achievements of that wild and exploratory era, it was recorded in a hazy mist of drugs, and that comes out in this dark and murky album, almost as if you can sense that the most brilliant and deeply groovy moments on this album have come out of the depths of a mind that doesn’t realize what’s really goin’ on. What is goin’ on? Marvin Gaye tried to answer this formidable question that’s confounded so many before him, concluding that suffering and poverty was goin’ on. George Clinton deduced that Disco was slowly corrupting the world, and if we all gathered under a true groove, the force of true evil that is Nile Rogers could be defeated. Sly Stone answered the question with the title of this album, though we’ll never know whether he was talking about America or his mind.
Luv n’ Haight, opens up the LP perfectly with its deep bass groove and dense, soupy production, especially on the vocals that mix perfectly with the heavily wah-wah-ed guitar. The sound on this supposedly 24-carat Gold Edition CD is of ‘audiophile quality’, and it hits you in the face on this truly funky first track. Poet and Just Like a Baby slow things down, before Family Affair, the hit and one of the best tracks on the album due to it’s laid back yet dark and foreboding atmosphere, created by Stone’s vocals performed through a mic on a bed with a cold, apparently. After the jam, Africa Talks to You, an extended chunk ‘o’ funk where everyone let’s go (man), and the stanky clavinet pervades all, comes possibly the greatest title track in album history. There’s a Riot Goin’ On is 0 seconds long. I thought my Stereo would somehow malfunction and blow up, luckily not. Side 2 continues the same feel as the previous side, while adding some more accessible and fun short tracks, such as Spaced Cowboy and Runnin’ Away, the latter the second single, finishing off with a slower reworking of their earlier song, Thank You, possibly the downright funkiest piece of funkadelic funkiness you’ve ever…Funked. How many times can you say funk?
This ‘Gold Edition’ is, as you can see from the photo, rather lavishly presented with a magnetic, fold-out clamshell box with an embroidered flag on the front, revealing a lovely hard-cover book which provides lyrics and tons of information about the recording of the album and its significance. The gold disc is as protected as you could wish, buried in its own soft felt casing. For rabid collectors, this would surely suffice, but those simply wanting to dip their toe in the back catalogue of Sly Stone and his cosmic siblings, earlier remasters will satisfy.
Choice Cut: Can’t. It would be sacri-funk-ilegious…
Goof: Who needs a ribbon to pull a cd out of it’s case? Also, ”falettinme be mice elf agin”?
10 Silent Riots out of 10, indicating: Epochal.
(Reviews of the new Led Zeppelin reissues should be soon)