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Sly & The Family Stone: Chapter 1.

Music Review: Sly & The Family Stone – A Whole New Thing

I remember searching for this album for quite awhile. I did not start listening to Sly & The Family Stone with any regularity until after Woodstock. Albums such as Dance To The Music and Life were huge commercial successes and easy to find but A Whole New Thing was another matter. I think I finally found a copy at a record convention, at an exorbitant price no doubt, but it was the key to completing my run of Sly Stone releases.

Sly & The Family Stone was formed in 1966 from the remnants of Sly & The Stoners and his brother’s band, Freddie & The Stone Souls. A Whole New Thing was their debut album released in 1967. It contained no hit singles, sold very few copies, and quickly disappeared into the bargain bins at local record stores. The album deserved better. It may not have been of the quality and as essential as what would follow but it still remains a fun listen and the first release in a career that would propel Sly & The Family Stone along a creative road that would eventually lead to their 1993 induction into The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.

A Whole New Thing would not have the political bite or sociological commentary of there later releases. It would, however, contain early elements of Sly Stone’s vision of fusing rhythm and blues with psychedelic rock.

The first track, “Underdog,” quickly establishes the Sly sound as funky horns weave in and out of his keyboards and drummer Greg Errico and bassist Larry Graham lay down a strong foundation that would form the under pinning of this and future releases.

There are two wonderful ballads which were written by Sly Stone but who leaves the lead vocals to other group members. “That Kind Of Person” which is sung by Freddie Stone and “Let Me Hear It From You” by Larry Graham are R&B influenced and about as good as what was coming out of Motown at the time.

“Run Run Run,” with its early fuzz tone guitar, and “If This Room Could Talk” are just joyful fun and the type of performances that the group would be associated with in concert. The soul tune, “I Can’t Turn You Loose,” is played at a frenetic pace.

A Whole New Thing was a nice debut album. It may not have lived up to its title but the group would quickly do so within a few years. Today it remains an undeserved forgotten album by a group that influenced American music. It is worth seeking out but just don’t over pay for it.

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