Sly Stewart is a man of creativity, leadership and personality. Throughout his years of performing and playing, there may not be a portrait of himself as well done as Sly & The Family Stone's 1969 hit Stand!. Stand! is not only a fantastic display of Stewart in all of his forms, but a compilation of diverse and inspirational tracks he and his band had put together during the late 1960's.
During all of these eight tracks, Sly explores several genres; some including Soul, Psychedelia, Rock and Funk. And although Stewart is not necessarily completely original in terms of musical exploration, he most certainly performs each track in a style all his own, which alone makes Stand! a brilliant album and quite possibly the best the man has ever released.
Throughout Stand!, Sly Stewart is backed by his band The Family Stone. Who not only back the front man up, but occasionally take lead. Each musicians shows great skill and talent technically and in terms of writing, but not one of them compares well to the second star of the show, Larry Graham. Larry Graham, also known as the inventor of "slap" bass playing, works his way through each song effortlessly, but still manages to amaze many, as well as myself. He alone makes this album worth listening to, if you ask me.
Stand starts off quite strongly with the title track, "Stand!". The intro has an inspirational concept that only has positive effects on the album. Along with a rather satisfying meaning, the track houses a variety of tempos and quite an appealing melody. Which Stewart shows to have a talent for writing throughout the album. This Funk/Soul is a wonderful intro.
A controversial number is next up; "Don't Call me ******, Whitey" would be that track. However, don't be fooled, the hit is in no way biased or racist in anyway. Following each quote of the title, the line "Don't call me Whitey, ******" follows. It is quite obvious that Mr. Stewart may be trying to say something through this. This track differs from the others in the sense that it is much more R&B based, opposed to Soul, Rock, or Funk. Luckily, Sly and the Family Stone seem that they can adapt themselves to other genres. "Don't Call Me ******, Whitey" is not as lyrically strong as some of the other tunes featured on Stand!; the track is much more jam based. Though it may meander at times, it also vents much musicianship and composing skills.
Next up would be the definite highlight, entitled "I Want to Take You Higher". "I Want to Take You Higher" seems to encompass all the tracks held within Stand!. It is an upbeat, groove based tune with wonderful vocal performances. The track is also as melodically appealing as hell. Throughout the bridges, the choruses and the solos, the track is consistent and definitely helps make Stand! what it is.
"Somebody's Watching You" follows the previous highlight. "Somebody's Watching You" surely has an essence of Pop as well as some definite hints of R&B. The vocals and melodies makes this song great, which is no surprise; for they are the main focus. Three vocalists are featured, and there presence is quite well known. "Somebody's Watching You" is a fantastic song, now that I give it a more focus listen.
"Sing a Simple Song" is now the current track. "Sing a Simple Song" is a delightful tune filled with a boat load personality. Each vocalist featured seems very well needed, and if the featured song had lacked them, I can definitely assume that his tune would not be anywhere as great as it is. Right up next would be the climax of the album. "Everyday People" may be the most known and best Sly & The Family Stone song ever made. It is constantly featured on car commercials, radio stations, and advertisements among others. The tune just captures the band's upfront personality as well as their inspirational attributes. Among other high points, each time Sly hits chorus with his shout of "I-I-I am everyday people" his moment helps make this track perfect, and the definitive Sly & The Family Stone song, in my opinion.
Here lies another jam track, the wonderful "Sex Machine". "Sex Machine" is said by myself wonderful only for the reason that Larry Graham really makes it worth the thirteen minute listen. His style and perfect bass lines actually makes this (possibly) mediocre jam rise above; he most certainly makes his presence known. Along with Graham's lead bass lines, there are some great guitar solos as well as other instrumental solos. "Sex Machine" is surely not a reason to get this album, but it is none the less a wonderful feature. To conclude the album, Sly & The Family Stone use "You Can Make it if you Try". Once again another well done inspirational tune. The track is filled with amusing vocal performances, solos, horn accompaniments and long list of lyrical highlights. A very well conclusion to a very well done album.