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Sly & The Family Stone: Chapter 12.

Music Review: Sly & The Family Stone – Ain’t But The One Way

It is a little unbelievable that Sly Stone has not released a new studio album in 26 years (and counting). Ain’t But The One Way, released in 1983, was the last gasp from one of the originators of funk music and a member of The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.

1981 found Sly and George Clinton in the studio together working on a new Family Stone album. Clinton had a dispute with Warner Brothers which caused him to leave the label, effectively ending the recording sessions. Sly also disappeared and WB hired outside producer Stewart Levine to make some sense out of what had been left behind. Two years later the finished album was released. It was not the best way to put an album together. Even the cover photo was almost five years old. Needless to say it was a commercial failure.

Sly Stone has remained practically a recluse for the past quarter century. He contributed to ex-Time member Jesse Johnson’s hit single in 1986 titled “Crazy.” He released one single himself, “Eek-A-Bo-Static,” for the A&M label but it quickly disappeared. In 1987 he spent time in prison for cocaine possession. Rumors have surfaced for the last decade that he has been working on a new album but no new material has surfaced.

And so Ain’t But The One Way remains Sly Stone’s swan song, which is unfortunate as it is by far the weakest studio album of the eleven he recorded during his career. Given the circumstances it's not surprising that it has an unfinished feel. There are hints of ideas under the surface but Stewart Levine was never able to bring them to fruition.

Many of the tracks follow the formula that Sly established and in doing so remain pale imitations of his best work. Songs such as “One Way,” “Hobo Ken,” and “L.O.V.I.N.U.” establish a comfortable groove and use some horns and a bass line in places but just never coalesce into anything interesting. The song that may somewhat up the whole dismal affair is a cover of the Kinks, “You Really Got Me.” If there was ever a song that was immune to a funk treatment this is it.

The only interesting track is “Who In The Funk Do You Think You Are” which fuses funk rhythms with a rock sound. This may have been an area that Sly was going to explore, but we’ll never know.

As of 2009 Sly Stone is still out there somewhere and who knows, maybe he has one more good album left in him. If not, we will have to be content with the likes of Stand, There’s A Riot Goin’ On, and Dance To The Music which form the core of a small but extremely brilliant and influential catalog of music.

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