Sly & The Family Stone
by Bobbi Booker
(NNPA)–Sly & The Family Stone laid down a template that not only inspired an era of youhful rebellion and independence as the 60s became the 70s, the group also had – and continues to have – a potent effect on the course of modern music in general. The creativity of the mixed-race, mixed-gender and mixed-genre band shines in “Higher!” (Epic/Legacy Records), the new 77-track, four-cd box set.
Spotlighted throughout the first three CDs of “Higher!” are rare mono single masters of every classic Sly & The Family Stone signature hit. Paying homage to the golden age of transistor radios are mono versions of “Dance To the Music,” “Everyday People,” “Stand!,” “I Want To Take You Higher,” “Hot Fun In the Summertime,” “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)” and more than 30 mono single masters, and mono album cuts, that were a call-out to get up and dance. Decades after the chart debut of Sly & The Family Stone with the game-changing “Dance To The Music,” fans and newcomers will have the opportunity to dig into this far-reaching anthology, covering the recording career of Sylvester Stewart starting in 1964, and the band he masterminded from 1966 to 1977 on Epic Records.
“Sly Stone’s music is relevant because was able to take from all the influencing genres before him and along side him and combine it like gumbo,” said Public Enemy frontman Chuck D. “Then inside the band, having women, having it mixed race and ethnic background – I mean, come on now. You really couldn’t point and say, ‘well, this is the reason why it is funky,’ it’s all this togher like gumbo and maming this happen. And Sly & The Family Stione was the epitome of a group playing the music, saying the lyrics and also backing with the words.”
“Higher!” pays tribute to the unique style of Sly & The Family Stone with its innovative ten-inch square package design, which houses the CDs in its interior pockets. The middle compartment contains a detailed 104-page book featuring a liner notes essay, a beautifully-illustrated timeline of Sly’s career, track-by-track annotations, rare and uncirculated photography, 45 rpm label and picture sleeve repros, eye-popping vintage concert posters and ticket stubs from Sly & The Family Stone shows and more.
The music combined with extensive liner notes by Jeff Kaliss (author of Sly’s only authorized biography), takes listeners through the extensive legacy of Sly & The Family Stone through four decades of movie and TV soundtracks, commercials, radio playlists, and parties worldwide that influenced countless makers of rock, funk, jazz and hip-hop. Also included are gems from Sly Stewarts’ pre-Family Stone period, inlcuding studio outtakes and potent instrumentals from this archetype of jam bands.
“Refracted in these treasures are colors you may be unused to seeing in Sly: Old R&B, jazz, nursery rhymes, gospel and even country, fused and transformed by a precious visionary and his fellow musical alchemists,” said Kalis, author of “I Want To Take You Higher: The Life and Times of Sly & The Family Stone.”
Of the many impossibly rare and fascinating inclusions on “Higher!,” special attention is paid to the four tracks that close CD Three. They were recorded live at the Isle of Wight Festival in the United Kingdom, early Sunday morning, Aug. 30, 1970, one year after Sly’s memorable wee hours performance at the Woodstock Music & Art Fair. Two of the Isle of Wight numbers, “Stand!” and “You Can Make It If You Try,” were subsequently issued on the Columbia three-LP release from 1971, “The First Great Rock Festivals Of The Seventies.” The two other numbers by Sly & The Family Stone at Isle of Wight, namely “Dance To The Music” and the medley of “Music Lover / I Want To Take You Higher / Music Lover” (a variation on their medley from the Woodstock soundtrack album), were both previously unissued until now.
With 17 previously unreleased tracks, “Higher!” presents a lot more music of the Sly & The Family Stone experience than you knew was out there, all remastered to hit the pinnacle of sound.
Contact Philadelphia Tribune staff writer Bobbi Booker at (215) 893-5749 or firstname.lastname@example.org.