Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Sly & The Family Stone - Stand! (1969)

Different strokes for different folks....


Released May 1969

Recorded in San Francisco


1. Stand!
2. Don't Call Me N*****, Whitey
3. I Want To Take You Higher
4. Somebody's Watching You
5. Sing A Simple Song
6. Everyday People
7. Sex Machine
8. You Can Make It If You Try                            

Social themes are now very much to the fore by 1969, with The Vietnam War and racial tensions simmering all over the USA. The catchy opener, Stand! has an uplifting horn-drive vibe and a catchy vocal. Great guitar too. Its handclapping gospel-influenced ending tends to detract attention somewhat from the song’s “call to arms/be proud” message. Overall, a Sly classic though. Up there in their top five-ten songs.

Don't Call Me N......, Whitey is a cornerstone of the album, a slowed-down, insistent groove full of funky guitar and the repetition of the two lines - “Don’t call me n*****, whitey. Don’t call me whitey, n*****”, which highlights the utter playground-level inanity of racial abuse. (Something that would be highlighted later in Everyday People with its deliberately infantile chorus). This song, though, in its simplicity sums up the pointlessness of it all and serves wonderfully as a two-line protest song.

The band are in full funk/rock groove by now, the finished product. I Want To Take You Higher is another copper-bottomed funky Sly classic. Check out that trumpet solo at the end., then the bass part. The band had truly nailed their sound now. Somebody's Watching You has more of a lighter, more catchy, sweet soul vibe to it, in comparison to the intensity of the previous three tracks. Again, the sound quality on these tracks is just superb. Sing A Simple Song is a return to earthy funk, the type of which Parliament would produce in the 70s and 80s.

The short but incredibly uplifting Everyday People is just a delight. That beat, the stabbing guitar the backing vocal, Sly’s beseeching “we got to live together”. It is just perfect. One of the band’s finest too is the thirteen-minute dirty instrumental funk groove of Sex Machine, although to be honest, it does go on about seven or eight minutes too long! A bit of unnecessary indulgence. The final track, You Can Make It If You Try is a welcome return to quality horn, drum, bass and vocal funk.

The extras are a re-recording of Soul Clappin’ from Dance To The Music’s extras, and the by now traditional funky instrumental in My Brain (Zig-Zag).

Talking of indulgence - we hadn’t seen anything yet!


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