Heard You Missed Me, Well I’m Back was the ninth and last album of original material that Sly Stone recorded for the Epic Label. 1975’s High On You had been credited to only Sly so now he returned to a group concept. The problem was The Family Stone, except for vocalist and trumpet player Cynthia Robinson, was long gone. A bevy of musicians were brought in to give the appearance of a working group, but ultimately it came down to basically another solo effort.
Sly continued to have problems outside the studio. Bankruptcy, divorce, and continual drug use led to him constantly missing concert dates. Musically the title was a statement that he was returning to his old style of music. In reality there were a few funk tracks but many of the songs came perilously close to a pop sound. It all added up to a critically panned album and a commercial disaster. It did not even make the Billboard top 200 and caused his long time label to drop him from their roster of artists. Likely adding insult to injury was that his former bass player, Larry Graham, and his group Graham Central Station, were a top selling funk group at the time.
This is yet another Sly album that I have not listened to in decades. When I place it in context of what was being released in 1976 it does not compare well. There are really only three tracks that have merit. The title song is the best of the lot. It is a classic funk track with a nice brass sound woven around very danceable rhythms. “Blessing In Disguise” has a mellow groove and an excellent lead vocal. “Everything In You,” likewise, has a nice vocal but its intertwining of horns and strings is what makes it interesting.
“Family Again” may be the weakest track and for some inexplicable reason was chosen as the lead — and what would be the sole — single release. In addition to just being boring, it featured Peter Frampton, which has got to be one of the odder pairings of the seventies.
Many of the other tracks just don’t measure up. In some ways they have an incomplete feel as ideas and themes are present but just don’t appear to have been properly finished. “Mother Is A Hippie” has a jam at the end that never settles down. “Nothing Less Than Happiness” has a nice bluesy feel but the vocal is weak. “Let’s Be Together” is Sly trying to fit into the popularity of the disco era.
Heard You Missed Me, Well I’m Back is a title Sly could ultimately not live up too. Except for a few decent songs it deservedly is a forgotten release. Today it is desired only by completists who wish to round out their Sly & The Family Stone collection.