Review Summary: An influential release from one of R & B's biggest icons that features pounding bass, smooth vocals, and everything else in that Sly and The Family Stone sound, with a few twists!
Sly and the Family Stone aren’t just any R and B band. They are the definitive R and B band, in every sense of the word. Just as Black Sabbath does for Metal, Chuck Berry does for Rock, Sly and the Family Stone defines R & B, and Soul music with perfection.
The release of Fresh saw a bit of a change in the sound of the band however. Most of their songs up to this point were lead by swinging horns, catchy guitar and bass grooves, and Sly’s distinctive vocals. While Sly’s vocals and the bass grooves remain, there is much less of the frantic horns that were found so often in albums such as Dance To The Music, and Life. As a result, Fresh presents a more contemporary sounding R & B record.
In Time starts the album with a soft drum and bass groove, something found most often on this album. Sly exemplifies his classic funk guitar playing between verses, taking advantage of his short, punchy, staccato notes. However, some tracks such as Que Sera Sera, and Frisky, sound less like typical Sly Stone songs, as the latter features a dissonant synthesizer riff, and unusual vocal phrasing from Sly.
Another aspect of Sly Stone’s music is that he has consistently crafted hits and the song If You Want Me To Stay is no exception. Featuring an instantly recognizable and catchy bass riff, it will easily make anyone get up on the dance floor. It is consistently recognized as a Funk classic and so it should be.
Several songs, Let Me Have It All, Skin I’m In, and Thankful n’ Thoughtful sound more like traditional Sly Stone songs with punctuating horns, and echoing backup vocals.
However, the true classics on this album are the tracks I Don’t Know (Satisfaction), and Babies Makin’ Babies. These songs represent everything that is good about Sly Stone. Funky bass, powerful Soul singing, well phrased horns, and solid rhythm guitar are all featured, as these tracks truly shine on the album.
This album, despite following Sly Stone classics like Stand, and There’s A Riot Goin’ On, stands out as a true highlight of his career. This record helped solidify Sly Stone as an R & B icon (if he already wasn’t one), and placed R & B in the direction that we now hear today.
An excellent release that any Soul and/or R & B fan should own.