Album Reviews

Sly & The Family Stone Live

At The Fillmore East October 4th and 5th 1968 (Sony Legacy)

Artist:     Sly & The Family Stone Live

Album:     At The Fillmore East October 4th and 5th 1968

Label:     Legacy Records

Release Date:     07/17/2015

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By 1968, the date of Live At The Fillmore East, Sly & The Family Stone’s unique blend of rock, soul, funk and race-derived lyrical commentary truly was different strokes for different folks. Three albums into their career, the multifaceted group easily had the critics’ ears. However, it was a different story with listeners, and it wouldn’t be until their landmark fourth album, Stand, that the group would become a major commercial commodity.

While this leaves a trio of work unappreciated in studio formats, these tunes are now brought back to life on a live stage. Live, the musical melting pot of Sly & The Family Stone would runneth over time and time again as they blew the roofs off various venues. Upon hitting the stage for four shows over two nights at New York’s legendary Fillmore East, the band unleashes dynamite hot tunes with blasts of soulful explosions.

At the date of the performance, we were a year away from Sly and crew keeping spectators awake on Yasgur’s Farm during Woodstock by singing call and response refrains from “I Wanna Take You Higher,” but that crowd pleasing ritual starts on this work. On this collection, it’s clear the band is trying to get crowds on their feet. Sadly, these sounds could be better captured. At times, instruments wash vocalists out, and moments of unavoidable feedback throw players for a loop. You can also tell that Sly doesn’t like to stand still, as he sings his heart out both in front of and away from his microphone.

Still, the jams are fun the whole way around, and between “Love City,” “Are You Ready,” “M’Lady,” and “Dance to the Music,” there isn’t a somber note throughout. Energy levels are up over all four performances as band members serenade, scream and dig deep musically to establish their identities and light the flames of fame. Fortunately, there’s nowhere else for the group to go from these shows than even higher.

-Ira Kantor

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