Wednesday, 30 May 2018
Sly & The Family Stone - A Whole New Thing (1967)
Released October 1967
Recorded in California
The earthy, horn-driven funk, with its riff taken from the French “Frere Jacques” of “Underdog” kicks of the recording career of this seminal soul/funk band. As always, the bass/drum underpinning of the sound is both integral and outstanding. The funk is really cooking on a high temperature on “If This Room Could Talk” with its Native American-influenced horn intro riff. Again the bass is big, rhythmic and rumbling.
“Run, Run, Run” is a frenetic Beach Boys meets The Small Faces, Northern Soul and early Rolling Stones. It is a bit bizarre, to be honest. Something about it doesn’t quite click, despite its best intentions.
“Turn Me Loose” sees the band operating at 100 mph and Sly using one of his more crazed vocals. Certainly it was clear, at this point, that this new band had something. It was not quite clear to anyone, least of all the band what they had, however. This is almost a “work in progress” album. “Let Me Hear It From You” is a classic slow soul ballad in the Atlantic Records style, it could almost be Otis Redding. “Advice” features some killer cymbal work from drummer Greg Errico and some truly funky rhythms too. As too does the melodious “I Cannot Make It”. The remarkable thing about this album is that it was recorded “live” in the studio, no overdubs or the like. The sound is all the more impressive for it.
The album didn’t chart and a more commercial sound was requested from the record company for the next album. It was not hard to see why, really. Experimental tracks like the druggy “Trip To Your Heart” might sound good in a Haight Ashbury house-share party, but not on mainstream radio. I like it though, and stuff like this was way in advance of much commercial music of the day. As “weird” music goes, it knocks spots off The Beach Boys and their “vegetables” from the same year.
“I Hate To Love Her” is again a great piece of bassy, soulful trippy, hippy funk, if there was such a thing. As with all the band’s recordings, the brass section is essential to the sound, and sounds great on every track. These current remasterings are absolutely fantastic too. Crystal clear, big, bassy and punchy. “Bad Risk” is a magnificent slab of proto-psychedelic soul, the like of which The Temptations would out out between 1968-72. Check out those drums, bass and guitar. This was quite adventurous, ground-breaking material. Soon, many bands would be playing soul like this. “That Kind Of Person” is soulful, jazzy and a seriously quality song. Who else was producing innovative soul like this in 1967? Prince must have listened to this, without a doubt.
“Dog” is another upbeat song about “dogs having their day”, with a great Sly vocal over yet another wonderful, addictive bass line. The extras include the funky “Only One Way Out Of This Mess”, the jazzy and soulful “What Would I Do” and the jaunty instrumental “You Better Help Yourself”. A brave, musically brilliant debut album that introduced the world to a unique band.