1968, Music

Life (1968) by Sly and the Family Stone

Much like Dance to the Music, this is a well-played record that lacks quality songs. I find myself with a bit of deja vu.

Sly and the Family Stone are an excellent group of musicians; everything is so well-played and executed. And if I didn’t say so in my review of their previous album, some of this is from the performers of course, but the songs are also really well arranged. There are so many ideas in the arrangements, it’s really easy to understand how this and their other records were a big deal. This is a band that manages to be both innovative and fun at the same time, which is a rare thing indeed.

But again, Sly’s songs are just not great yet. I think they are probably better than the songs on Dance to the Music, and certainly the goofy ones are goofier and better as a result. But there’s nothing here that’s a classic, like the earlier album’s title track (referenced here, as it is on many of their records), and though the overall consistency of the songs may be better, there isn’t really a standout. (Also, the lyrical influence of Zappa is, um, surprising.)

At this stage this is still a band I want to like more than I do; rather I like the band but not the material and I think they were still waiting on their main songwriter to write better material for them, which would happen but it hasn’t happened here.

7/10

All tracks written by Sylvester Stewart, and produced and arranged by Sly Stone for Stone Flower Productions.

  1. “Dynamite!” – 2:46
  2. “Chicken” – 2:14
  3. “Plastic Jim” – 3:31
  4. “Fun” – 2:23
  5. “Into My Own Thing” – 2:15
  6. “Harmony” – 2:52
  7. “Life” – 3:02
  8. “Love City” – 2:44
  9. “I’m an Animal” – 3:20
  10. “M’Lady” – 2:46
  11. “Jane Is a Groupee” – 2:50
  • Sly Stone – vocals, organ, guitar, piano, harmonica, and more
  • Freddie Stone – vocals, guitar
  • Larry Graham – vocals, bass guitar
  • Rosie Stone – vocals, piano, keyboard
  • Cynthia Robinson – trumpet, vocal ad-libs
  • Jerry Martini – saxophone
  • Greg Errico – drums
  • Little Sister (Vet Stone, Mary McCreary, Elva Mouton) – background vocals

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