ON THIS DATE (44 YEARS AGO)
April 27, 1968 – Sly and the Family Stone: Dance to the Music is released.
# ALL THINGS MUSIC PLUS+ 4/5
# allmusic 3/5
Dance to the Music is the second studio album by Sly & the Family Stone, released on this date in April, 1968 on Epic/CBS Records.
It contains the Top Ten hit single of the same name, which was influential in the formation and popularization of the musical subgenre of psychedelic soul and helped lay the groundwork for the development of funk music.
No group epitomized the turbulent social upheaval of the late ’60s more than Sly & The Family Stone. This gender-integrated, multi-ethnic band was led by 23-year-old Sly Stone (aka Sylvester Stewart), a former DJ/producer. On Dance to the Music, whose title track became a Top Ten hit, the group utilized heaping amounts of horns, fuzz guitar, and bottom-heavy bass for a form of modern soul-rock that influenced contemporaries from Miles Davis and George Benson to The Temptations. Sly’s legacy later steered the course for funk in the ’70s and was a major influence on Prince.
The Family Stone itself never thought very highly of Dance to the Music while they were recording it; its existence was the result of CBS executive Clive Davis’ request for Sly Stone to make his sound more pop friendly. To appease his employer, Sly developed a formula for the band’s recordings, which would still promote his visions of peace, brotherly love, and anti-racism while appealing to a wider audience. Most of the resulting Family Stone songs feature each lead singer in the band (Sly, Freddie Stone, Larry Graham, and newcomer Rose Stone) sharing the lead vocals by either singing them in unison or taking turns singing bars of each verse. In addition, the songs contained significant amounts of scat singing and prominent solos for each instrumentalist.
The formula not only worked in selling records, but influenced the entire music industry. When “Dance to the Music” became a Top 10 pop hit, R&B/soul producers and labels immediately began appropriating the new “psychedelic soul” sound. By the end of 1968, The Temptations had gone psychedelic, and The Impressions and Four Tops would join them within the space of two years. New acts such as The Jackson 5 and The Undisputed Truth would show heavy influence from Dance to the Music and its follow-ups, Life and Stand!. Many of the songs on this album (particularly the title track, “Are You Ready”, “Ride the Rhythm”, and the selections that make up the “Dance to the Medley” that closes Side A) adhere closely to the formula, and also share chord progressions.
Exceptions include “Color Me True”, a more somber selection about how one fits in with society, Sly’s solo number “Don’t Burn Baby”, and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again”, a slow ballad sung by Larry Graham. Also included is the band’s first Epic single, “Higher” (later reworked as “I Want to Take You Higher”), and a rerecording of their only release for Loadstone Records, “I Ain’t Got Nobody”.
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine, allmusic
Sly & the Family Stone came into their own with their second album, Dance to the Music. This is exuberant music, bursting with joy and invention. If there’s a shortage of classic material, with only the title track being a genuine classic, that winds up being nearly incidental, since it’s so easy to get sucked into the freewheeling spirit and cavalier virtuosity of the group. Consider this — prior to this record no one, not even the Family Stone, treated soul as a psychedelic sun splash, filled with bright melodies, kaleidoscopic arrangements, inextricably intertwined interplay, and deft, fast rhythms. Yes, they wound up turning “Higher” into the better “I Want to Take You Higher” and they recycle the title track in the long jam “Dance to the Medley,” but there’s such imagination to this jam that the similarities fade as they play. And, if these are just vamps, well, so are James Brown’s records, and those didn’t have the vitality or friendliness of this. Not a perfect record, but a fine one all the same.
All songs written by Sylvester Stewart, and produced and arranged by Sly Stone for Stone Flower Productions.
“Dance To The Music” – 3:00
“Higher” – 2:49
“I Ain’t Got Nobody (For Real)” – 4:26
Dance To The Medley – 12:12
“Music Is Alive”
“Ride the Rhythm” – 2:48
“Color Me True” – 3:10
“Are You Ready” – 2:50
“Don’t Burn Baby” – 3:14
“I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” – 3:25
CD bonus tracks
2007 CD limited edition reissue
“Dance to the Music” (mono single version) 2:57
“Higher” (mono single version) 2:53
“Soul Clappin'” 2:38
“We Love All” (previously unreleased) 4:30
“I Can’t Turn You Loose” (previously unreleased) 3:33
“Never Do Your Woman Wrong” (instrumental) 3:33