Formed in 1966, Sly & the Family Stone released their first album, A Whole New Thing in October, 1967. Despite much critical praise the album failed to make an impact on the charts. When CBS Records executive David Kapralik suggested that Sly actively try to write a hit record, Stone reluctantly penned “Dance to the Music”; when the single was released in December of 1967, the song was an instant success, reaching #8 on the Billboard Hot 100. On the heels of that success the band began touring across the country and soon gained dedicated following; due in large part to their energetic performances and funky costumes.

The Woodstock Experience - Sly & the Family StoneIf you watch Sly & the family Stone in one of their many taped live performances on the Dick Cavett Show or some other source, it becomes immediately obvious why their live performances were so riveting. With four lead singers, Sly Stone, Freddie Stone, Larry Graham, and Rose Stone traded off on various bars of each verse in their own unique style. Cynthia Robinson shouted ad-libbed vocal directions to the audience and the band; urging everyone to “get on up and ‘Dance to the Music'” and demanding that “all the squares go home! How could you not respond to that?

In late 1968 the band released “Everyday People,” their first number one hit. The song became the lead single for the bands next album, Stand!. It was the success of that album that led to the band’s spot at Woodstock. They performed their set in the early morning hours of August 17 1969 and as Sony/Legacy’s recent release documents, they brought an infectious energy to their entire set.

The new Sony/Legacy release contains nine tracks recorded at Woodstock. The over 12 minutes of music that was released on the original Woodstock 3 LP vinyl set (later reissued on a double CD)–“Dance to the Music” and MEDLEY: “Music Lover”/Higher” can be heard on tracks five and six. Listening to the entire performance by the band was a pleasure. When the crowd gets a little restless after Sly pauses so the band can tune their instruments properly, he makes it perfectly clear that the band strived for perfection every time they played, no matter the circumstances.

M’Lady, Sing a Simple Song, You Can Make It If You Try, Everyday People, Dance To The Music, Music Lover/Higher, I Want To Take You Higher, Love City and Stand! All written by Sylvester Stewart and performed live with his band gives fans a wonderful portrait of a hugely gifted but ultimately erratic artist.

As part of this Sony/Legacy set a CD of Sly & the Family Stone’s seminal 1969 album, Stand! is also included. The album is considered by most music experts and fans alike to be the high point of the bands career. Containing, “Stand!,” “Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey,” “I Want to Take You Higher,” “Somebody’s Watching You,” “Sing a Simple Song,” “Everyday People,” “Sex Machine” and “You Can Make It If You Try,” there isn’t a bad song in the lot. In the liner notes, Sony Legacy producer Bob Irwin remarks, “Stand! was the first album where the groups vision truly came together, setting the pace for what they would become.”

As a side note, Sony/Legacy includes ecologically friendly cardboard slip covers for each disc and sleeves that include dates, credits and liner notes as well as a double-sided poster. The packaging is very well done and will look good on your shelf (the tracks are available digitally as well). More importantly, The Woodstock Experience: Sly & the Family Stone is a document of one of the most influential artists of the late sixties/early seventies and this set is a must own for any Sly & the Family Stone fan or Woodstock historian.