I’ve been sitting on this album for months. Why!? I don’t know. It’s cool, it’s groovy, and I can hear the depth of this album, complete with overdubbing and the imperfections of analog recordings. Honestly, it’s great. But this has been a tough album for me to get my head into.
“There’s A Riot Goin’ On” is an aptly named album, echoing the turmoil that Sly Stone and his family and band were going through at the time, including heavily increased drug use. This album has some serious funk happening, but its also got a strange sense of isolation to it. Tracks like “Family Affair” are cohesive, well-produced, and have a beautiful depth of sound and clarity to them, but there is no doubting the undertones of loneliness. The sounds are complete, but they are separated from one another, which, as I discovered, is due in part to the fact that this album was primarily recorded by Sly, alone in the studio, using overdubbing.
So track by track it’s kick ass and showcases Sly’s funk vocals, backed by the smooth and mellow synths and guitar fills. “Smilin'” is a great example of these sounds, and the easiness of some of the tracks. The entire album is hailed as a critically acclaimed (and criticized) recording for its time, but for me, there is a lack of momentum across the entire album. I really don’t want to finish listening to most of the tracks on the album (with the exception of a few). At this point, I try to remember to contextualize this album and remember to keep in mind that this is a follow up to a much more psychedelic sound on previous albums, so the darkness that fuels the funk on “There’s A Riot Goin’ On” is a very different underlying energy. It still captures elements of the psychedelic 60s but serves as a much bolder transition into a new sound for Sly and The Family Stone.
I suppose that’s one of the main reasons that this album is number 99 on the Rolling Stone list. And I can respect that. I just don’t think this is the kind of music I want to listen to very often. So with that, onwards to number 98…(and I feel good to leave this album behind)…