Sly Stone - keyboards, guitar, harmonica, lead vocals; Freddie Stone - guitar, vocals; Rose Stone - keyboards, vocals; Larry Graham - bass, vocals; Gregg Errico - drums; Cynthia Robinson - trumpet, vocals, percussion; Jerry Martini - saxophone, percussion
This performance, recorded just weeks after the release of their second album, captures Sly and the Family Stone at an exciting and highly formative time of their career. Soon after this show, the group would go on to record "Everyday People," the number one hit that would lead to international recognition and great commercial success.
The influence Sly and the Family Stone had upon their contemporary American music scene cannot be overestimated. It's generally acknowledged that they were a major force behind the development of 1960s era funk and soul, but they proved to have a comparable influence on other types of musicians as well, including jazz great Miles Davis and the rock guitar giant Jimi Hendrix. The multicultural personnel of the band was virtually unheard of in the 1960s, as was their integration of both male and female musicians. The group's forward thinking social progressiveness would go on to have a significant impact on both audiences and the music industry itself.
The early show begins humorously enough, with sounds of laughter soon punctuated by that familiar horn section. The melody soon riffs into the title track from the band's latest album, Life, and they're off and running. It's obvious that this will be an exciting performance; the band has no intention of letting the audience sit still.
Following a brief barbershop quartet style vocal intro, Sly kicks it up a notch as the band digs into the funk groove of "Color Me True." The vocal arrangements are outstanding; the band is smokin' hot; and the surge of momentum inside the Fillmore is almost palpable.
Next up, Rose Stone takes over on lead vocals for "It Won't Be Long." The group gets a deep James Brown-style groove going underneath, with tasty horn punctuations from Robertson and Martini.
By the band they begin "Are You Ready," most of the audience was already up and dancing. Deserving special recognition is Larry Graham, whose revolutionary bass style is well represented here; likewise, drummer Gregg Errico's playing is a solid, integral part of the group's singular sound. Together, they were unquestionably one of the tightest and most innovative rhythm sections of any 1960s era group.
"Are You Ready" transitions directly into a medley that takes everything to yet another level of intensity. They begin with "Dance To The Music," which showcases each member of the group individually, before blasting into "Music Lover." The tune soon grooves into a funked-out improvisational jam featuring parts of several then unfinished songs such as "I Want To Take You Higher". Sly encourages more audience participation before they bring the jam to a close, reprising "Music Lover" to end the set.
The audience demands more and the band returns to the stage. Larry Graham's rumbling bass leads off as the band kicks things into high gear with a spirited groove on "M'Lady." After several minutes of jamming, everything dissolves into an almost completely a cappella drum solo. Each member contributes their percussive sounds vocally, and the effort blends into something incredibly enjoyable. Unlike the late show, where this section is very brief, the spontaneous fun they're obviously having keeps the verbal creativity going considerably longer. The set ends to overwhelming applause. Though the audience was obviously having an enjoyable, raucous (if exhausting) time, their appetite for the funk-filled sonic feast seems insatiable. As always, Stone keeps then good and hungry, always wanting more.