After The Riot: Sly Stone Rarities, Productions and Admirers 1973-1982

There are two distinct but both golden ages in Sly Stone's career. First came the straight outa Haight, racism-busting, genre-defying, multi-octave harmony singing, high on hope, Family-Stone-with-the-emphasis-on-Family era of the 1960s. Then in 1970 everything changed: Sly hit the drugs harder, the Family started splitting, the mood became moodier, and the groove got heavier, both in music and in American society more generally. That trajectory through rnb to soul to funk to disco, from new innocence and hope to reality check and struggle wasn't unique.....that was the wider social trend and many artists who had the longevity rode that wave...but Sly didn't just ride it, he innovated it at every stage.

The landmark There's a Riot Going On dropped in 1971 after Sly took a two year break from releasing new music to retreat and reconfigure. In that time he cooked up a unique sound, one that has influenced generations of musicians, including the likes of no less than Prince, D'Angelo, Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis and Stevie Wonder.

I think there's a really interesting parallel and overlap with Lee Perry...I'm really curious if there was a conscious influence either way between them...Lee was always a big soul and jazz fan so its not impossible. Both were creating new hazy soundscapes, running the beat box from their organs, blowing smoke at the reel to reel as it turned, and bringing the drum and bass up on the mixer. Worth remembering that Sly is not only a great vocalist, musician, songwriter, arranger, but also a real innovator in production too. Genius basically.

Riot was a commercial and critical success (though it caught a fair few people off guard), but with every subsequent release interest in Sly's music progressively diminished. And while later albums were patchier, there is still a treasure trove of incredible music after Riot - without a doubt some of the best he ever made. This mix picks out not just some favourite moments, but also tries to highlight some lesser known tracks and previously unreleased early versions, many of which only became available much later thanks to CD release bonus tracks and the like.

Demo releases are often best left in the vault but I think the versions here all have their own charm and character, even if they are occasionally a little rough round the edges.  For example the funky off-beat drums on this proto version of Babies Makin Babies gives it a very different feel to the one that made it to official release, but its definitely no weaker a tune. The lack of the iconic De La Soul sampled horns on the version of Crossword Puzzle bring out the violin parts and again give the track a different, almost country, flavour.

It is said that the reworked dubplate mix of Little Sister's You're The One - a track Sly produced and originally released on his own Stone Flower label - literally had one single pressing, originally cut for Tom Moulton, but thankfully it's recently made its way onto a CD release thanks to the perseverance of Danny Krivit to track down the original acetate and lock it down before it got lost to the ether. Its a big disco version for sure.

This selection is also interspersed with a couple of tracks from fellow Californian contemporaries D.J. Rogers and Shuggie Otis, who lovingly captured some of Sly's 70s sound to great effect, and made tunes which sit happily side by side with his own work. Finishing the mix off with a Funkadelic track that Sly sat in on playing keys and adding vocals.....there ended up being a fair bit of crossover between the Family Stone and Funkadelic, with singers from the Family Stone joining the Brides of Funkenstein and Sly often touring alongside George Clinton throughout the 70s.

Photo here comes from this great studio session gallery by Warren Harris.

After The Riot: Sly Stone Rarities, Productions and Admirers 1973-1982

Sly Stone - Say You Will [1974]
Sly Stone - Loose Booty (Alt Version) [1974]
Sly Stone - Remember Who You Are [1979]
DJ Rogers - Its Good To Be Alive [1975]
Sly Stone - Crossword Puzzle (Alt Version) [1976]
Sly Stone - The Same Thing (Original LP Mix)[1979]
Sly Stone - Frisky (Alt Version) [1973]
Shuggie Otis - Sparkle City [1974]
Sly Stone - Babies Makin Babies (Alt Version) [1973]
Sly Stone - We Can Do It [1982]
Sly Stone - I Get High On You (Disco Version) [1979]
Little Sister - You're The One (Dubplate Mix) [1976]
Sly Stone - One Way [1982]
Funkadelic - Funk Gets Stronger (Killer Millimeter Version) [1981]

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