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From the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

There's A Riot Goin' On

Sly & The Family Stone

1971

There's A Riot Goin' On

Album Summary

There's a Riot Goin' On (sometimes referred to as Riot) is the fifth studio album by American funk and soul band Sly and the Family Stone. It was recorded from 1970 to 1971 at Record Plant Studios in Sausalito, California and released later that year on November 1 by Epic Records. The recording was dominated by band frontman Sly Stone during a period of elevated drug use and intra-group tension. With the album, Sly and the Family Stone departed from the optimistic psychedelic soul of their previous music and explored a darker, more challenging sound, employing edgy funk rhythms, primitive drum machines, extensive overdubbing, and a dense mix. Conceptually and lyrically, There's a Riot Goin' On embraced apathy, pessimism, and disillusionment with both Stone's fame and 1960s counterculture amid a turbulent political climate in the United States at the turn of the 1970s, influenced by the decline of the civil rights movement and the rise of the Black Power movement. The album's title was originally planned to be Africa Talks to You, but it changed in response to Marvin Gaye's album What's Going On (1971), released six months before Riot.A commercial success, There's a Riot Goin' On topped the Billboard Pop Album and Soul Album charts, while its lead single "Family Affair" reached number-one on the Pop Singles chart. The album was eventually certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for sales of at least one million copies in the US. Originally released to mixed reviews, the album has since been praised as one of the greatest and most influential recordings of all time, having impacted the funk, jazz-funk, and hip hop genres in particular. It ranks frequently and highly in many publications' best-album lists, including Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time", on which it placed 99th in 2003 and 82nd in 2020.

Wikipedia

Rating

3.26

Votes

5782

Genres

  • Rock
  • Soul
  • Funk
Reviews
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View Author
Sun Feb 14 2021
4

“There’s a Riot Goin’ On” by Sly and the Family Stone (1971) Never heard this album, but very familiar with SFS through radio airplay and their “Greatest Hits” album of 1970. This album is very good music qua music. Listen to the LYRICS. Deeply introspective personal reflection plus insightful social commentary without being hortatory. This album represents a development from the popular funk of the early SFS. Excellent, beautiful, soulful funk, executed by extraordinarily talented musicians and vocalists, but much more serious than their previous work (although there’s some great comic relief in “Spaced Cowboy “, where we’re treated to a funked-up country piece complete with Sly Stone yodeling the chorus. Yodeling. I shit you not). Experimental musical sounds and recording technique—very well crafted (although there’s an annoying level of tape hiss due to overdubbing—one of the shortcomings of analog). This is a good demonstration of the art of the studio album. Meant to be listened to without distractions. Not party music. Bass bends and guitar wah unsurpassed. Especially on “Africa Talks to You”. Trumpet and sax understated, but effective coloring. The title track “There’s a Riot Goin’ On” is four seconds of silence. This is so profound for 1971. There were many riots in America 1966-1970. But in May 1970, National Guard troops fired on demonstrators at Kent State University, killing four. Fewer riots after that. The years 1971-1976 were a relatively quiet time for civil unrest in America. Not that there wasn’t anything to riot over. It’s hard to imagine a Daft Punk without SFS funk (listen to “Family Affair” and compare to “Get Lucky”). But SFS is heavier and more evocative. Elaborate vocal stylings, but lacking the endearing ‘silliness’ of their earlier work. “Thank You for Talking to Me, Africa” is a dark reset of their earlier hit “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)", which itself features a pastiche of titles of their previous hits. Sort of an SFS diary entry that reviews previous entries, with a more mature perspective. Africa begins to talk to SFS, and they (and we) are listening. Throughout the album, the lyrics reflect deep levels of meaning, expressing the emerging self awareness of Black America. I’m no expert on this, but it seems that this album should have been a huge influence on young urban artists who would go on to produce the hip hop genre. Here SFS grows into an assertive voice, instead of a merely entertaining voice. Sorry I didn’t listen to this when I was young. Very glad I listened to it before I die. 4/5

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View Author
Thu Mar 04 2021
5

Funky, dark, and ahead of its time. It’s at once dense and really loose and free. I feel like I need to go back andre-listen a few more times to really be able to assess it — but I’m sure I will. Favourite track: Family Affair

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View Author
Wed Oct 20 2021
5

So I know I've listened to this before but not recently, maybe the other times I wasn't paying real close attention because I never noticed that the "title track" was just four seconds of silence. I was prepared to go on here and warn other Spotify listeners in the U.S. about the track being missing. I'm glad I did a little research because that would have been embarrassing. Anyway, great druggy funk album, one of the best I've heard, five stars.

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Fri Feb 25 2022
5

Oh man, I think I just fell in love... It's funny cause I've listened to this album before and enjoyed it and everything, but for some reason, listening to it tonight, this album just absolutely knocked me out. Maybe it's because we're now two years into a global pandemic, in a time of increased social unrest/polarization, and quite possibly on the brink of World War III, but this album is really speaking to me right now (in a way it didn't a few years ago when I listened to it last). There is so much I love about this album but the thing that impresses me most is probably its casualness and playfulness. It's so loose and laid back that it somehow comes back around to coming across as cocky and confident to me. Like the genius just rolls out of him so naturally and effortlessly regardless of his mood. He doesn't have to be "on" to express the truth. Some real honesty here. And that's the other thing I really appreciate about this album: that it captures these states of mind that are not often put into songs, especially at the time it came out. Really shows you that funk isn't all just feel good party jams and I appreciate that. Another thing that I appreciate is the incorporation of the drum machines. Not only is this album an absolute pillar of funk, but it's the album that pretty much single handedly legitimized the use of drum machines in popular music - so I have to give my thanks for that. All that and the mysteriously murky mix give the album a very distinct sound which, to my ear, keeps it a surprisingly fresh and intriguing listen after all these years.

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Wed Jan 27 2021
3

Sly & The Family Stone were one of the more formative bands for me as a bassplayer. I used to pick apart their basslines along with Parliment Funkadelic, Graham Central Station, Mandrill, War and more. They were instrumental in me understanding the idea of "the pocket" as a player. That said, this is NOT Sly's best album by a long shot. It's rough and unfocused. While the great musicianship that one would expect is still on display, the vocals show the strain of a completely drug-addled frontman. The result is a chaotic, fragmented mess of an album. Great band, not such a great album, sadly.

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Tue Apr 06 2021
3

Heard that song Family Affair before loads - no idea it was them, a classic. Rest of album was ok, didn't grab me though

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Sun May 09 2021
3

I don't think I have the full context of musical history to appreciate what was new and exciting about this group or album, however I did enjoy it.

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Thu Jul 14 2022
2

I couldn’t get into it, first song was very energetic but after that I’m not sure why the songs felt like background music nothing really grabbed my attention. On to the next one!

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Sat Aug 13 2022
2

Background music. Couldn't get into it - probably something to listen to again when I'm in a funkier mood. Also, I hate talking about "production and mixing" because it makes me look like this emoji -> 🤓, but the production on the Spotify version is kind of outdated I think - a remaster would be nice!

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Tue May 11 2021
5

Up there with Parliament/Funkadelic as the best funk.

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Tue Nov 03 2020
5

Super funky, amazing

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Wed Feb 24 2021
5

Inspired. Should be the first Sly album people are allowed to hear.

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Tue Jun 01 2021
5

A great funk album and it reflects the times.

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Tue Mar 09 2021
5

Funky

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Thu Mar 04 2021
5

A post-Summer of Love wake up call, I can hear so much of 90's hip-hop in Sly's funky beats. A dark detour from what I normally associate with the band's sound, I really need to listen to this one more.

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Wed Jun 09 2021
5

A great album that showcases the creativity of Sly

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Fri Mar 26 2021
5

This album is one of the absolute greatest albums of all time, maybe top 50 material. This album changed my life before I ever listened to it. Virtually everything I love about music has some Sly in it in some way or another. Timeless. TIMELESS. Groove. Sex appeal. Funk. Slap bass. VOCALS. Guitars. Melody. Harmony. This album has everything I want in an album.

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Fri Apr 02 2021
5

Excellent funky shit

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Tue May 25 2021
5

Cynicism, defeat, despair and excessive drug taking never sounded so soulfully funky and appealing.

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Thu May 06 2021
5

Excellent

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Fri Jul 30 2021
5

Una vergüenza que no haya escuchado esto antes.

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Fri Aug 06 2021
5

Such a great record. As someone like me who isn't well versed in many of the classics, it's a treat to hear some many of the original sounds that are so we'll sampled in today's music. Obviously Sly & Co. have had such an impactful effect on so many of my favorite artists.

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Mon Sep 13 2021
5

Cool

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Tue Oct 19 2021
5

I never knew how much I'd love funk until 1001 albums so I'm grateful for that. I really dig how comparatively dark and contemplative this album is to the other funk I've heard too. Adding it to the "need on vinyl" list.

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Mon Nov 15 2021
5

So amazing

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Thu Nov 18 2021
5

Already know this 5/5

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Sat Dec 11 2021
5

5/5. Holy smokes, it doesn’t get funkier.

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Wed Jan 05 2022
5

Funky as hell and I really liked it. Got me into the genre and I am digging the fuck out of it.

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Fri Feb 18 2022
5

Absolutely tremendous! Love, love, LOVE it!

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Mon Feb 21 2022
5

Laid-back, slow, druggy groove, tired-vocal sounding but also very funky. Heavy bass mix, crawling, sketchy guitar. One album where you hear its influence on a lot of later 70's funk. Some legendary musicians- Billy Preston, Bobby Womack, Ike Turner. There was a lot of the recording of this album on The Apple TV 1971 music documentary: heavy drug use - Sly unbelievably would record over previously recorded songs, The Dick Cavett interview. Regardless, some incredible music - "Family Affair", "Runnin' Away."

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Tue Feb 22 2022
5

Great funky album. Family affair. Love sly.

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Mon Feb 28 2022
5

An absolute favorite that grooves the entire album. It’s funky and soulful and has inspired so much of the music that I love listening to today. Had multiple songs I liked for future listening.

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Sat Mar 05 2022
5

It's amazing that such an album exists. Darkly cynical, the grooves a hynpotic and yet you rarely feel at ease.

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Thu May 26 2022
5

Marvin Gaye had asked "What's Goin' On"; a few months later, he had his answer. With a few exceptions, this is perhaps the murkiest, most drug-addled, most fucked up form of pop music in the 70s. No depth of hell would or could equate to whatever hell Sly Stone had conjured up from thin air (or whatever air that involved drugs). A defining statement that also became the beginning of the end, There's a Riot Goin' On is Sly's masterpiece.

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Tue Jun 07 2022
5

Dark but the yodeling seals it for me. The quietest and probably the best funk/soul project I've heard. Not get-up-and-dance music, but mandatory-relisten music.

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Mon Jun 20 2022
5

Made for a fun, funky time getting ready and cleaning up the house. I forgot how much I missed this kind of funk until I heard it again.

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Tue Jun 21 2022
5

What a hot mess! How can someone come up with such brilliance while being totally fucked up? Spaced Cowboy is now my new favourite song of all time. Country funk is even more fun than country rap. This was already a five star album, but the last three songs belong in the stratosphere. I always thought that Parliament/Funkadelic had released the weirdest, and best, funk. But this is next level greatness. I could happily listen to the bass by itself.

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Wed Jun 29 2022
5

This is arguably the strongest lineup the Family Stone has featured, including but not limited to such big names as Bobby Womack, Ike Turner and Larry Graham. The sound of this album hangs in the air, like a cloud of weed smoke on a hot, humid evening. It oozes soul. It massages your nerve endings. It'll sweep you away into it's abstract vision of a concrete jungle, down alleyways filled with stoners, mothers with infants, children playing, couples making out, hustlers hustling, and all the while demand nothing but a slight bop of your head along the journey.

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Tue Jul 12 2022
5

First 5/5, whole album was lovely and has infinite replayability i feel

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Thu Jul 14 2022
5

Very good, funky and real. Female vocals are outstanding.

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Sat Aug 20 2022
5

The greatest weakness of this album is that the tracks cut too short. Doesn't matter how long the tracks are: 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 9 minutes... I wish they would go longer. After a 20 month break from their masterpiece Stand, they come back this dark, murky funk sound in the followup of the socially conscious What's Going On by Marvin Gaye. It's not a very accessible sound, with unconventional song structures that leave the audience wondering where the payoff is. That's partly why I feel all the songs are too short; even though that's not the case, you know there could be more to it. But it's one of those albums where it's about the journey and not the destination, and you start seeing the insanity behind the music. They're all talented musicians, and Sly gives a performance that I argue even beats James Brown. It makes for a great psychedelic experience. It's deep and complex, with instruments (and vocalists) controlled yet also seemingly doing their own thing. They abuse the overdubs and mixing so much that it can be a very fun and entrancing experience, fitting the genre so well that I wish more psychedelic funk bands existed and followed in their example. There are so many parts of the music to focus on. The intro track "Luv N Haight" is probably the best example of this, with the music almost feeling surreal how chaotic it sounds, instruments overlapping each other and the vocalists randomly coming in and out as if they think they're the spotlight. "Just Like a Baby" is one of the groovier tracks with such a pleasing, dark controlled sound to it. Everyone knows the pop hit "Family Affair", has some great solos and engages with the audience to sing along. By "Africa Talks to You", you're comfortable enough to can sit back and experience the music and pick out something new and strange every time. All the tracks are amazing, but it doesn't feel that way until you pay attention to each of them and see how uniquely strange they all are. We all have our personal favorites, like "You Caught Me Smilin" or "Runnin Away" (love the horns and cymbals!), but deep cuts like "Space Cowboy" and "Time" place me in different surreal settings, like a country yodeler in a sea of funkiness. The high vocal compression and rhythmic bass slapping and drum machine certainly contribute to the psychedelic trance. It's a really fitting closer to end with an extended darker version of their hit "Thank You."

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Sat Aug 27 2022
5

Classic album

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Tue Sep 06 2022
5

5.0 + I don't know exactly how, but this record seems to just slink into a groove that grips you for its entire 47 minute run. I get an uncanny feeling in my chest that I'm listening to a band that somehow plugged into a transcendent higher power. The only other record in memory that gives me a similar impression is "Astral Weeks." As an aside, while I was listening my two small boys (2 and 4) came into the room at around the midway point and proceeded to dance through the album's entire second half.

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Sun Sep 18 2022
5

A masterpiece c’mon now

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Sat Sep 24 2022
5

Had no idea who the band was so based on the cover thought it would be rap(again). I was pleasantly surprised by very funky soul album. Loved it. I don’t think there’s any misses here! Favourite songs: Just Like A Baby, Family Affair, Thank You For Talkin’ To Me Africa

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Tue Sep 27 2022
5

Utterly essential funk rock. Amazing. Sly Stone in his prime. There's just no competition, there's no equal at all. Whereas a lot of funk is groove-oriented, Sly was always song-oriented. So much heart; so much feeling.

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Tue Oct 04 2022
5

10/10 HOLY SHIT THAT WAS FUCKING AMAZING!

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Fri Oct 28 2022
5

This album was a riot, loved it

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Thu Nov 17 2022
5

Amazing record. Dark, moody, political, and psychedelic. AFAIK the band was pretty much dissolved at this point. This is basically a Sly Stone solo record. He isolated in his house and had many drug-fueled recording sessions. This band should’ve been way bigger in the 70s than they were.

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Tue Dec 06 2022
5

Fett!! Mye mer spennende enn jeg hadde trodd

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Wed Dec 28 2022
5

Funky stuff.

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Wed Dec 28 2022
5

Pure class

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Fri Dec 30 2022
5

cool

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Fri Oct 02 2020
4

Another strong 4. Verry groovy, a couple 5-8 minute jams on here. Standout Tracks: Just Like a Baby, Africa Talks to You, Time, Thank You For Talkin' to Me, Africa

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Mon Feb 22 2021
4

I can't say I'm too huge a fan of the production on this, but the songs are great. I know Sly/The Family for more the upbeat songs, but this definitely has a darker edge. Favorite tracks: "Africa Talks to You", "Family Affair", "Smilin'"

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Thu Oct 01 2020
4

Wea nice

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Mon Apr 05 2021
4

Lækre oprørsmelodier, 70’er, nationalitet, funk, groove, elguitar

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Tue Jan 05 2021
4

Funky funk kinda album. Nice lil listen.

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Mon Feb 01 2021
4

Really liked this music.

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Fri Jan 22 2021
4

If any album was need to show that the happy go lucky, love to all 60's were well and truly dead and buried it is this dark, funky, dirty, muddy album. Mixed to be almost unintelligible at times, this album ushers in the 70's predicting the tough times ahead. Brilliant.

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Mon Mar 15 2021
4

Funky

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Wed Jan 13 2021
4

Pretty good! Not exactly my thing but a good version of the thing it is.

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Sun May 09 2021
4

Not quite the level of Stand! A view that might change with repeated listens, other than the two obvious standouts a lot of this just hopped along in the background.

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Tue Jan 19 2021
4

A fun album, super funky, and I liked the whole album not just the hits.

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Sat Jan 30 2021
4

Great.

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Tue Jan 19 2021
4

I've listened to a bunch of Sly in the past, but probably never a full album in its entirety. Brought me back to my days of trying to play bass like Flea from the RHCP and all Flea's influences, including Sly and the Family Stone.

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Wed Jan 20 2021
4

Funky, groovy

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Thu Jan 14 2021
4

Funky. I like it. 4/5

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Mon Feb 08 2021
4

Good and funky

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Tue Jan 19 2021
4

classic

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Sat Jan 16 2021
4

Bastante bien como fondo para trabajar.

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Mon Jan 18 2021
4

Amazing groove, Sly!

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Sat Feb 06 2021
4

Amaaaazing!

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Tue Apr 20 2021
4

I've always liked Sly - he's got a unique sound.... tragic life story though

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Fri Jun 11 2021
4

Best funky. Hier wil ik meer van horen! Die bekende plaat over familie juist erg gezapig.

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Tue Apr 06 2021
4

Not bad until the yodelling. First few songs were pretty good and ‘family affair’ is a classic.

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Mon Jan 25 2021
4

Melkein 4,5 tekis mieli antaa. Hyvin svengaa.

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Mon Feb 01 2021
4

Geiler scheiß was ist das links, rechts liberal taugt auf jedenfall. Nur die Flagge auf dem Cover turnt mich komplett ab und macht mir Angst.

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Wed Apr 28 2021
4

Aangenaam. De leukere kant van de soul.

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Thu Mar 04 2021
4

Larry Graham Jr inventor of the slap bass! Poet has a nice vibe to it and Africa Talks is a great track. Feels somewhat less upbeat than his earlier hits but super funky. Sounds like they may be using some type of drum machine which I'm not a fan of. Great album though.

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Wed Apr 21 2021
4

Funky Funky Funky Funky Funky Funky Funky Funky Funky.

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Fri Jun 11 2021
4

It took me a minute, but I was really into this one.

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Mon May 10 2021
4

Nice set of bass tones

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Fri May 07 2021
4

Good Funk album

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Wed May 12 2021
4

Good chilled rock background vibe

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Mon Jun 14 2021
4

Enjoyed this one a lot. I thought it sounded quite ahead of it's time.

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Thu Jun 03 2021
4

A fantastic musician from the 70's. Sly was just the coolest dude.

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Thu Jun 10 2021
4

Solid album. This album was made during a period of tension within the band and escalating drug use. This album is more moody than joyful, and represents a change in direction for the band. Within a few years the rhythm section would be replaced.

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Fri Jul 30 2021
4

sí me gustó :) favs: luv n haight y runnig away

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Fri Aug 06 2021
4

Some good funk goin' on. Spaced Cowboy was a weird additional.

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Mon Aug 16 2021
4

Amazing funk and soul album.

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Thu Sep 16 2021
4

This album feels very gentle, that's all that I could say about it. Soul, RnB, a bit of rock - everything comes down to a nice mix.

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Wed Sep 29 2021
4

Now this is tasty, something you can really bop your head to for a while. It is a high four, as I have trouble imagining putting it on as often as a five would suggest.

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Wed Sep 29 2021
4

Who knew funk, nihilism, and a dash of yodeling would end up as such a winning combination?

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Mon Oct 04 2021
4

Funky fresh Friday fun

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Thu Oct 07 2021
4

I liked this one. Had a lot of songs I'd already heard before, but never consciously new were by them or from this album.

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Thu Oct 07 2021
4

Very cool sounding, ages well too

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Thu Oct 14 2021
4

Now this was the sort of thing I was hoping for from this generator, something that fills in some of the large gaps, something I probably should have listened to by now. With that drumming, fat bass and the wah guitar, you know within 20 seconds that it's going to be a classic, even before anyone sings. The female vocals are what makes it. Some songs are better than others, I lost a bit of interest in the middle but pretty good overall.

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Sat Oct 16 2021
4

Pretty good. I was expecting it to make me feel like the whitest man alive, but it didn't. So either I'm woke or I'm turning black. I really really really hope I'm not woke.

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Tue Nov 02 2021
4

Good tunnnneezzz. Can't decide between 4 and 5. Favorite track is probably Thank You for Talkin' to Me, Africa

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