MEDIA BLACKOUT #639.282!
Sly & The Family Stone – Woodstock (Atlantic) :: Everybody’s
got their own favorite musical Woodstock moment and this hyperactive fourteen minute medley remains mine. Not only will the
sheer level of exuberance on display keep you up at night for weeks, just one listen is convulsively callisthenic enough to
make you shed all those excess pounds in the process. Say, whatever happened to Sly Stone anyway?
SIZZLING PLATTER OF
THE WEEK: Sly Stone – I’m Back! Family & Friends (Cleopatra) :: 30 YEARS IN THE MAKING and
ALL NEW RECORDINGS brazenly blares the superhype cover sticker only to ’fess up with a back cover blurb which admits
that this ain’t nothin’ but an elpee of re-recorded gazillion year old greatest hits—and don’t that
just sound like a misguided recipe for sonic disaster even if it is ably aided and abetted by a buncha high profile
guest stars ranging in rank from Jeff Beck and Ray Manzarek to Bootsy Collins and Johnny Winter?
Little Richard once pulled a similar
stunt when he re-recorded his greatest hits live in the studio for a package called, oddly enough, Little Richard’s
Greatest Hits Recorded Live. And although that album actually managed to buck the odds by being the amped-up
equivalent of his earlier studio work, let’s face it: rare is the time that such revised recordings actually work—which
is why I’m pleased as punch to report that this one works just as well.
The first reason why it works is because,
like Richard’s record before him, Sly’s timeless classics are beyond any revisionary butchering.
The second reason
is that the hired gun choices are well thought out vis-à-vis which song they’re assigned to. F’rinstance,
having Manzarek do the organ work on “Dance To The Music” is an inspired move that turns mischievous when he has
the temerity to start his solo by tossing in the riff from “Light My Fire.” Equally enthused is veteran saxsmith
Ernie Watts’ wailing work on “Stand!” And if John Dawson’s work on “Thank You” is relatively
invisible due to a mix down mishap, whatcha gonna do, brother, when Beckamania runs wild over “(I Want To Take You)
Higher” with an insane outta control high octane intensity that sets the stage for his fellow Bootzilla Orchestra confrere
Mister Collins, who likewise stomps all over “Hot Fun In The Summertime” with his registered trademark bass and
The third reason
is that Sly’s voice, while ragged, remains right enough to strike the proper funky tone just like it used to do.
In other words,
I’m Back! is a sly way of reintroducing Sly to a brand new crowd. Whether it’ll foreshadow a fresh era
of Sly Stone musical inventiveness is anyone’s guess but, despite his past proclivities, I sure wouldn’t
bet against the cat, would you?
Bonus points for indulgently including some radical eletrodub mixes that’ll
have you bouncing off the walls so fast it’ll make your head spin.
Be seeing you!