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Music Review: Sly and the Family Stone – Dance to the Music

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Sly and the Family Stone are one of the most influential bands of all time. Their racially integrated blend of rock and funk influences hip hop and pop to this day. Sadly, people today probably know their songs more from the ubiquitous Chevrolet “Everyday People” campaign or watching lame middle aged people dance to the title track from this album.

That track is so ubiquitous, it almost feels odd to listen to it in an album context. It’s hard to hear it as something new and fresh, like it was back in 1967, when the album first came out. Even more than a frequently played rock track, like “Stairway to Heaven,” this one just feels beaten to death. It’s a great track, but it could really use a break.

“Higher” is an early version of what would become the scorching “I Want to Take You Higher” a few years later. In the chorus, you can hear the roots of that song, one of their best singles. This track has its moments, but is more interesting as a curiosity. That’s much like the album as a whole. This is a band that’s still growing up, and it wouldn’t be until Stand! that they really broke out. That album is fantastic through and through, this one is great in moments, but not quite there as a cohesive whole.

What I do love about all of Sly’s work is the varied instrumentation. Today’s electronic based music is great in its own way, but there’s nothing like hearing a full band, piano, horn section, guitars, all interacting and bouncing off each other. The psychedelic soul sound of the album is interesting, James Brown style horn bursts mixing with Doors sounding keyboards.

Ultimately, this is an album that’s more for completists than the casual fan. It does have some great tracks, but I’d recommend Stand! as a much better starting point for the band. That’s where things really came together.

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  • Glen Boyd

    Not sure I agree entirely with the near dismissal of “Dance” here Patrick.

    You have to remember that what Sly did was revolutionary at the time. While I do agree that the band would really reach something of a critical mass on latter albums like “Stand!” and “There’s A Riot Goin’ On,” you can hear a lot of the genesis of that greatness right here on this album.

    And as for the track, “Dance To The Music,” it does not sound played out to me at all. I mean even Iggy Pop’s music has been co-opted by Madison Avenue for use in commercials, but “Lust For Life” and “The Passenger” still sound great to me. Ditto for “Dance To The Music.”


  • Patrick

    The album definitely has its moments, but it’s got a few underwhelming tracks. It probably would work better if you listened to the albums in the order they came out, but I listened to Stand! first and this can’t quite match up.