I think my biggest problem with all the early Family Stone albums I’ve heard is a lack of consistent material. Because, otherwise, they’re a truly great band with a unique sound fusion and sound, full of truly capable musicians. But on the previous records, nearly all the songs outside of the singles felt lazy (or just not good) or sometimes even derivative of the hit.
But that’s not a problem here, as they’ve finally got an album’s worth of good material to play with. It’s like they’ve finally reached their potential as a band, because you’re no longer enjoying the arrangements and performances but getting annoyed at the lyrics (or lack thereof) or the melodies that sound too similar.
The sound is very much still the same – a mixture of soul, funk psychedelia and other forms of rock. There’s one noticeable difference to my ears, which is the presence of an amplified harmonica as a lead instrument in the jam sections. (I think it also has a pedal on it sometimes.) This adds another feature that makes the band even more distinctive. It’s a nice touch.
The one criticism of the record I have is one that is common to so many albums from the time period – when the jam, they do it too damn long. Specifically on “Sex Machine,” the jam isn’t necessarily that inspired – I would say these musicians are great at playing songs and brief fills but not necessarily at improvising long solos – and it just gets boring. I also sort of forget it’s the Family Stone and start thinking I’m listening to some kind of sub proto Funkadelic thing.
But that’s a minor nitpick for what is otherwise their best album to date.
All songs written by Sly Stone.
- “Stand!” – 3:08
- “Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey” – 5:58
- “I Want to Take You Higher” – 5:22
- “Somebody’s Watching You” – 3:20
- “Sing a Simple Song” – 3:56
- “Everyday People” – 2:21
- “Sex Machine” – 13:45
- “You Can Make It If You Try” – 3:37
- Sly Stone – vocals, organ, guitar, piano, harmonica, vocoder, bass guitar on “You Can Make it if You Try”
- Freddie Stone – vocals, guitar
- Larry Graham – vocals, bass guitar (except on “You Can Make it if You Try”)
- Rose Stone – vocals, piano, keyboard
- Cynthia Robinson – trumpet, vocal ad-libs, background vocals on “I Want to Take You Higher”
- Jerry Martini – saxophone, background vocals on “I Want to Take You Higher”
- Greg Errico – drums, background vocals on “I Want to Take You Higher”
- Little Sister (Vet Stone, Mary McCreary, Elva Mouton) – background vocals on “Stand!”, “Sing a Simple Song”, “Everyday People” and “I Want to Take you Higher”