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Music Review: Sly & The Family Stone – Stand

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Sly & The Family Stone released their fourth album in May of 1969. Stand remains one of the better albums of the late sixties. Its influence as an early example of funk music would reverberate down to the present day.

Stand would be a huge commercial success and eventually sell over three million copies. Several months after its release, the group would perform a historic set at Woodstock. Part of their performance would be captured on film for the resulting movie and issued on the accompanying soundtrack album. It would add to the group’s reputation and help make them one of the top concert draws in the world.

The songs contained on the album were a rare combination of catchy music with socially conscious lyrics. The message would be positive and the music exuberant. Larry Graham’s slap style of bass playing and Greg Errico’s rhythmic drumming would be copied for decades. Rolling Stone Magazine would rank the album at number 118 on their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

Two classic songs would highlight the album. “Everyday People” would hit number one on Billboards pop charts and remains as one of the signature songs of its time. It’s line “Different strokes for different folks,” was memorable. Its upbeat message of harmony and peace was an attractive alternative to much of what was being released at the time.

“I Want To Take You Higher” is about as high energy as a song can get. Sly, Freddie, Larry Graham, and sister Rose would continue the group’s tradition of trading lead vocals. While there is no overt message contained in the lyrics, it would be adopted as an anthem by the Woodstock generation. The songs lyrical refrain of "higher" was often assumed, though never confirmed, to refer to a drug connotation.

One strong track would follow another. “Stand” featured a lead vocal by Sly and superior guitar playing from brother Freddie. The inclusion of some gospel near the end helped to under score its brilliance. “Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey” dealt with the topic of racism with its chant like lyrics. “Sex Machine” is a thirteen minute jam that brings out all the instrumental strengths that the group members possessed. “Sing A Simple Song,” with lyrics exploring the realities of life, contains some more creative lead guitar licks.

The only track that seemed a little out of place was “Somebody’s Watching You.” This song had a darker edge, through its message of paranoia and would be a glimpse of what lay ahead for Sly Stone and the group.

Stand remains one of the crowning achievements for Sly & The Family Stone. If you have any interest in the music of the late sixties and early seventies or just want a superior listening experience, then this album is essential to your collection.

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