Dance To The Music

Sly & The Family Stone

Epic, 1968

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


Dance To The Music was released April 27, 1968 and was Sly & The Family Stone’s second album. Their first release was titled A Whole New Thing, but it was this second effort that would live up to that title, helping the group to invent a whole new type of music.

The year 1968 found flower power and the hippie movement at their height. The Beatles were winding down and such artists as The Grateful Dead, The Jefferson Airplane, and Jimi Hendrix were starting to completely change the American music scene. Psychedelic music and drugs were abroad in the land. It was against this background that Sly & The Family Stone issued this release.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

They created a music form that would be labeled psychedelic soul, but its legacy includes the origins of the funk movement. The varied rhythms, the horns weaving in and around the other instruments, and the scattered and interactive vocals were completely unique in 1968.

This sound appealed to both white and black audiences. Artists such as Bootsy Collins, The Temptations, Rick James, Prince, and even the ‘70s James Brown would take their cue from Sly’s music and move it in a number of different directions.

Sly (Sylvester Stewart) Stone composed all the songs, plus producing, arranging, play the keyboards, and share vocal duties. Despite all that, in retrospect, bassist and vocalist Larry Graham and drummer Greg Errico were important parts of this new sound. Graham experiments with an early fuzz tone on his bass and Errico altering traditional rhythms fit well with Sly’s musical vision.

The first side of the original release is superior. The title song, “Dance To The Music,” just roars out of the gate. It featured four lead singers who traded vocal lines and was the first song to signal that Sly & The Family Stone had recorded something very different.  It became a hit single and a commercial break for the group. Rolling Stone placed it at number 223 of their 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

“Higher,” which formed the foundation for a later anthem by the group, and “I Ain’t Got Nobody (For Real)” continued this rock/soul fusion. But it’s the twelve minute “Dance To The Medley” that is the highlight of the album. Consisting of several songs, it was both exhilarating and exhausting as it pulsed along. Music in the late ‘60s did not get much better than this extended jam.

Dance To The Music is a joyous party album, though Sly had not yet begun to write the socially relevant lyrics that would soon follow. The energy level throughout these nine tracks and forty minutes has rarely been equaled. It is a rare occasion where influence and listenability intersected very well.

Rating: A

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