Reaching an impressive #60: (above "There's A Riot Goin' On" :eek:!) in the Rolling Stone's top 500 albums of all time, this album was only ever intended to be a stop gap release up until the Family's next album.
It is startling how good this album is, considering that A): It contains no songs from Sly's opus "There's A Riot Goin' On" (because it was yet to be released) and B): It's a greatest hits. They are only ever designed to give the salivating dogs something of a treat before the good stuff. Having said this, this is a darn good representation of a Funk band, who's constant evolution still manages to shock today.
The album is a blueprint for all funkateers of the future, and has countlessly inspired and been enjoyed since it's release some 35 years ago. For a greatest hits, these can only be good things..!
On to the review:
#1: I Want to Take You Higher,
The blueprint for every Funkadelic song and album is set with this song. A bluesy lick opens the song, and a grand scale of instrumentation is revealed, showing the rich variety of the band's sound, which included: Harmonicas, (Countless..) backing singers, organ, and a horn section to boot. This song is all out feel good, and a genuine funk classic. The only reason is can be marked down at all is it's "repetitive" nature, but saying that, there is instrumental solos and differences throughout. A strong opener, if ever there was one.
#2: Everybody's A Star,
This song reminds me of a certain Marvin Gaye song. Again, the band's naivity pokes through here. There is no dark menace that was to be found on the next album. A slow paced soul forray, with some genuinely scary chicken impressions, courtesy of Sly's backing singers. On top of which is permiated by a soulful, yet playful horn section. Slow and genuinely emotive instrumental and lyrical work are used here, all to good effect. Once again, this song is so innocent, words can not describe it. Maybe until the chorus part, which is slightly worrying, as it takes the major key of the song, and mashes it up a little bit. A strong second song of the album.
Starting off with a drum roll, Sly might have coyed you into thinking that this song's a little bit dark. No chance! This is a genuinely uplifting and enjoyable piece of music, which message is quite simply, "You are you, you can not change that, get on with it". This is Sly at his most prolific, and as always with Sly, he manages to cram a slightly sinister instrumental part in the end. Having said that, the song doesn't take its-self seriously. "Stand, there's a midjet, standing tall, and a giant beside him, about to fall". Giants and Midgets aside, this song got Sly his attention in the U.S, and fits nice and snug at #3: in this album. Sly's most prolific song, and possibly album of the same name. If we were lulled into a sense of "soul-safe". Be warned, the instrumental part at the end of this is hella funky, and even esque of something Jimmy B the Godfather would pull on his unsuspecting victims. The songs slowly fades out after said action.
This song has a half time feel, instantly. As the funky organ sound permiates your ears, Sly is heard bawling "Hublla Hubbla hubbla" and cheers are heard. After which the main instruments come in. Notably in this song is the absolutley awesome interplay between the drums and bass. Not once in the song does this connection falter, as the drummer rolls them off like there's no tommorow, Stanley Clarke is busy trouncing the fretboard on his bass, it truly is a spectacle to hear this kind of rhythmic interplay, a true delight of a song, with some very quirky brass work, and silly lyrics. This is feel good summer Sly, at his very very best.
This is similar to Life actually. The only difference is that Sly wants to instate this message: "I love having fun, come join me y'all". I find this enjoyable, and very motown-esque. Notably again, the drumming interplay with the amazingly elasticated bass sound. Allthough a lyric "Fun, a sister and brother having fun with each other" bares a little social "No-no's" nowadays, I assume (at least I HOPE) that Sly was talking about "Fun" in the clean sense. If not, sheesh... Other than that, there's not really much else to say about this one. A very silly and moderate song.
#6: You Can Make It If You Try,
This was possibly the first Sly song I heard. It's very iconic, and the phrase "You can make it if you try" was recycled endlessly through pop culture after it's popular release. What I always find strange about this song, though, is the INCREDIBLY low vocals at the chorus part. Jesus, I would love to hear someone go that low, they'd probbably bring a rare breed of animal to their establishment. Anyway, once again, the Drums are frighteningly prominent, as are the horns. This is a feel good song all the way, with the message that, well "You can make it, if you try that is". Don't give up eh...Sly?
#7: Dance to the Music,
Yes! This song was used in Shrek 1. But yes, it's a bloody good song, who's only message is "Dance and enjoy life!". The song has a solo from all members of Sly's band, including a Guitar Solo, Drum solo (which sounds frighteningly dis-similar to the Rolling Stone's "Satisfaction" song), a Bass solo, and notably, an organ solo from the great man, Sly, himself. This song isn't really meant to be taken seriously, but it's a great "party" or "summer" tune, which Sly was suprisingly good at writing. My sisters like this song :0..
"Different strokes for different folks". You've heard that haven't you? Well, Sly invented that phrase. And he popularized it! And he put it intoa darn good context, dismissing racism, because, let's not forget, Sly was one of the first people to have a completely fair and multicultural band, notably his white hornists, and black rhythmists. Sly was a bringer of people, and this is him at his very peak. A genuine pop landmark, this song often gets overlooked at creating the phrase, for Gary Coleman's 'Humerous' T.V show "Diffr'nt Strokes". Indeed..
#9:Hot Fun in the Summertime,
Bassically yeah. This song is about...Having hot fun, in what season? The summertime! But seriously, if you're having a BBQ, or a Party soon, and you don't have this on the playlist. What are you thinking? It's just that, no more, no less. Some sweet instrumentation, but this isn't Sly really, he doesn't suit the hippy-go lucky. He suits the drug addict, but that's not for here...
In this song, Sly attempts to woo a lady. It's a pretty fun, and joking romp. Which sums up Sly's early years, an unserious, yet highly infectious pop romp. Having said that though, I really do like this song, for some reason, more so than a lot of his earlier stuff. Something about it appeals to me, be it the ravenous bassline, or the fantastic drums. Who cares, stick it on and boogie, :cool:.
#11: Sing a Simple Song,
Despite the title, this song is pretty complicated actually. It contains a ravenous drum intro, which is followed by an awesomely funky melt down of such instruments. I can't really decipher the lyrics, allthough there is an amazing hummed instrumental bit, just before the chorus. Judge for yourself, this isn't one of my favourites. Allthough the awkwardly yelled "Sing. A. Simple. Song" makes me chuckle. It really isn't that good.
#12: Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin),
You know the phrase "Save the best till last" ? Yeah, well, here's a perfect example. It starts off with a completely slapped bassline, and the drums working in unison. The horns follow, and then the vocals. I really can't describe, but something about this song makes me smile. Be it it's feelgood nature, or it's humerously sarcastic lyrics. Whatever, but Sly must have liked it enough, because he released a song on his next album called "Thank You For Talking To Me, Africa". Which is a re-working of this song, but longer, slower, and a damn sight more laid back and chillingly funkier. This is a lovely song, simple really.
So, there we have it. There it went. But is this album that good? For a greatest hits yes, it is. But again, Greatest Hits are only ever to please fans, so for that, it looses credibility. Having said that, the quality of tracks on this album are remarkable, especially for such a young musician, who had yet to release one of the most critically acclaimed black / urban albums of all time. So for that, I have given it a high, (considerably high for a best of anyway) rating. I hope you found this informative. :)
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