Light in the Attic reissues every track from Sly Stone’s short-lived Stone Flower label
by Andrew Mason
Is it possible that this is really the first compilation to focus on Sly Stone’s short-lived but influential Stone Flower label? Leave it to Light in the Attic, now a venerable dozen years into their thoughtful, idiosyncratic, and highly respected reissue program, to bring this gem to light. Stone Flower operated for a mere two years, 1969 and ’70, and released only five singles. Insignificant, perhaps, until it becomes clear that this space of time was essentially a period of cultivation for the musical ideas that would come to fruition in Sly’s 1971 masterwork There’s a Riot Goin’ On. The quirky use of the Maestro Rhythm King drum machine, the spacey wah-wah guitar and organ, the almost unhinged bass rumblings—all these elements first showed up in these productions, made for a handpicked series of frontmen (and women) who were led by Sly’s sister Vaetta Stewart.
Little Sister, as Vaetta and her group were billed, had the only “hit” for the label, “You’re the One,” not coincidentally the most conventionally Family Stone–sounding tune Stone Flower released. The song, and particularly its chanted chorus breakdown, would become a favorite with Afrika Bambaataa (he often cited it as one of his favorite breaks) and was even covered by the Bam-helmed group Shango in 1991.
Light in the Attic’s superb collection includes all the official Stone Flower releases, plus ten previously unissued cuts from the label archives (including early versions of Riot favorites “Just Like a Baby” and “Africa”), all benefiting greatly from a fine remastering job—from the original reels, as the ample liner notes point out. A hefty 40-some pages, the CD booklet is essential reading for the Sly aficionado, including as it does interviews with many of the main players in the story, including the “incredible, unpredictable” Sly Stone himself. The collection is available in all formats, including a deluxe 2LP set in a heavy-stock gatefold jacket.
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