Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Few Observations about Sly and The Family Stone

  1. The humming that lies in the lower strata of "I Wanna Take You Higher" sounds exactly my phone when it's on vibrate and rattling away in my backpack, so I just spent a minute of funk-induced frenzy looking for it. This is one of the many factors I like about funk - it can make a white person look all the whiter without even lifting a ring-encrusted finger.
  2. "Spaced Cowboy" would make for the world's worst song-idea proposal ever. OK, picture this, y'all - I'll take the most synthetic drum machine sound available in 1971, record some corny harmonica licks and some basic funk guitar and bury them deep in the hissy mix, and then I'll come in and yodel over it. And yet, this mess of a song kinda works, which is what can be said about most of There's a Riot Going On. "Family Affair" being an exception to this assessment in that it is one of the best R&B songs ever produced, perfect in architecture and execution.
  3. I am torn between loving the hissed-out, hissed-out nature of original recordings, all muddy and acid-saturated, and wanting to hear them remastered by Dr. Dre or Kanye with all surfaces polished up to a hypnotic gleam.
  4. I find the cavernous dirge variant "Thank You For Talkin' To Me Africa" preferable to the albeit eternally fabulous "Thank You (Falletin Me Be Mice Elf)" because you almost feel like Sly is beating the funk out of a dying beast with the band hunched in a circle around him on their last legs, which is, from what I gather, the exact circumstance under which Riot was recorded. It would be the prefect song for an apocalyptic zombie movie, as a military truck cautiously patrols the destered husk of a city, nervously eyeing the landscape for brain-eating monsters. Funkadelic does end-times drug-casualty better on tracks like "Wars of Armageddon" but Sly does it with more style.
  5. There are only two accounts of Sly and the Family Stone you need to read. The first is Greil Marcus' casting of Stone as the mythical Stagger Lee character from blues lore in Mystery Train, about to see its fifth edition, and this account of David Kemp trying to interview the elusive funk legend printed in Vanity Fair in 2007.

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