Earlier this year, Epic Legacy began the long overdue task of restoring Sly And The Family Stone's original catalog, and reissuing the albums in newly remastered deluxe editions. These came complete with newly discovered tracks, exhaustive liner notes, and all the usual bells and whistles that accompany such projects.
This process culminated with the release of the boxed set Collection, which gathers together all of the tracks from the groundbreaking funk-rock pioneers' seven original studio albums on one massive collection.
It was about time.
Record companies have undertaken many such restoration projects of late — presumably in an effort to keep the core baby-boomer demographic interested in the bread and butter CD format, and from crossing over to the "dark side" of MP3 downloads. From a strictly historical perspective, some of these catalog overhauls have been warranted, while several others have probably not.
But in the case of Sly And The Family Stone, the "remastered" treatment was an absolute necessity. Music obsessives and other record collector types who have publicly groused for years in the pages of magazines like Goldmine and Ice over the poor quality of existing Sly recordings, greeted last spring's remastered editions like manna from heaven itself.
To Epic Legacy's absolute credit, they did a bang-up job too. The new recordings are crisp and clear, and the extra tracks included shed new light on what must have gone into the creative process of a slightly warped genius like Sly Stone. But even with all of that, the project was not complete — at least, until now.
Sly And The Family Stone's Greatest Hits will finally be reissued in its own remastered edition next Tuesday, completing the cycle that began last spring. Unlike the other albums in the series, Greatest Hits will contain no additional bonus tracks. Who needs em'? Breaking the mold of many other so-called best-of packages, Sly's Greatest Hits truly lives up to the promise of its title. Each and every single track on this CD is a bonafide smash — and they all sound great in their digitally enhanced form here.
Even for Sly fans who have all of the other releases now, Greatest Hits is an absolute must. Not only is this the only way you can get all of the band's hits together on a single disc — talk about your ultimate mix tape! — but you also get the otherwise unavailable hits, "Hot Fun In The Summertime," "Everybody Is A Star," and "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)". Sly And The Family Stone's Greatest Hits is the only album release containing these tracks.
Sly And The Family Stone's Greatest Hits has been rightfully called one of the greatest party albums of all time. And while it would be easy to retell the story of how this groundbreaking band broke down every musical, racial, and gender barrier imaginable back in the sixties — it is still so much easier to just let the music on this album speak for itself.
From the way Larry Graham's funkified bass runs on "I Want To Take You Higher" serve as a template for everyone from Bootsy Collins to Stanley Clarke, to the breaks on "Stand!," — which have been sampled by every hip hop act from De La Soul to Dr. Dre — the influence of this band is simply impossible to measure. Even the funky way that Prince spells his song titles can be traced directly to "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin." Not to mention the multi-racial, gender-bending makeup of the Purple One's various bands over the years.
One of the most common complaints that I hear made by music fans today — and something which has probably propelled the popularity of individual song downloads more than anything — is that the average CD, even in the case of best-of's, only has "one or two good songs." That argument simply cannot be made here.
Sly And The Family Stone's Greatest Hits is that all too rare case of an album that will have you movin' and groovin' from start to finish. These songs sound as fresh now, as they did more than thirty years ago. So crank it up, and "Dance To The Music."
The remastered edition of Greatest Hits will be in stores next Tuesday August 28.