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 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Sly & the Family Stone
There's a Riot Going On / A Whole New Thing

Rating: 9/10 ?

April 30, 2007
Sly and the Family Stone encapsulated all the best elements of the late '60s and early '70s with their blend of funk, rock, jazz, soul, and yes, psychedelic hippie jams. Stone has now mostly disappeared from the public eye, remembered not only for his groundbreaking music, but for the internal band clashes and drug use that ended it. He did resurface with a head scratch-inducing, Mohawk-sporting appearance at the 2006 Grammy's; one that I kind of wish never happened. Stone appeared to be unstable and eccentric, at best, during a rendition of "I Want to Take You Higher." Surely, the best way to remember this musical legend is via his classic albums, two of which were re-mastered and re-released earlier this month by Epic Records.

There's a Riot Going On, originally released in 1971, remains one of the Family's best. While a few songs keep the record from reaching perfection - see the weirdly yodeling funk that is "Spaced Cowboy" - this is one for the ages, an album that earns its 9/10 rating. The one-two punch of "Luv N' Haight" and the silky-slinky-sexy "Just like a Baby" kick off the record, offering just a hint of what's to come. Some of Sly's prettiest joints show up here, such as the classic "Family Affair" and "(You Caught Me) Smilin'", proving that beneath all the ass and hip-shaking bass and drums, undulating gently beneath guitars so spiky and treble that they counterbalance the low end, is the soul of a poet. "Thank You For Talkin' to Me, Africa" closes the album out, an extended, slow-jam, druggy version of another classic, "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)," originally released in 1969 as a single. Four bonus tracks are also included on this reissue - a different version of "Runnin' Away" and three instrumentals.

1967's A Whole New Thing is an entirely different affair, worthy of only a 7/10 rating. This is a younger, more optimistic Family Stone, still buoyant with the possibilities of horn-driven soul and funk. "Underdog" starts off the record both morose and peppy, while the intermingled brass arrangements of songs like "Run, Run, Run" and "Let Me Hear it From You" are underscored by driving, thumping basslines. "Trip to Your Heart" will be familiar to fans of LL Cool J's "Mama Said Knock You Out," which samples part of this song. This album doesn't contain any of the Sly Stone hit singles we're all so familiar with, but it's obvious that commercial success was just around the corner, judging by the creative, free-flowing funk issuing forth. Still, when confronted with the more mature (and cynical) funk to follow, A Whole New Thing feels more like a steppingstone than a statement.

The band was, for all intents and purposes, heading toward its demise by the release of Riot. Much darker than his earlier work, Sly began to experiment with drum machines on many of the album's tracks. The charmingly lo-fi sound, ripe with deadened tape hiss, is the result of numerous overdubs that he implemented throughout the recording. The band would essentially break up in 1975, and Sly would continue his descent into drug abuse and madness, while still occasionally releasing music. It's a sad story, although not a new one, but the reissue of classic material such as this should help keep Sly Stone's name in the public conscious, where it certainly deserves its place.

Reviewed by Jonah Flicker
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.

See other reviews by Jonah Flicker



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