Sly & The Family Stone

Epic, 1968

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


Life was the third album released by Sly & The Family Stone and their second of 1968. While it was a very good album in its own right, it had the bad luck to be issued between the exuberant Dance To The Music and the five-star Stand.

Overall, it was a bit more undisciplined than the two previously mentioned albums. It took the fusions of Dance To The Music and split them into their parts before they were ultimately reassembled on my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Stand. The songs are psychedelic, soul, blues, and some straight funk.

The album also did not contain a successful single, which hurt it commercially.  What was consistent, however, was the guitar virtuosity of Freddie Stone, the fuzz bass tones of Larry Graham, and drum rhythms of Greg Errico. Sly Stone continued to experiment with multiple lead vocalists, who traded lines within the same song.  Rosie Stone was now a secure part of the band, and Cynthia Robinson interjected scattered trumpet notes and vocal ad-libs throughout many of the songs.

“Dynamite” has a classic psychedelic opening guitar line by Freddie Stone, while “M’Lady” was a foray into straight funk with over the top production. “Plastic Jim” had cutting lyrics about how people act and had a blues feel to it.

Sly began to explore lyrical themes that reappeared on future releases. “Harmony,” which really takes off after a disjointed beginning, and “Love City” explored integration and love of your neighbor. “Jane Is A Groupie” is self-explanatory, as it told the story of fans that followed bands. Meanwhile, the title song began the exploration of the themes of life’s realisms, which would reoccur over and over again in the future.

The best track may be “Into My Own Thing” with its familiar horns, organ, bass, and drums going in all directions yet returning to create a classic Sly & The Family Stone sound.

Life is one of those discs that contains a lot of very good parts that add up to an above-average but not brilliant album. Two releases within the same year may have been a little too much for the group at this point in their career. However, it did set the stage for several of the best and most influential albums in American music history, which would follow during the next several years.

Rating: B

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