Essential New Music: Sly & The Family Stone’s “Live At The Fillmore East October 4th & 5th 1968”

Sly

The double-vinyl version of this unreleased live set (curated by “Captain” Kirk Douglas of the Roots) is cute, but it’s the stretch and flow of a four-disc set that’s necessary in which to hear the breadth of guitarist/singer Sly Stone and his Family in full flower. The long-held notion of Stone and Co. as purveyors of funky pop (or poppy funk) touched by the harmonic roar of choral vocals and the lyricism of sociopolitical consciousness is all here. It’s loud and clear on color-blind, vividly and deeply grooving cuts such as “We Love All (Freedom),” “Won’t Be Long” and “Life” (big ups to plucking, popping bassist and baritone singer Larry Graham for bringing up the bottom).

A jazzy nod to Harlem historicity on “St. James Infirmary” is a swanky detour from Sly’s soulful warbling war and love cries. The real key to these live shows—before Sly’s Family Stone truly became chart-toppers—can be found in the band’s hard guitar chunkiness, a punk/funk kink in league with what Funkadelic was doing at the time, and Bad Brains would eventually make its own. Check into “Chicken,” “The Riffs” and “Don’t Burn Baby” for loud, incendiary living proof of Sly Stone’s metal mettle.

—A.D. Amorosi