Written by David Bowling
Published March 28, 2009
Life was the third album released by Sly & The Family Stone and their
second of 1968. While it was a very good album in its own right, it
had the back luck to be issued between the exuberant Dance To The
Music and the five-star Stand.
Life would be a bit more undisciplined than the two previously
mentioned albums. It would take the fusions of Dance To The Music and
split them into their parts before they were re-assembled on Stand.
The songs are psychedelic, soul, blues, and some straight funk. The
album would also not contain a successful single, which would hurt it
What would be consistent would be the guitar virtuosity of Freddie
Stone, the fuzz bass tones of Larry Graham, and drum rhythms of Greg
Errico. Sly Stone would continue to experiment with multiple lead
vocalists who would trade lines within the same song. Rosie Stone was
now a secure part of the band and Cynthia Robinson would interject
scattered trumpet notes and vocal ad-libs throughout many of the tracks.
"Dynamite" would feature a classic psychedelic opening guitar line by
Freddie Stone. "M'Lady" would be a foray into straight funk with
over-the-top production. "Plastic Jim" had cutting lyrics about how
people act and has a blues feel to it.
Sly would begin to explore lyrical themes that would reappear on
future releases. "Harmony" which really takes off after a disjointed
beginning and "Love City" explored integration and love of neighbor.
"Jane Is A Groupie" is self explanatory as it told the story of fans
who follow bands. The title song began the exploration of the themes
of life's realisms which would recur over and over again in the future.
The best track may be "Into My Own Thing" with its familiar horns,
organ, bass, and drums going in all directions yet returning to
create a classic Sly & The Family Stone sound.
Life is one of those releases that contains a lot of very good parts
that add up to an album that's above average, but not brilliant. Two
albums within the same year may have been a little much for the group
at this stage of their career. However, it did set the stage for
several of the best and most influential albums in American music
history that would follow during the next several years.