‘Stand!‘ (1969) is the pinnacle of Sly & the Family Stone’s early work, a record that represents a culmination of the group’s musical vision and accomplishment. It was ranked at #118 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time and my own Bible (Mojo, August 1995) ranks it at #65.
Life Magazine hinted at this record’s boundless enthusiasm and blurred stylistic boundaries, yet everything simply gels here, resulting in no separation between the astounding funk, effervescent irresistible melodies, psychedelicized guitars, and deep rhythms. Add to this a sharpened sense of pop songcraft, elastic band interplay, and a flowering of Sly’s social consciousness, and the result is utterly stunning. Yes, the jams (‘Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey‘, ‘Sex Machine‘) wind up meandering ever so slightly, but they’re surrounded by utter brilliance, from the rousing call to arms of ‘Stand!‘ to the unification anthem ‘Everyday People‘ to the unstoppable ‘I Want to Take You Higher‘. And all of it sounds like the Family Stone, thanks not just to the communal lead vocals but to the brilliant interplay, but each track is distinct, emphasizing a different side of their musical personality. As a result, this album winds up infectious and informative, invigorating and thought-provoking – stimulating in every sense of the word.
Interesting note about the album though is that while it was an album hailing Black Pride and Black Power and whatnot, Sly himself resisted pressure from The Black Panthers and Muslims to sack Jerry Martini (saxophone) and the other white musicians of the band claiming that they were the “best players he had”.
*“The Funky Tacos” would make for a great band name. Just sayin’…