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Sly & The Family Stone: Chapter 3.

Music Review: Sly & The Family Stone – Life

Life was the third album released by Sly & The Family Stone and their second of 1968. While it was a very good album in its own right, it had the back luck to be issued between the exuberant Dance To The Music and the five-star Stand.

Life would be a bit more undisciplined than the two previously mentioned albums. It would take the fusions of Dance To The Music and split them into their parts before they were re-assembled on Stand. The songs are psychedelic, soul, blues, and some straight funk. The album would also not contain a successful single, which would hurt it commercially.

What would be consistent would be the guitar virtuosity of Freddie Stone, the fuzz bass tones of Larry Graham, and drum rhythms of Greg Errico. Sly Stone would continue to experiment with multiple lead vocalists who would trade lines within the same song. Rosie Stone was now a secure part of the band and Cynthia Robinson would interject scattered trumpet notes and vocal ad-libs throughout many of the tracks.

“Dynamite” would feature a classic psychedelic opening guitar line by Freddie Stone. “M’Lady” would be a foray into straight funk with over-the-top production. “Plastic Jim” had cutting lyrics about how people act and has a blues feel to it.

Sly would begin to explore lyrical themes that would reappear on future releases. “Harmony” which really takes off after a disjointed beginning and “Love City” explored integration and love of neighbor. “Jane Is A Groupie” is self explanatory as it told the story of fans who follow bands. The title song began the exploration of the themes of life’s realisms which would recur over and over again in the future.

The best track may be “Into My Own Thing” with its familiar horns, organ, bass, and drums going in all directions yet returning to create a classic Sly & The Family Stone sound.

Life is one of those releases that contains a lot of very good parts that add up to an album that's above average, but not brilliant. Two albums within the same year may have been a little much for the group at this stage of their career. However, it did set the stage for several of the best and most influential albums in American music history that would follow during the next several years.   

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