I’m Just Like You: Sly’s Stone Flower 1969-70
Light In The Attic Records
I’m Just Like You: Sly’s Stone Flower 1969-70, just released on Light In The Attic Records, is a glowing 18-track “arc of the covenant” blueprint, forecasting the genius to come for Sly Stone. It gives listeners an inside view of how Stone was a true master of pop music construction, blending rock and soul like they were always companions–but just needed the right alchemist to balance both elements. The compilation also showcases the early experimentations of Stone’s use of the Maestro Rhythm King drum machine. Stone has said in the past that he broke several of those drum machines early on in the quest of finding the right sound.
It was money well spent.
The label Stone Flower, distributed by Atlantic Records in 1970, released four seven-inch records. The first release and biggest hit was “You’re The One,” which featured Sly’s little sister Vaetta Stewart on vocals. The full version, “Parts 1 & 2,” is a bright uptempo funk/R&B number that showcases Sly Stone’s knack for orchestrating tracks that swing.
In juxtaposition, an earlier version of the song appears on the compilation as well. It is a bluesier, grittier rendering of the song, played slower so the musicians can find the groove and explore it a bit closer.
There are many plucky organ and guitar vs. drum machine songs on this comp that just burn for days.
“Stagna,” the B-side to “You’re The One” (both recorded under the name Little Sister), is a slowed down wah-wah pedal, church keyboard-playing patch of goodness that forecasts the future Sly Stone classic “If You Want Me To Stay.” “Life and Death in G & A,” recorded under the name Joe Hicks, creeps along at a snail’s pace, letting you absorb every ounce of the sermon the organ provides. The instrumental “Africa” is the rough sketch of what is to come: the eight-minute workout “Africa Talks to You ‘The Asphalt Jungle'” from There’s a Riot Goin’ On, released in November 1971.
“Home Sweet Home” is an upbeat funk rocker that reminds one of James Brown’s “on the one” funk, complete with the standout break. It is in the bridge that you catch a glimpse of Sly Stone’s touch for layering of voices, which will become ever more prevalent later in his career.
Two early versions of “Somebody’s Watching You” appear here. They are both miles away from the radio-friendly version that would later appear on the record Stand! The first version, with full band, is a bright funk rocker equipped with crisp horn lines accentuating the female lead vocals. This could have easily come from the Around The World In A Day era of Prince. Wendy and Lisa included.
The second version is a stripped down, drum machine-driven, blues funk incarnation. Both versions represent the early toiling and concocting Stone was weighing in, developing his sound.
These dualities in song construction and early outlines of future hits pull the curtain back a bit and allow the listener to catch a peek at an innovator in his early stages.