Sly & The Family Stone reunite for their first Q&A in years! Part 1 debuts tomorrow at Okayplayer for #ThrowbackThursday. Preview here: http://bit.ly/SlyNFam
Positive reviews keep coming in for Higher!, the Sly & The Family Stone 4-CD box set released in August. Check them out below!
The highlights burn as brightly as ever: the hot-streak of singles — “Everyday People,” “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” “Everybody Is a Star,” and especially “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin),” arguably the funkiest song ever conceived — are repped here with punchy single mixes and/or edits. The other great gets are 20 or so minutes from the band’s performance at the Isle of Wight festival in 1970, along with an unreleased 1973 live take of “You’re the One” (a single for side-project Little Sister, performed here by the full Family). Higher! is not the place to first meet Sly & The Family Stone — the two-disc Essential serves that purpose — but it’s a solid last-stones-unturned catch-all. – SPIN>
The 104-page book rivals the set’s fantastic music, which sounds top-notch thanks to Vic Anesini, as a true marvel. Including photos of studio documents, the band performing live, and in-studio, press clippings, label scans, and so much more, as well as an introductory essay by Jeff Kaliss who has written a book on the group, and track-by-track annotations, it’s as nice of a collection of memories as one can imagine. – Wax Poetics
The exhilarating Sly & The Family Stone retrospective Higher! is a perfect argument for the survival of the boxed set. With 77 songs, detailed in a richly illustrated 104-page booklet/oral history, it traces the genesis of one of pop’s most dazzling savants, Sylvester Stewart, from his days as a Bay Area DJ trying to break into the Top 40, to his formulation of a race- and gender-blending band that brewed R&B, pop, jazz, rock, even nursery rhymes into a funkadelic soul stew. – StarTribune
The new box set Higher! opens with five cuts from Stewart’s earliest days in 1964 recording for the Autumn label in San Francisco, and already, in the rocking novelty answer record “I Just Learned How To Swim,” you can hear the playfulness and exuberance that would be hallmarks of his spectacular run of hits that began with “Dance to the Music” in 1968. …Taking a closer look at his music now, one main characteristic leaps out of the speakers: joy. – Press-Telegram
Reverse-engineering Beastie Boys songs has long been a mini-education in popular music. …In particular, the Beasties’ 1989 album Paul’s Boutique is an overabundant garden of samples — and one of its best is the faithful appropriation of Sly & The Family Stone’s “Loose Booty” on “Shadrach.”
Not that “Loose Booty” needs Paul’s Boutique to validate it. Even though the song appears on the final album made by Sly Stone’s original Family Stone, 1974’s Small Talk, it has all the potency and warp-drive funkiness of the group’s masterpiece 1971 There’s A Riot Goin’ On. By ’74, Stone had shed much of the seething murk of that album and was feeling the pull of his first love: the dance floor. “Loose Booty” obliges. A call to arms — or rather, butts — that compels the listener to “Find yourself some roots to let it all hang out / Get into some dancing, do what it’s all about,” the song’s stuttering strut brooks no argument. And its refrain of “Shadrach, Meshack, Abednego,” a non-sequitur chant that the Beasties based its track around, adds Biblical authority (or at least a fat hook) to the marching orders.
Photo credit: Herb Greene
Rolling Stone is showing an exclusive live promo clip of Sly & The Family Stone, filmed in 1973. In the video, Sly and company deliver an energetic take on “I Want to Take You Higher.” It’s a particularly free-spirited performance, with Sly tossing off a brief harmonica solo and dancing across the room in his trademark Seventies get-up. The clip also ends with an awesomely vintage zoom-in on Sly’s face.
More great reviews are coming in for Sly & The Family Stone’s Higher! 4-CD collection, available now! Here are some of the reviews below:
Higher! succeeds because it performs a task many box sets do not: it tells a story. …The early material is instrumental in laying the foundation for what came later, as they reveal Sly’s deep roots in R&B, doo wop, pop, and rock & roll. …These are grace notes to the band’s enormous legacy, a legacy that is clearly on display throughout Higher!, whether it’s heard on exuberant hits that are pop staples to this day, rhythms that were heavily sampled during the golden age of hip-hop, or a vibrant blurring of boundaries that still sounds visionary. It’s that depth of detail, combined with the masterful sequencing, that makes Higher! such a superb box set: it tells a familiar story in a fresh fashion. Five stars. – AllMusic
Higher! is a succinct, compelling 4-CD journey of discovery … including familiar hits, deep cuts, rare mixes and a number of previously unissued tracks, it makes a potent case that Sly & The Family Stone was the right band for a turbulent time. … Higher! is a marvel to behold, largely thanks to its 106-page book that exceeds all expectations. It’s colorful and lavishly illustrated with photographs, images of 45s and memorabilia, sleeves and other miscellany related to the band’s Epic tenure, and features an essay by Jeff Kaliss as well as indispensable track-by-track liner notes by Edwin and Arno Konings, edited by Alec Palao, drawing on quotes from the band members. A historical timeline puts it all in perspective. Vic Anesini has beautifully remastered the music on all four discs. – The Second Disc
It’s a measure of the depth to which Sly & The Family Stone inspired musicians, men and women, to this day (remember The Family was integrated in more ways than one, no small revolutionary act at its time) that the story told by Higher! is one that continues to connect some half-century after the man first began recording. …The dynamics of Sly Stone’s career were those of his music: the best known tunes of his discography don’t appear here ’til disc three, but the level of interest remains comparably high through the two discs that precede it and on the one that succeeds it, illustrating how fascinating a figure was Sly then and now. – Jambands.com
Along with well known pieces like “Everyday People,” “I Want to Take You Higher” and “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” there are a ton of previously unreleased songs from ’67 that make you wonder why they haven’t been available before. “What’s That Got to Do With Me” and “Only One Way Out of This Mess” have aged amazingly well. …There’s a fascinating book included with some wonderful vintage photos of musicians and album/singles covers as well as an analysis of the songs, personnel and times. Important music from an unheralded musical paradigm shifter. – Jazz Weekly
Contemporary artists who follow in the soul and funk tradition tap into our nostalgia for the past and our love of sequels, which are easy to relate to. But they often reduce the oldies to a clean, simple rubric. …Higher! is an important listen, then, because Sly left a lot of his mess out in the open. The aspiring soul-men and soul-women of today should draw inspiration from Sly’s willingness to be weird — to use a thin drum machine when funk demanded heft, to play with the prevalence of rhythm over melody, and to know that the past won’t come back, so the only thing to do is to make the best of the present. – The Atlantic
Greg Errico was only 17 years old on the night he showed up to rehearse with the Stone Souls, his band with guitarist Freddie Stewart, only to find himself at a meeting led by Freddie’s older brother — Sylvester (a.k.a. Sly), a musician, producer and popular San Francisco-area DJ — about forming a different group.
“When I got there, no one else was there except for Sly and Freddie, who were in the kitchen having something to eat,” Errico recalls with a laugh. “I walked in and said, ‘Where are all the guys?’ And they said, ‘We’re going to try something new tonight.’ And as time went on, everyone showed up individually at different times during that evening. So we gathered that first evening — all six original members, because Rose [Stone] wasn’t in it at first.
“Freddie pulled a fast one on me,” Errico adds. “He hadn’t told me that Sly had been handpicking [musicians] and thinking about this and taking notes. He kept it hush. So when I showed up, I was absolutely surprised.”
Errico also was a little surprised by the scope of the Higher! box set: It includes 77 tracks, of which 17 were previously unreleased. Included with the set’s four discs is a 104-page book featuring liner notes by Sly & The Family Stone biographer Jeff Kaliss, a timeline compiled by Edwin and Arno Konings as well as track-by-track annotations from various sources, among them original Family Stone members Errico, Larry Graham, Jerry Martini and Cynthia Robinson.
Read more at Goldmine Magazine.
In a new review of Sly & The Family Stone’s Higher! 4-CD box set in stores this week, Pitchfork has praised the collection and given the set a rare 9.0 rating along with naming it Best New Reissue! Here is some of what they had to say:
Amazingly, Higher! expands on Sly & the Family Stone’s history and big-picture role in the development of pop and soul, acting as that rare box set that works as both an introduction for the unaware and a deep excursion into further context for dedicated fans. The major selling point for the physical media edition is an exhaustive run of annotated liner notes, the kind of detail-intensive minutae that satisfies curiosities alongside the usual supplement of rare photos and merchandise detritus. But the musical material alone is an attraction in itself, with 17 unreleased tracks and a good number of underheard ones to go with the big hit singles. …It’s a perfectly balanced mix of stuff casual fans know and stuff even obsessives haven’t heard.
Read the complete review at Pitchfork.
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In stores today, the new Sly & The Family Stone Higher! 4-CD box set is earning praise everywhere! Here are some of the reviews:
This four-CD box [is] the richest overview yet of maybe the most visionary funk operation in pop history. Though Sly could write and play almost anything, Higher! shows how crucial his band was: the firecracker soul-shouting of sister Rose Stewart, the radical percussive technique of bassist Larry Graham, the sweet tenor of brother Freddie. When these voices fused – “Everyday People,” the wild soul-rock outtake “Pressure” – it was as good as music gets. Four and a half stars. – Rolling Stone
This long overdue boxed recap of Sly Stone’s most creative period, released on the event of his 70th birthday, is a sprawling, lavishly appointed and elaborately detailed, 10 inch large, four disc set that covers his output from 1964-’77. The 104 page book with an abundance of rare photos, concert bills, picture sleeve reproductions of 45s and specifics on each of the 77 tracks (17 previously unreleased) … this is the kind of detailed, extravagantly organized and crafted coffee table addition you didn’t think major labels bothered to release anymore. Four stars. – American Songwriter
The case doesn’t need to be made that Sly Stone — born Sylvester Stewart in 1943 — is one of America’s greats, but Higher! makes it anyway with the hits, album cuts, B-sides, shelved takes and more. …This box does not tread familiar ground and, arguably, serves as what should have been the first approach taken with a Sly & the Family Stone box set: an intelligently compiled, multi-disc package covering this period. Higher! is a very attractive package. …It is not a career-spanning overview of Stone, but an in-depth dig into Sly & the Family Stone. – The Arts Desk
Here’s a sneak peek at what you’ll see tomorrow if you pick up the brand new Higher! box set!
The Guardian newspaper has an exclusive stream of “I Get High On You,” one of the rare tracks included on Higher!, the 4-CD Sly & The Family Stone box set to be released August 27. Getting on for twice the length of the original – which appeared on Sly’s 1975 album High on You – it was recorded back in 1967 and begins with multi-layered vocals before embarking on something more woozy and psychedelic than the original.
“I haven’t heard this since the day we cut it,” says drummer Greg Errico. “These sessions were recorded between the first demos and those for the first album, Underdog and so forth. I recall the beginning with the stacked voices … you can tell we are experimenting with different stuff, searching for a sound. I can hear a lot of that in there.”
“I think he was looking for good musicians, and he knew quite a few. He sees the heart of a person.”
That’s how Cynthia Robinson, founding member of Sly & The Family Stone, characterizes the charismatic frontman’s choice of backing players. The band, which pioneered a blend of funk, soul, jazz and pop, began in 1960s San Francisco as a kind of blended family: black and white, men and women.
It was something of a first for a major American rock band, whose legacy remains strong and is celebrated on a new box set titled Higher! Robinson, the band’s trumpet player, says she doesn’t think race or gender entered into decisions surrounding the lineup. Saxophone player Jerry Martini, however, says he believes that Stone’s choice of bandmates was intentional.
“I said, ‘You know, I know a lot of other African-American sax players that can just burn me.’ He goes, ‘But you’re what I wanted,'” Martini says. “I didn’t say, ‘Is it ’cause I’m white?’ or anything like that. But I just saw him as a visionary person who knew the group that he put together represented a lot of society.”