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Volume 68, Issue 118, Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Arts & Entertainment

'Essential Sly' is more than everyday people

By Marion Johnson
The Daily Cougar

The Essential Sly & The Family Stone begs the question: Is it possible to have too much funk in oneis life?

At two discs, 35 songs and 125 minutes, the collection borders on being funk overload; itis definitely not for the casual fan. At first listen, it would be easy to dismiss Essential as over-indulgent.

Sly Stone was at the forefront of a new music genre from 1967 to i75, and The Essential Sly & The Family Stone is two discs that offers 35 songs chronicling the funk movement.

Photo courtesy of Sony Music Archives

While trimming the excess to one definitive disc would have strengthened the impact of Slyis sound, repeated listens reveal the group was far more than just a party band.

Sly Stone was at the forefront of a new music genre that included the Ohio Players, Parliament, James Brown and, for a time, Stevie Wonder. The combination of soul, r&b, pop, Latin jazz and African rhythms and beats couldnit be easily duplicated by mainstream white artists. It was later distilled by the Bee Gees and turned into disco, but funk wasnit paint-by-numbers music. It got into the audienceis soul and made them move.

Sly did more than get funky (his songs were laced with pop melodies), but the Family Stone was certainly responsible for some of the genreis more memorable songs.

The thumping bass and horns of "Thank You (Falenttinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" rose to No. 1 on the Billboard charts in 1969. "Dance To The Music," "I Want To Take You Higher" and "Sing A Simple Song" show more than a passing knowledge of the Godfather of Soul.

The songs are timeless, maybe because of hip-hopis reliance on familiar rhythms, but mostly because Sly knew a song worked best if it got inside a personis soul.

Sly and the Family Stone was only around from 1967-75 (and only at its height from 1969-71), but it left a wealth of material to influence 30 years' worth of new artists.

Important to popular music as Sly was, is it really necessary to cram 35 songs into one collection when only a half-dozen are easily recognizable to most people? And was it necessary to include eight songs from the 11-track Thereis a Riot Goini On?

If you only want to hear "Everyday People" and "Thank You," cheaper single-disc greatest hits collections are available. But if you want to gain a real appreciation and see what made the Red Hot Chili Peppers fall in love with funk, Essential is invaluable.

Sly & The Family Stone

The Essential Sly & The Family Stone


The verdict: If you can listen to the entire collection without getting a loose booty then you should probably stick to easy listening.

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