Sly & The Family Stone – I’m Back! Family & Friends : Reviews

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Sly & The Family Stone – I’m Back! Family & Friends : Reviews

You have to love the spirit of legendary psychedelic funk pioneer frontman Sly Stone as most recently celebrated in I’m Back! Family & Friends (Cleopatra). It’s a jam session with musicians from far-flung ends of the genre spectrum who also claim status as fans of Sly and The Family Stone coming to together to funk.

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This soul cauldron bubbles up with guitarist Jeff Beck coming in on “I Want To Take You Higher.” I always find it interesting to see the names of musical guests and contributors I’m familiar with somewhere I don’t expect; I literally thought while listening, “Hey, I didn’t know THAT musician listened to funk!” Heart’s wailing powerhouse Ann Wilson brings her goods to the table on “Everyday People” showing a masterful versatility in this migration from rock to the soul side. Ray Manzarek is a strange seed in this jam when he drops Doors “Light My Fire” level keyboard notes into an additional version of “Dance To The Music.” Bluesman Johnny Winter hangs out with Stone on a second take on “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)”.

Mr. Bootsy Collins himself joins Stone on “Hot Fun In the Summertime.” It’s funny to hear Collins say, “This is the music I grew up with” when he also played such a huge role in creating that music. For fun, a sped-up club mix of “Thank You” (Fa Lettin Me Be Mice Elf) cranks a little extra juice into what’s already a high-wattage collection. I’d love to hear it live and it’s already headed for my Ipod playlist for the gym. I just wish that I’m Back! had more new material on it instead of just three tracks, among them Sly covering gospel standard “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” employing what I can only call a laidback but reverent falsettor. “Get Away” is also new and quality as an understated but upbeat jazzy pulsing riff-flecked several-minute groover.

Chances are good if you’re a Sly fan – and it’s hard not to be – you’re going to have a good time with this new one. But I wish I could have had more. After almost 30 years since the last Sly album was released in 1982, genius icon that he is how can Sly return to the scene if he only sends fragments of himself?

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