Heard You Missed Me

Sly & The Family Stone

Epic, 1976


REVIEW BY: David Bowling


Heard You Missed Me, Well I’m Back was the ninth and last album of original material that Sly Stone recorded for the Epic Label. 1975’s High On You had been credited to only Sly, but now he returned to a group concept. The problem was The Family Stone – save for vocalist and trumpet player Cynthia Robinson – was long gone. A bevy of musicians were brought in to give the appearance of a working band, but ultimately it came down to basically another solo effort for Sly.

Musically, the title was a statement that he was returning to his old style of music. In reality, however, there were a few funk tracks, but many of the songs came perilously close to a pop sound. It all added up to a critically panned album and a commercial disaster. It did not even make the my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Billboard Top 200, and caused his longtime label to drop him from their roster of artists. What made it worse was that Sly’s old bass player Larry Graham and his Graham Central Station group had become a top-selling funk group.

This is another Sly album I have not listened to in decades. And when I place it in context to what was being released in 1976, it does not compare well.

There are really only three tracks that have merit here. The title song is the best of the lot – if only one song an album made. It is a classic funk track with a nice brass sound woven around the rhythms, and it’s very danceable, too. “Blessing In Disguise” has a nice mellow groove and an excellent lead vocal. “Everything In You” likewise has nice vocasls, but it is the intertwining of the horns with some strings that make it interesting.

“Family Again” may be the weakest track, and for some inexplicable reason was chosen as the lead – and what would be the only – single release. In addition to being plain boring, it featured Peter Frampton, which has to be one of the odder pairings of the ‘70s.

Many of the other tracks just don’t measure up. In some ways, they have an incomplete feel; the ideas and themes are present, but just don’t appear to have been properly completed. For example, “Mother Is A Hippie” has a jam at the end that never settles down, while “Nothing Less Than Happiness” has a nice bluesy feel but the vocals are weak. Meanwhile, “Let’s Be Together” finds Sly trying to fit into the popularity of the disco era.

Heard You Missed Me, Well I’m Back is a title Sly ultimately could not live up to. Except for a few decent songs, it is a deservedly forgotten release. Today, it is only for completists who want to round out their Sly & The Family Stone collection.

Rating: C-

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