The Porcelain Throne: Sly and the Family Stone

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On this very non-metal version of the Porcelain Throne, we have none other than the artist formerly known as Janitor Jim here to talk about some straight-up funk.

Sly and the Family Stone were pivotal to the creation of funk, along with Parliament and Funkadelic. The band had a harder edge than Parliament and Funkadelic, and had a very diverse catalog of hits and albums. In this feature, only the first five will be covered. I discovered these guys watching the movie of Woodstock and watching them perform “I Want to Take You Higher”. I got more interested in these guys, and funk in general, after watching their epic performance.

A Whole New Thing (1967)

This is the debut album from the band, which was recorded live in the studio. The album was not as commercially successful as the later albums, but still had some good songs such as “Turn Me Loose” and “If This Room Could Talk”. At the time this came out, the Summer of Love was gaining traction and this would begin to influence the band’s later output from the 60’s. I consider this album very inconsistent compared to the other albums but the songs have a bit more crunch to them.


 

Dance to The Music (1968)

This album was not well liked by the band during its recording, but it was a hit. The first single on this album was “Higher”, which was re-recorded as “I Want to Take You Higher”. The album also had a re-recording of their only Loadstone Records single “I Ain’t Got Nobody” and their popular song “Dance to the Music”. The album began their pattern for their songs, which had singing from all of the members, prominent solos for all the instrumentalists, and a bit of scat singing. I love the song “Dance to The Music” and especially “I Ain’t Got Nobody” due to the way they influenced my love of Parliament and other more poppy funk groups.


 

Life (1968)

This album was not as commercially successful as its predecessor, but has been sampled heavily in the hip-hop and electronica communities. The album is driven heavily by the compositions written by Sly Stone, and covers a lot of topics such as unity and integration, and a lot of the tracks became popular concert staples. Fatboy Slim‘s song “Weapon of Choice” sampled the opening riff of “Into My Own Thing” on this album. By this point, a lot of soul artists were taking pages from them like The Temptations with “Cloud Nine”.


 

Stand! (1969)

This, in my opinion, is the greatest album Sly And The Family Stone ever recorded, and one of the best funk albums ever. The album covers topics of unity and integration almost exclusively, and had a lot of hit singles such as “Everyday People”, “Sing a Simple Song”, “Stand” and “I Want To Take You Higher”. The album is much stronger than the previous output, and had more energy on it than their past album. The band performed Woodstock around the time this album was released, and as of 2015, this album is in the Library of Congress. According to many of the critics who attended Woodstock, Sly and The Family Stone had one of the best performances in the festival, which I agree with. By this point, Sly was beginning to have a heavy drug problem and the band was experiencing tension.


 

There’s A Riot Going On (1971)

This album was much darker than their previous albums due to the crumbling of the hippie movement, which Sly was a big part of. The songs cover the decline of the Civil Rights Movement, the assassinations of MLK and Malcolm X, police brutality, and drug usage. By this point, Sly and the band had terrible addictions to drugs and it was driving a rift through the band. By the next album in 1973, their momentum had vanished and by the time their last album was released in 1975, they had trouble filling up small venues. They disbanded shortly after playing Radio City with only one eighth of the hall being filled.

As always, thank you Janitor Jim for this unexpected submission, and if you want your turn in the toilet, check out The Official Porcelain Throne Guidelines.

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