SLY & THE FAMILY STONE: Family Affair; Luv N’ Haight (Epic).
The first new product from the Family Stone (other than “live” material) in virtually two years, since the cataclysmic ‘Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin’, this single from the new ‘There’s A Riot Goin’ On’ LP has beaten its parent album to the very top of its respective Chart. Obviously long awaited and much anticipated, its meteoric rise is not surprising except for the fact that, compared with much of the group’s past output, this single is merely “nice” without being a real killer.
It shows Sly and the gang in a funky but subdued mood: starting the insinuous wah-wah and plopping, thudding rhythm in the same light way as it continues throughout, they keep all the sound on the same inter-related quiet monotone level. The title line is repeated by a Lennon-ish voice before the husky, slurring, almost Havens-ish lead voice (Sly?) handles the main lyric, which is about the strength of family ties and obligations. Amongst all this there are unobtrusive interspersions of electric piano and wah-wah lead guitar.
I have always been a bit doubtful about the expression “laid back”, but, by my own definition of its meaning, I reckon that you could apply it pretty accurately to ‘Family Affair’. One virtue of the low-key quality of the record is that it is, in its way, completely compulsive – it cries out to be played over and over again, so that it is a shame the side does not last longer. The flip is rather rougher and more aggressive, in the group’s old style, and (consequently?) less impressive.
JAMES BROWN: My Part/Make It Funky – Parts 3 & 4 (Polydor).
Indeed, this is another two sides of the incredible funk rhythm that Mr. J. B. whipped up on ‘Make It Funky – Parts 1 & 2‘, and, despite the label saying (Instrumental)”, it features Mr. Brown exhorting his cohorts with scat “ga ga ga ga, goo ga goo goo ga” noises and vocal encouragement to guitarist Coleman to “Give us a little bit of B.B. King”, and to trombonist Red to “Slide your Slide”.
The real joy of this record is contained in the basic riff and contagious rhythm, which, as on ‘Parts 1 & 2’, is made so powerful by the rock-solid thundering bass. This rhythm is (yes, I know, you’re credulous as hell) one of the very best that James Brown has ever come up with – in fact, its only rival must be that of ‘There Was A Time‘ – so that ‘Parts 3 & 4’ are just as vital as the earlier record … if not more so, because there is an added gaiety to this one.
Unfortunately, this has now been eclipsed in the U.S. Charts by J.B.’s almost simultaneously-released ‘I’m A Greedy Man – Parts 1 & 2‘ … well, you know, Christmas is comin’, and new material is a better bet for the Top 50 (which is where it’s at, right now).
DONNIE ELBERT: Where Did Our Love Go; That’s If You Love Me (All Platinum).
Rumoured to be the first British release out of Mojo’s rumoured association with the great Stang/All Platinum labels, veteran Donnie’s re-working of the Supremes’ oldie could so easily have been rather uninteresting. In fact, it’s brilliant.
This isn’t so surprising really, considering Donnie’s track record, which started in the mid ’50s with the superb ‘What Can I Do‘, a piercing ballad that, together with his later ‘Who’s It Gonna Be‘, is a cherished favourite of West Indian audiences. Continue reading “December 4, 1971: Sly & The Family Stone, James Brown, Donnie Elbert, Elvis Presley, The Coasters”