Vinyl Spotlight: Sly and the Family Stone – Fresh

It’s time to shine the Vinyl Spotlight! Every now and then on Paloozapalooza, I like to focus on a random LP from my collection. This week, we have:

Sly and the Family Stone – Fresh (1973)

Stand! and There’s a Riot Goin’ On represent the peak of Sly and the Family Stone’s career, but 1973’s Fresh is almost just as good. The band doesn’t necessarily do anything new with their sound on Fresh, but Sly’s arrangements and production do seem more upbeat and rambunctious than the the darker undertones that flowed through There’s a Riot Goin’ On. Maybe There’s a Party Goin’ On would have been an apt title?

Fresh kicks off with “In Time,” a song so funky that Miles Davis allegedly made his band listen to it nonstop for 30 straight minutes. The drums alone are enough to boggle the mind, and then the organ, guitar and bass all slide in and the song reaches a whole other level. I’ve listened to the first 40 seconds of or so of this song countless times, because I often make it that far and then decide I want to hear it come to life all over again.

The only other song on this album that moves me as much as “In Time” is the group’s chilling cover of “Qué Será, Será (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)” with Rose Stone on lead vocals. Rose’s voice is fantastic and when the chorus comes back around, with Sly’s voice high in the mix, it’s a genuinely moving moment.

Other clear highlights include “If You Want Me to Stay,” the album’s most successful single, and “I Don’t Know (Satisfaction),” a raw, soulful track that always sounds to me like it’s seconds away from dissolving into pure mayhem. “If It Were Left Up to Me” is great as well, though it’s a shame the song is so damn short.

One of the most impressive thing about Sly’s arrangements on Fresh is how almost every song still sounds modern, more than 40 years later. Here’s an experiment for you: listen to the intros of any of these tracks and then imagine them looping again and again. Sounds like a great hip-hop beat, doesn’t it? These guys were not messing around. Sly’s fun, forward-thinking blend of funk, soul, and rock and roll has aged incredibly well after all these years, and I have a feeling it will sound just as original and earth-shattering in another four decades.

I love this album! Anyone who loves to groove and have a good time needs to seek this one out immediately.

Listen below …

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