Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Best of the 70's: There's a Riot Goin' On by Sly & the Family Stone

There's A Riot Goin' OnBack in 1989 I chose to give away my record collection, which was quite substantial, save for a few records, couldn't part with the Saga stuff. One of the first albums I bought in rebuilding my collection was There's a Riot Goin' On. Probably the best funk album ever made Riot explores the darker side of funk and of life.

From the opening sounds you know this is a different album than Stand! which proceeded it. The music is slower, heavier on bass, infused with noise, and very complex. On top of that the lyrics are darker, angrier and sung in an almost slurred manner. Maybe it's true that the album has this feel because Sly was completely falling apart under his drug addiction, but I don't believe someone that far gone could put together this complex sound and make it work the way he does here. On top of songs like the opener "Luv N' Haight" which are musical explorations into new territory, you get fantastic moments like "Family Affair" where it all comes together for three minutes of tightly woven song.

If you are in a dark mood, nothing sounds better than this album. It feeds all those dark feelings in a way that very few albums can, and can take you deeper into the darkness than I believe any album can.

Following the Rhapsody rating method I give it 5 out of 5 stars for Great. Because this album is so dark it is not one I want to hear all the time and in fact there are times when I would purposely avoid it, but that does not mean this isn't a brilliant album. At the time this is being posted this album ranks 97th on the best of the 70's list at Best Ever Albums.


  1. "Family Affair" pops into my head as often as any other piece of music without actually hearing it outside my head. It's a really compelling sound, and it seems like I stumble upon some situation that recalls the lyrics about once every month or so. That's a heck of song.

    Drugs and addiction are so, so awful.

  2. But if he hadn't taken the drugs, he might never have written the song.

  3. Here's a fascinating sentence from Wikipedia:

    "During the 1970s, Sly or one of the band members would often miss the gig, refuse to play, or pass out from drug use. This had an adverse effect on their ability to demand money for live bookings; live bookings also declined as a result."