Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
Sly and the Family Stone hadn’t recorded anything new in a year, and the record label wanted to keep Sly’s name in the public consciousness – and if they could make a little money in the bargain, so much the better. So they put together Sly and the Family Stone’s Greatest Hits. If not a cynical cash grab, it was at least within smelling distance.
But a funny thing happened – they scooped up some of the best singles of the sixties, when Sly Stone was writing songs emphasizing the coming together of all races, creeds, and colors into one big party, and the result was what Robert Christgau called “among the greatest rock and roll LPs of all time.” In his A+ review, he went on:
The rhythms, the arrangements, the singing, the playing, the production, and–can’t forget this one–the rhythms are inspirational, good-humored, and trenchant throughout, and on only one cut (“Fun”) are the lyrics merely competent. Sly Stone’s gift for irresistible dance songs is a matter of world acclaim, but his gift for political anthems that are uplifting but never simplistic or sentimental is a gas. And oh yeah–his rhythms are amazing.
Greatest Hits is a gold mine of joy, and the rewards have been evident to both fans and bands. Some of the latter have helped themselves to this gold mine and brought it to listeners in their own way. Here are twelve covers of the album’s classic tracks.
Digg Deep – I Want to Take You Higher (Sly & the Family Stone cover)
Sly and the Family Stone had an unforgettable set at Woodstock, featuring a version of “I Want to Take You Higher” that drove the crowd into the best kind of frenzy. Digg Deep doesn’t even try for that level of ecstasy, choosing instead to slow things down and lay them back. The result proves that, whether fast or slow, a killer groove is a killer groove.
Jen Chapin & Rosetta Trio – Everybody Is a Star (Sly & the Family Stone cover)
Jen Chapin recorded Light of Mine in 2007; the mostly-cover album was designed as an answer to the fear of the times. But Chapin added, “Political subtexts aside — or are they front and center? — this album is a groovefest, a playground of spirited dialogue, passionate expression and forward momentum.” The gentle instrumental version of “Everybody Is a Star” that appeared on the record served as a very nice reminder.
Steven Bernstein’s Millennial Territory Orchestra – Stand! (Sly & the Family Stone cover)
MTO Plays Sly was a tribute album put together by trumpet player Steven Bernstein and arranged for his Millennial Territory Orchestra. The opening track, “Stand!”, starts with a good four minutes plus of instrumental music before leading into Sandra St. Victor’s soulful vocal turn. On this live performance, that’s John Medeski of Medeski, Martin & Wood on organ.
Tim Timing – Life (Sly & the Family Stone cover)
Timothy Kodysh, a.k.a. Tim Timing, does a good job recreating the circus atmosphere of “Life” in the comforts of his Honolulu studio. If you like what you hear here, Timing’s got a batch of five dozen or so instrumental covers on his Soundcloud page
BOP (harvey) – Fun (Sly & the Family Stone cover)
Speaking of Timing, allmusic.com notes that “Timing is everything in the record business, and 1990 was the wrong time to release a goofy ska album in the U.S.” Michigan’s BOP (harvey) may have missed out on the ska boom by a few years, but at least they had “Fun” while they lasted.
Royal Bangs – You Can Make It If You Try (Sly & the Family Stone cover)
From the great state of Tennessee come the Royal Bangs, who come after “You Can Make It If You Try” with an emphasis less on funk than experimental noise. They give the song a real edge that works surprisingly well.
Telex – Dance to the Music (Sly & the Family Stone cover)
Neurovision was a synth-pop album released by Telex in 1980, and if you think that tells you all you need to know about their cover of “Dance to the Music,” well, you’re right. If you’ve got a jones for that robot-vocal sound, you’ll find that Telex’s kraft werks quite well.
Joan Jett – Everyday People (Sly & the Family Stone cover)
Joan Jett’s Album album featured a punchy cover of “Everyday People.” The studio version is fine, but add a live audience and you’ve got an extra bit of voom in the proceedings.
N Your Ear – Hot Fun in the Summertime (Sly & the Family Stone cover)
“Hot Fun in the Summertime” is one of those songs that would just feel like summer even if that word wasn’t in the title. This is an easy jazz version that holds on to all the original’s relaxed heat in its own way.
Turkuaz – M’Lady (Sly & the Family Stone cover)
Turkuaz are a pop-funk band from Brooklyn that has been building tremendous word of mouth with their live shows. Their cover of “M’Lady” (with a little “I Want to Take You Higher” mixed in) proves their claim that they sound like “the musical love child of Sly & the Family Stone and Talking Heads.”
Vince Tempera – Sing a Simple Song (Sly & the Family Stone cover)
Vince Tempera is an Italian musician and conductor, perhaps best known in America for his “Seven Notes in Black (Sette Note In Nero)” appearing in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol.1. 1976 saw him release Temperix, which contained a cover of “Sing a Simple Song” that infused the funk with European electro-disco. It’s no Booker T., but then, it’s not trying to be.
Harlem Parlour Music Club – Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Again) (Sly & the Family Stone cover)
Producer/drummer Sammy Merendino got a bunch of his friends together to play music in an old mansion in Harlem. Their Salt of the Earth album features a cover of “Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Again)” that gives it an Americana sound, less slap ‘n’ pop and more rolling waves of grain. And it really really works.
“One of the best party/summer records ever,” Amazon calls the original Greatest Hits. Buy it here.