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"CAPTAIN BILLY’S MAGIC 8 BALL" - A New Series Created By William Mesnik, The Mind Behind “Mesmerized”- EPISODE # 17 - "THE HEALING POWER OF FUNK" - FEATURING THE ALBUM "FRESH" By SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE IN HIGH DEFINITION WITH NARRATIVE

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“THE HEALING POWER OF FUNK

EPISODE #18 FRESH by Sly and the Family Stone (Epic, 1973)

Earworms abound in this collection of rhythmic miracles – a slicker, more defined development of the statement started with the startling, ground-breaking There’s A Riot Goin’ On, two years earlier. In this chugging joy generator, Sly seems to be having a great time, and it never fails to pick up my spirits. It’s a defibrillator for the soul.

When Sister Rose Stone coos Doris Day’s Que Sera Sera (the only cover to appear on an original Family Stone album), you know you’re in the presence of greatness. Each successive number (Frisky, In Time, Skin I’m In, Babies Makin’ Babies – to name a few) motors you along the soundscape with persuasive funk and phrases that repeat, but are never repetitive. The inventive rhythms keep mutating. Eno claimed that Fresh was revolutionary in recording history because the rhythm instruments were all pushed forward in the mix. It’s one of George Clinton’s favorites, and Rolling Stone listed it as 186 on the 500 greatest albums of all time. Sly has devotees across the musical spectrum.

This former DJ and Producer turned Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee scored a ream of chart hits in the sixties before everything imploded and he went AWOL. Apocryphally, during the recording of There’s a Riot Goin’ On, Sly was holed up in his mansion with coke, guns, and a drum machine, emerging with an album both disturbing and irresistible (listen to Family Affair). Fresh plants its flag in a friendlier location. The cover photo by Richard Avedon is an optical illusion. It looks like Sly is leaping into the air, but was actually posed lying down. The whole enterprise is a magic trick. It wasn’t the end, but rather closer to the outset of the enigmatic creator’s ragged journey.

My personal connection to this record goes back to the NYC winter of ’77, when I was stuck in a grungy studio apartment, praying for career redemption. Snow and ice covered the sidewalks, but inside I was being warmed by Sly’s urgent percolations.


By Rich Buckland 07/05/2021 03:41 AM

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