This week, we will celebrate the genius of Sylvester Stewart and his beautiful band.
Sly and the Family Stone – “Higher“ – 2013
Sly Stone, né Sylvester Stewart, is one of the most influential artists of the 20th century and one does not count the tens of musicians influenced by the great man and his band. The most obvious one is of course Prince but there are plenty of others from funk masters Earth, Wind and Fire to post-punk bands like Magazine or The Colourfield or again hip-hop bands like De La Soul who used a couple of Sly and the Family Stone tracks for their first classic album. Originally from Texas, Sly really started to make a name of himself and his siblings while growing up in California. The ‘family’ label was a real one as brother Freddie and sister Rosie were part of the band as well. However, by ‘family’, one could also include band members like the great Larry Graham Jr. on bass and Cynthia Robinson on trumpet. Sly was also one of the first band leaders to include black and white musicians, which brought their unique pop and funky sound to new levels. The term ‘genius’ is too often used to my taste but in the specific case of Sly Stone, it is probably the right one as he brought a new personal style of music to the world, mixing traditional funk and soul music with rock and pop.
“Higher” is a 4-CD box set released in 2013 and, as often so with such products, it is a joy for fans but may appear too long and complex to digest for those not familiar with the music of the band. This is why I suggest for newcomers to get acquainted first with the band through the excellent ‘The Essential Sly and the Family Stone‘ compilation where one will find and enjoy all the major tracks and hits. If then you feel it may be one of your favourite bands – that was definitely so for me as they were ranked # 62 in my top 100 done in 2012 – you need to buy this box set, having in mind the book is full of amazing pictures and is also a great reading. The 4 CD’s (there is also a vinyl version) are organised through a chronological order, from the R’n’B beginnings of the early 60’s to the final interesting recordings of the late 70’s. The peak period is definitely the 1968-1973 one, with the two major events that were their extraordinary performance at the 1969 Woodstock festival and the 1971 release of their best album ‘There’s A Riot Goin’ On‘, with classic songs such as ‘Family Affair‘ or ‘Runnin’ Away‘. Although still alive, Sylvester Stewart disappeared from our world since the 80’s for the usual reasons (drugs, mental health, bad entourage,…) but he should be cherished and rewarded for all the joy his music gave to the world.
Format: 4-CD Box Set Bought in: 2014 To be noted: De La Soul sampled ‘Crossword Puzzle‘ for their ‘Say No Go‘ track, which can be found in their classic ‘3 Feet High And Rising’ classic 1989 debut album. Rating: 9.0/10