Saturday, November 22, 2008
Sly and the Family made their reputation as the creator of high energy, upbeat, optimistic, singalongs. Fusing funk and soul with elements like Broadway and Hollywood soundtracks, their sound was thoroughly commercial but just edgy enough not to be categorized as throwaway AM radio pap. The first racially integrated major group, Sly and the Family Stone also featured several female members; ironically, the rock music scene of the time, while it preached gender equality, was also severely sexist and overwhelmingly comprised of men. This is what made the group ever more remarkable in an era of macho posturing and male domination.
By 1970, however, the band encountered some severe tensions, from leader Sly Stone's descent into drug addiction, over infighting over the direction the group would be headed, and from the bitter death of the starry-eyed idealism that characterized the late 1960's. The resulting album, There's a Riot Goin' On, was as muddied and worn as the times, due to frequent overdubbing and the erasing of key tracks on the original master tapes. The leadoff single pulled from this album, "Family Affair", was Sly and the Family Stone's last number one single. Though Riot was the most critically successful album the band would ever record, it represents also the group's apex. It was all downhill from there.