Celebrating the 40th anniversary of Sly & the Family Stone, Sony/Legacy has reissued all seven of the band's albums, with generous helpings of unreleased tracks and alternate mixes.
On the first three albums, Sly carefully built his funky mansion from Motown bricks and Stax planks, adding architectural flourishes of doo-wop, gospel and even Broadway. But it was record number four, 1969's amazing Stand! that blew the roof off. Powered by singles "Everyday People," "Stand!" and "I Want To Take You Higher," this near perfect musical statement defined the Sly aesthetic, with lyrics celebrating freedom and individuality, guy-girl vocal hand-offs and percolating brass, all glued together by the killer rhythm section of bassist Larry Graham and drummer Greg Errico. Just check out the groove on "Sing A Simple Song." It's that impossible blend of loose and tight, peppered with a grinning abandon that would grow even wider when the band hit the stage.
The only song that sounds excessive forty years on is the thirteen-minute jam "Sex Machine." Sly may have had the title first, but James Brown would make a better song out of it. The bonus material includes mono mixes of the singles plus two unreleased tracks, the call-and-response "Soul Clappin' II" and the funk instrumental "My Brain (Zig-Zag)."
Last sighted on stage at the 2006 Grammys, Sly Stone is once again at the center of comeback rumors. Will he or won't he? While you're waiting, Stand! is a bounty of soulful goodness to take you higher. • Bill DeMain
[Seven reissued albums by Sly & The Family Stone will come out from Sony/Legacy on March 20, 2007.]