Review #82: There’s A Riot Goin’ On, Sly and the Family Stone

Karla Clifton
3 min readMay 16, 2021

#82: There’s a Riot Goin’ On, Sly and the Family Stone

Apparently, this album was supposed to be titled “Africa Talks To You,” but they retitled it as a response to the album Marvin Gaye released six months earlier, What’s Goin’ On? Which as you might recall is RS’s pick for #1 album of all time. What’s goin’ on? There’s a riot goin’ on!

So Sly Stone (born Sylvester Stewart) was the frontman. When they recorded this album, Sly was taking so many drugs (PCP and cocaine) that he could hardly leave his bed. He actually recorded most of the vocals in his bed.

He was basically a musical prodigy who roped all his siblings into his super cool funk band, then combusted and abused his wife.

The group has gotten back together several times since breaking up in 1983, but Sly basically doesn’t show up when they do. The last real news I could find about his life situation was in 2011, when he was apparently living out of a van in LA and suing his manager. (The suit was successful, by the way. He won $5 million in 2015.)

I don’t even know what to say about all that. I guess I just wish Sly Stone well and hope he gets the help he needs, but I wish the people who had to deal with him at his worst even better.

FAVORITE SONGS:

“Luv N’ Haight” — God, this song is a jam, but it definitely makes me think differently about it knowing that Sly probably recorded the vocals in bed.

“Poet” My only weapon is my pen/ And the frame of mind I’m in. See, that’s the problem with poets, they think they’re cool.

“Family Affair” — Sly Stone had a wicked voice. This song was the biggest hit off of this album.

“Africa Talks To You (’The Asphalt Jungle’)” — This was gonna be the title of the album! Eight minutes long, could be longer.

“Brave & Strong” — What is this vocal effect? I love it.

“(You Caught Me) Smilin’” — Kind of a relief to get a cheerful song! The rest of these are very intense.

“Time” — Why does Sly sound a little like Van Morrison?

“Spaced Cowboy” — Sly yodels, too!

“Thank You for Talkin’ to Me, Africa”THANK YOU FOR LETTING ME BE MYSELF AGAIN. Okay, I looked it up and this is apparently a much more serious reworking of their earlier song “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin),” which in my opinion is a way way way better title.

LEAST FAVORITE SONGS:

“Runnin’ Away” — For some reason these harmonies give me the willies.

“My Gorilla Is My Butler” — There are three instrumental tracks at the end of these songs that I don’t really care about. This is the one with the coolest name.

IS RS FULL OF IT?

I guess not. I’d just like to thank Sly and the whole Family Stone falettinme be mice elf agin.

Review #81: Beyonce, Beyonce

Review #83: Dusty In Memphis, Dusty Springfield

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