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Sly & The Family Stone: Chapter 5.

Music Review: Sly & The Family Stone – Greatest Hits

1969 ended with Sly & The Family Stone becoming one of the leading concert attractions in the world. In late '68 their single “Everyday People” reached number one on the American charts and '69 found its parent album becoming a huge commercial success; it would sell three million copies. Combine that with a dynamic performance at the legendary Woodstock and Sly and company were riding high. They went back into the studio to work of their Star album, but only managed to complete three tracks before abandoning the sessions. It would be almost two years between studio albums.

Their label would assemble a Greatest Hits album to fill the gap. It would be a wise move on the part of Epic Records as it would become their most successful album reaching number two on Billboard’s charts. It would also effectively close out the first phase of their career. Their next album, There’s A Riot Goin’ On,” would be brilliant but far darker as the biting lyrics would deal with controversial issues. The joyous feel of their first four releases would be left behind.

Greatest Hits would take not only the best but the most exuberant tracks from their first four releases and add the three tracks that had been recorded for their unissued album. These tracks would also be released as successful singles which would propel the album up the charts and keep the group in the public eye.

“Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)/Everybody Is A Star" would be a very strong two sided single and the second number one hit of their career. “Everybody Is A Star” continued the trend of Sly, Larry Graham, Freddie Stone, and Sister Rose trading lead vocal lines. This was one of the smoothest flowing tunes that the group would produce. “Thank You” was the A side of the  release and presented their funk sound as fully developed.

While the lyrics would hint at a different direction for the group, Larry Graham's slap bass technique and Greg Errico’s drum rhythms would make it one of the most influential songs of its era. The third song, “Hot Fun In The Summertime,” would be another huge hit as it would top out at number two on the National charts. The lyrics, which could be interpreted as both fun and an examination of the race riots of the time, was another funky and melodic delight. If these three songs were representative of the vision of the uncompleted album, then it was indeed a great loss.

The other tracks are everything that was good about the group. “I Want To Take You Higher,” “Dance To The Music,” “Sing A Simple Song,” “Stand,” and “Everyday People” are some of the best songs of the late sixties.

In some ways Greatest Hits is now obsolete as it has been superseded by bigger and more complete compilations. On the other hand these twelve tracks form a wonderful unit that present Sly & The Family Stone at its joyous best. It’s still worth tracking this album down because if you have a pulse you’ll want to get up and Dance To The Music.”

About David Bowling

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