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Sly and the Family Stone - There’s a Riot Going on

A classic album which was played consistently in my house when growing up. It has now taken on a very different meaning. Sly and the Family Stone’s - ‘There’s a Riot Going on’. In 1971, the band released their fifth studio album. Frontman Sylvester Stone was going through a period of heavy drug abuse and African-American communities were still fighting for racial equality and justice. The album artwork embodies this conflicted context, reforming the American Flag with suns, not stars, coloured black not blue.

Dark, dense and troubled thematic currents permeate the soulful, hard-funk rhythms of the early drum machines. At this time Stone was becoming more involved in the Black Panther movement, the lyrics and instrumentation are heavy with a sense of loss and frustration, while retaining a sense of collectiveness, as ‘blood is thicker than the mud’. The muddled overdubbing techniques echo the violent and pivotal time, as well as the frontman’s experiences with fame and substance abuse. With a ladled axis of content, the down-tempo work becomes exceptionally intimate and fraught with power.

- Ed