Pete Johnson’s Blast From My Past: Sly Stone And The Family Stone – “There’s a Riot Goin’ On”

This is a difficult album for me to characterize. It is the last hurrah of a genius who started to let his lifestyle choices get the better of him. But it is also an album of a man who has a lot of personal power and it seems he is saying, “No way am I going along with that”, no matter how many raised fists he sees.

I find it hard also to understand the musical motivations in a lot of tunes. On some songs it seems like he chose some chords because he was too stoned to choose others. Yet somehow he got the right ones. The feelings he wrings out of these songs through his vocalizing and riding a 3 AM coke groove on a Fender Rhodes is astounding to me. He still had enough wherewithal as a songwriter to write some beautiful tunes. “Just like a Baby”, still kills me every time I listen to it. “Poet”, is another one where he gets the point across with minimal effort. When other people try this style, a lot sound stupid. Sly was far too great of a songwriter to do that.

“Family Affair” has been talked about enough, and it is great. Never has anyone equaled its unique brand of funk, even when they were purposely trying to. “Africa Talks To You” is one of those tunes I did not like, or even grasp as a composition, until about the 100th time I listened to it. Great chorus and those guitar lines along with the direct bass sound are so great. This is not ‘not a feel good record for the masses’. But you know, I think Sly knew that. And I think I still know that too, and I listen and hear great little moments in new ways every time I listen. I laugh every time I hear Sly do “Spaced Cowboy”. I hear his love of music. His love of music: that is the key. Go buy the record, and thank me later ;o)

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