There’s an 8 part TV series exploring the art of music recording that was released near the end of 2016 on PBS that is a must see. And I’m enthusiastically recommending it after watching only two of the episodes so far. That’s how good it is. Each segment covers a different aspect of the record making process. The first one was all about the great producers, more of an overview, then the others get into more specifics. It’s on Hulu and probably on the PBS site or PBS Roku channel.
The first episode features Sly Stone a bit — talking about his innovative and groundbreaking approach to funk and soul music and the recording studio. I hope he and the band reappear in later episodes.
One of my favorite songs of Sly and the Family Stone has always been “If You Want Me to Stay,” from the 1973 Fresh album. It’s got one of the most gut-rumbling bass lines in all of musical history, and the groove is thick and so deep in the pocket that you can lose an arm in it. The below video of the band performing the song live on Soul Train is so good…it’s rare to see actual live performing back in the mid-70s, lip synching was so prevalent at the time. The band changes up the song quite a bit, but keeps the essence of the song intact. The way the greats are able to do. Reinterpreting on the fly. On the Sly.
I watch a video like this and I think, I’m watching, I’m listening to history. This is the music that will change lives. This is music that has changed lives. I got to see The Family Stone perform back in the mid 90s at the old Yoshi’s location when it was in the Rockridge neighborhood in Oakland. I think most of the original band was there (minus Sly of course). Watching Larry Graham play those iconic bass lines from 10 feet away was something I’ll never forget.