Sly & The Family Stone – There’s A Riot Goin’ On (1971/2013) DSF DSD64

Sly & The Family Stone – There’s A Riot Goin’ On (1971/2013)
DSF Stereo DSD64/2.82MHz | Time – 48:01 minutes | 1,9 GB | Genre: R&B, Soul, Funk
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download – Source: ProStudioMasters | Booklet, Front Cover | © Epic Records
Recorded: 1970–71, The Record Plant, Sausalito, California

During the late ’60s, Sly and the Family Stone was the house band for the new utopia: celebratory, integrated, intent on breaking down walls, and full of relentlessly positive, idealistic energy. 1971’s „There’s A Riot Goin’ On“ directly contradicted all of these characteristics. Instead, the album represented the dark days of post-’60s disillusionment–a move from right-here/right-now ethos to reflection (‘Time’), from integration to separatism (‘Thank You For Talkin’ To Me Africa’), and from Sly’s exuberant cheerleading to a weary, craggy-voiced vocal style. Many fans considered the album a ‘downer’ at the time.

In truth, „There’s A Riot Goin’ On“ is stunningly innovative and artistically accomplished. Here Sly began playing with subtle, sophisticated rhythms, creating webs of interlocking parts and textures, foregrounding mood over pop structures. The production is murky, keeping with the dark, edgy themes of the album, yet it is packed with detail. The burbling guitars, keys, lock-pop bass, and ghostly vocals create a warm, enveloping cocoon, as on the honeyed, heavy-lidded groove of ‘Just Like A Baby,’ the percolating surge of ‘Family Affair’ (one of Sly’s finest moments), and ‘(You Caught Me) Smilin’,’ which catches a wistful flash of the old optimism. Though it may be a challenging listen for the uninitiated, „There’s A Riot Goin’ On“ rewards endless repeated listens.

It’s easy to write off There’s a Riot Goin’ On as one of two things — Sly Stone’s disgusted social commentary or the beginning of his slow descent into addiction. It’s both of these things, of course, but pigeonholing it as either winds up dismissing the album as a whole, since it is so bloody hard to categorize. What’s certain is that Riot is unlike any of Sly & the Family Stone’s other albums, stripped of the effervescence that flowed through even such politically aware records as Stand! This is idealism soured, as hope is slowly replaced by cynicism, joy by skepticism, enthusiasm by weariness, sex by pornography, thrills by narcotics. Joy isn’t entirely gone — it creeps through the cracks every once and awhile and, more disturbing, Sly revels in his stoned decadence. What makes Riot so remarkable is that it’s hard not to get drawn in with him, as you’re seduced by the narcotic grooves, seductive vocals slurs, leering electric pianos, and crawling guitars. As the themes surface, it’s hard not to nod in agreement, but it’s a junkie nod, induced by the comforting coma of the music. And damn if this music isn’t funk at its deepest and most impenetrable — this is dense music, nearly impenetrable, but not from its deep grooves, but its utter weariness. Sly’s songwriting remains remarkably sharp, but only when he wants to write — the foreboding opener “Luv N’ Haight,” the scarily resigned “Family Affair,” the cracked cynical blues “Time,” and “(You Caught Me) Smilin’.” Ultimately, the music is the message, and while it’s dark music, it’s not alienating — it’s seductive despair, and that’s the scariest thing about it. –AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine


1 Luv N’ Haight 4:02
2 Just Like A Baby 5:11
3 Poet 3:01
4 Family Affair 3:05
5 Africa Talks To You “The Asphalt Jungle” 8:45
6 There’s A Riot Goin’ On 0:04
7 Brave & Strong 3:29
8 (You Caught Me) Smilin’ 2:54
9 Time 3:04
10 Spaced Cowboy 3:58
11 Runnin’ Away 2:57
12 Thank You For Talkin’ To Me Africa 7:16

Sylvester ‘Sly Stone’ Stewart – arrangements, drums, drum programming, keyboard programming, synthesizers, guitar, bass, keyboards, vocals
Larry Graham – bass, backing vocals
Greg Errico – drums
Gerry Gibson – drums
Bobby Womack – guitar
Freddie Stone – guitar
Ike Turner – guitar
Billy Preston – keyboards
Jerry Martini – tenor saxophone
Cynthia Robinson – trumpet
Rose Stone – vocals, keyboards
Little Sister – backing vocals

Recorded: 1970–71, The Record Plant, Sausalito, California


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