Sly & The Family Stone – Fresh

Fresh

Sly & The Family StoneFresh Epic KE 32134 (1973)


Sly Stone was one of the great pop music producers of his time.  Music collectors obsess over Brian Wilson‘s efforts with The Beach Boys.  Some even joke that anybody obsessively into record collecting will eventually and inevitably end up listening to the Beach Boys.  Those same collectors should devote every bit as much adulation to Sly.

There’s a Riot Goin’ On was a landmark – a dark, murky, angry masterpiece.  But that album came out in 1971.  It was still the height of black militancy in America.  Things were starting to change though.  Late in 1971 the Powell Memo was issued, beginning the conservative business backlash against progressive social causes. Even the Black Panthers, one of the most visible militant black organizations, shifted tactics and started to devote energies to electoral politics.  For instance, Bobby Seale ran for mayor of Oakland in 1973 — just across the Bay from the San Francisco home of Sly & The Family Stone.

Fresh opens with “In Time,” a funky workout that highlights some of the innovations the album establishes.  The rhythm section of “The Family Stone” had (mostly) departed.  So instead of relying on individual ingenuity and improvisation from each player, Sly uses the song’s structure and arrangement to create its appeal.  The horn charts are the best example.  In isolation, the horn charts use fairly conventional soul/R&B harmonies.  But Sly chops them up.  The horn section plays little riffs that don’t seem to resolve fully, interrupted to create a rhythmic emphasis using what is nominally harmonic. There is some sinister sounding organ and short, punchy guitar stabs.  Underneath everything is a buoyant, throbbing bass line.  The percussion is a combination of a drum machine (a rather new invention) and a real live drummer.  Taken all together, the song emphasizes a kind of juggling act between the demands of bland commercial music of the sort that simply perpetuates the status quo.  The funkiness of the rhythms of “In Time” are kind of radical.  Yet those horn charts are certainly cognizant of an existing social landscape that assigns an established value to them.  Sly was synthesizing these two opposing sentiments.  It works because of the unique relationships between the instruments in the album’s mix.  The drums and bass, and hard syncopated rhythms in general, take a very prominent role.  The melodic and harmonic elements, even the lyrics, frequently seem to be fit around the rhythms rather than the other way around, which would be more conventional.

“If You Want Me to Stay” has Sly singing in this great high-pitched, croaking voice, with intentionally stilted and rushed rhythmic phrasing.  It may not seem like it on the surface, but this is Sly offering a kind of crypto-autobiographical statement on multiple levels.  The song might be said to rely on masking, with one reading being strictly about romantic entanglements (in relation to his future wife Kathleen Silva), but with another reading being about his position as a celebrity musician being pulled in different directions and trying of being a kind of spokesperson for a generation.

The best-known song on the album is undoubtedly the cover of “Que Sera Sera (Whatever Will Be Will Be),” with vocals by Rose Stone.  The song was song originally popularized by Doris Day in a bright yet rigid reading used in a film.

Fresh was not a complete critical success at the time.  It was a huge commercial hit, but not quite as big as immediately prior releases.  And that trend continued.  Within a few years Sly would start to seem irrelevant.  As reviewer yerblues wrote about Sly & The Family Stone’s 1976 album Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back, “If there’s one word that sums up Sly Stone’s approach here, it is capitulation. The originality that had formerly been a hallmark of the group’s recordings is wholly absent here.”  In those later years there was more emphasis on commercial success, even if it meant chasing dull fads, and integrity in holding to certain ideals (or a cause) was discarded.  If Sly had almost entirely capitulated by 1976, that question was on the table already years earlier.  In 1973 his approach was still in flux and not at all settled.

Certainly, there were other soul/R&B acts that faced similar pressures in the early/mid-1970s.  Gladys Knight & The PipsNeither One of Us (1973) also develops the sense of conflict and apprehension at a time when black militancy was waning and facing significant defeats.  Curtis Mayfield had his best albums behind him by the mid-70s, as the militant urgency of his earlier solo work faded or just seemed out of step.  Stevie Wonder might be the best parallel to Sly, using programmed bass in a way that ran in parallel with Sly’s drum machine experiments.  Though Stevie managed that by switching between switching between socially conscious material (“Living For the City,” “Pastime Paradise”) and nostalgic and romantic singer-songwriter stuff (“You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” “I Wish”) — with a somewhat greater volume of the latter.  Stevie almost had to slip in the former among a sufficient number of the latter.  Marvin Gaye‘s What’s Going On (1971) seemed to set the tone for a lot of early 70s soul music.  Just a few years later, though, Gaye released Let’s Get It On (1973), a funkier but also more personal album that — great as it is — can be seen as a turn away from broader social movements and toward individual issues.  This mirrored Sly’s approach.  His next album, Small Talk (1974), would turn toward domestic concerns and away from songs about social consciousness.

The sub-genre of Philly Soul makes another great example of the trends in early 70s soul music.  The O’Jays released Ship Ahoy in 1973.  It is an album that presents itself as socially-conscious, up to and including a cover image of the band depicted in the hold of a slave ship, yet most of the songs push a staunchly conservative/reactionary agenda, or at least trot out familiar conservative tropes.  Take “For the Love of Money.”  Its an iconic song, and one of the best-known O’Jays tunes — second only to “Love Train.”  It lambasts being “changed” by money, and the ills of an obsession with money.  That is an old christian sentiment — bringing to mind how Jesus threw the money-changers out of the temple in Jerusalem.  This might almost be seen as an anti-capitalist song.  But it isn’t really.  It is more about deflecting attention from structural economic inequality and lack of jobs, etc.  This is illustrated by another song from Ship Ahoy, “Don’t Call Me Brother.”  That song, despite its catchy vocal harmonies, is a lecture in “personal responsibility.”  It advocates pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps, rugged individualism that suggests individual decision-making is both necessary and sufficient to alter social outcomes and that social and economic issues (poverty, joblessness, incarceration, etc.) are no more than the aggregation of disparate individual decisions, rather than the products of collective and institutional mechanisms that produce, reproduce and transform social and economic relations and relegate individuals to certain positions and limit their scope of free will.  “Don’t Call Me Brother” is exactly the sort of conservative philosophy that people like serial rapist Bill Cosby have long advocated (with maximum elitist condescension).  It is also precisely the sort of worldview that suggests the black power/freedom movements are irrelevant, and that the status quo is self-justifying and inherently optimal.

So, turning back to Fresh, we have Sly offering up songs like “If It Were Left Up to Me” — with the lyrics, “If it were left up to me / we could put ideas in motion” and “now that it’s left up to me, and you / will you try? / will you try? / I promise from me to you, I will try” — and “Que Sera Sera (Whatever Will Be Will Be).”  There is a recognition in these songs of the difficulties facing black militancy, black nationalism, the whole hippie thing, and related causes.  Yet there is both determination and perseverance on display in the face of those challenges.  Despite perhaps getting worn out from a lifestyle of partying and drugs, and the difficulties of being a public figure, Sly was still fighting for the same causes as on Dance to the Music, Stand! and There’s a Riot Goin’ on.  But at the same time he was aware of all the changing times and circumstances, and those changes are reflected in his music on Fresh.  He puts into musical terms a new sense of meaning for the new circumstances around him.

Sly tinkered with this album incessantly, and there are alternate mixes of much of it floating around (including as bonus tracks to a reissue).  The result is probably the flat-out funkiest album Sly ever made.  It was hugely influential on a lot of musicians.  Some fans rate it a little less than some of the preceding albums.  I think it is top-shelf stuff, among the essentials.  Then again, Sly & The Family Stone are a very formative musical influence for me.  Fresh is an album I loved form the first time I heard it, and decades later I still love it.  Perhaps I’m a little biased.

Hard to imagine anyone hating this one, but for some this might be one of those game-changer type musical experiences, just as much as Sly’s other best work.

Sly & The Family Stone – The Woodstock Experience

The Woodstock Experience

Sly & The Family StoneThe Woodstock Experience Legacy 88697 48241 2 (2009)


I think it’s great that the complete performance of Sly & The Family Stone at Woodstock has finally been released — it only took 40 years!  What is amazing is that the band has a long-standing reputation as having put on fierce live shows in their prime, yet other than a few stray songs on festival compilations they never released a full-length live album.  That always seemed incongruous.  Now, finally, at least the Woodstock performance is available.  It starts off inauspiciously with “M’Lady,” which is followed by an apology for the bad sound and a plea for corrective measures.  After that, the sound does improve, even if it’s still not perfect.  The group certainly did have a complex sound, with vocals coming from just about everybody, a horn section, and lots of interaction from all the performers.  The music placed stiff demands on the still evolving equipment of the late 60s.  Anyway, when the band gets rolling, they are quite a force, regardless of the sound problems.  They focus on a lot of uptempo, funky numbers with a lot of drive.  Rose Stone‘s organ takes a prominent position.  This is just a great performance, and I can only hope that a band as successful as Sly & The Family Stone–led by a noted producer no less — recorded more live material that will be released some day.

There are a few things to be said about the packaging here.  A whole series of “Woodstock Experience” collections were released featuring Woodstock recordings of an artist/group together with the studio album they released beforehand (in this case, Stand!).  The cynic in me looks at this as a crass marketing move, given that live Woodstock performances are likely to appeal mostly to fans who probably already have the studio album — forcing them to repurchase it to get to the new live material.  Though these seem to be priced such that you aren’t totally ripped off if you are repurchasing.  More significant is the inaccurate designation of “previously unreleased” material.  “Love City” is denoted here as previously unreleased, which is incorrect because it was released on the 1994 comp Woodstock Diary.

Sly and The Family Stone – Ain’t But the One Way

Ain't But the One Way

Sly and The Family StoneAin’t But the One Way Warner Bros. 23700-1 (1982)


An album that really had more potential than Sly’s previous few efforts, though it still ends up lacking.  Snappier horn charts and backing vocals would have gone a long way.  Side one hints at early Prince.  The side two opener “Who in the Funk Do You Think You Are” features a guitar riff echoed by ZZ Top‘s “Sharp Dressed Man“.  It would have been interesting if Sly had expanded upon the short but intriguing “Sylvester”, the one completely unguarded moment when he musters a revealing sense of dejected nostalgia.  A whole album like that song might have really been a breakthrough.  Instead this is more like Sly’s 70s coke hangover.  Still, I would throw “L.O.V.I.N.U.” and “Sylvester” on a best-of disc and not feel bad about it for a second.

Sly & The Family Stone – Dance to the Music

Dance to the Music

Sly & The Family StoneDance to the Music Epic BN 26371 (1968)


In 1968 Sly’ second album turned pop music on its ear. His energetic blend of funky vamps with a host of rock influences left an indelible mark. The bright idealism and overflowing energy take this music to a higher level. Sly’s confidence and sheer willpower transform what seems laughable on paper.

Where the group’s debut had decent results employing a shotgun approach to contemporary soul styles, Dance to the Music explodes by digging into the dazzling musicianship of the group, highlighted by Sly’s expertly textured production. The title song is considered the classic song of the album, but it is perhaps the least interesting as it sits. Most of the tunes build off big vamps. Actually, many of the songs use the same chords. Vaguely resembling modal jazz, the group’s interpretations add rich color and flavor to the songs without adding bulk. The bounce of the grooves hint at psychedelia but stay true to roots in gospel.  “Dance to the Medley” pulls together everything that makes the album as a whole great. That song also ends with some fuzzed-out noodling that sounds way ahead of its time.

Grandmaster of the electric bass Larry Graham gets plenty of opportunities to shine. This album, more than any other, showcases his power while still utilizing all his finesse. The rest of the band is on fire as well (unique at the time was a horn section that was part of the group). Dance to the Music shines brightest as the group interacts and builds up the songs by feel.

Not everything is perfect here. The lyrics are at times thin or even a bit hokey. But the group sings along with charm. They seem to enjoy making the music. Listening to it, the fun is infectious. Just listen to the organ and piano on “I Ain’t Got Nobody (For Real)” to get a taste of the careening, soulful forces packed into this album.

Many do not consider Dance to the Music Sly’s best work; however, it was the turning point. This is still a hugely influential album. Sly gave Miles Davis a copy and Miles couldn’t take it off his turntable. Miles wore out the copy and had to ask for another. These sounds were revolutionary to say the least. Yet with such snappy results there is hardly time to waste being critical–just dance to it baby.

Sly & The Family Stone – A Whole New Thing

A Whole New Thing

Sly & The Family StoneA Whole New Thing Epic BN 26324  (1967)


A reviewer once described A Whole New Thing as “the most exciting mediocre record I’ve ever heard.”  That about sums this up.  Sly was still working out the details of his whole new thing.  He would, of course, perfect it in just a matter of months.  What helps this album, though, is that whatever parts of Sly’s vision were still under construction aren’t terribly apparent behind the gale force of the music’s raw energy.  Any album that opens with something like “Underdog” has achieved something.  It quotes the familiar melody of “Frère Jacques” for the effect of lulling you to sleep, only to jolt you awake with a big beat and punchy horns:

I know how it feels to expect to get a fair shake/
but they won’t let you forget that you’re the underdog/
and you gotta be twice as good

The album’s weakest moments tend to be those with the most overt similarities to conventional soul of the day.  Sly evolved into an effective vocalist with perfect rhythm, but when he tries to be the typical kind of emotive soul singer (like you would find on Stax or Motown or Atlantic) his voice comes across as overly affected.  The vocals in general aren’t as well integrated into the group’s sound as they would be later.  Yet the best stuff — the up-tempo numbers, especially those dominating side one — are infectious even when the songwriting isn’t Sly’s best.  The group gets a lot of mileage out of even the thinner material.  A Whole New Thing is not an essential item, but even this somewhat lesser outing from one of pop music’s greatest geniuses will entertain you.

The Discerning Listener’s Guide to Sly & The Family Stone

A guide to the recorded music of Sly & The Family Stone. Enjoy!

Danny Stewart

“A Long Time Away” (1961)

Sly Stone — born Sylvester Stewart — first made a name for himself as a jive-talking radio DJ.  He also worked as a record producer in the early 1960s, and released a few singles under various aliases and with groups such as The Stewart Four, The Stewart Brothers, and The Viscaynes.

Laugh, Laugh

The Beau Brummels

“Laugh, Laugh” / “Still in Love With You Baby” (1964)

“Laugh, Laugh” and “Just a Little” were each produced by Sly Stone.  These Beau Brummels tracks are some of the best evidence that Sly knew how to produce a record even before Sly & The Family Stone was formed.

A Whole New Thing

Sly & The Family Stone

A Whole New Thing (1967)

A decent, if uneven, debut.  This is what launched one of pop music’s brightest groups.  Sly Stone was still working out the details of his musical vision, but tagging along is a fun ride.  Even if they don’t quite fully achieve a “whole new thing” here, they at least established that they were gonna try.  “Underdog” is a classic.

Dance to the Music

Sly & The Family Stone

Dance to the Music (1968)

The debut jumped around a bit trying to find precisely what Sly & The Family Stone were going to be about.  Dance to the Music locked in to exactly everything that the “whole new thing” title of their debut promised.  The songs are all catchy, upbeat, bright, and the lyrics deliver smart wordplay with some social commentary thrown on top.  What might be difficult to appreciate in retrospect is that the group was interracial, and included both men and women, at a time when that was not happening elsewhere.  They also had a horn section within the group, whereas most soul acts didn’t consider the horn section part of the group proper — like The Memphis Horns who played for just about every Stax Records singer.  Most of the songs on Dance to the Music revolve around very similar material.  But the group really proves their mettle by making each one sound fresh.  Sly gave Miles Davis a copy, and Miles later had to ask for another because the first was worn out from so much use.  While that might just seem like a mildly amusing anecdote, it does help explain an underlying strength of the album: the improvisational flair built around irresistible rhythms.

 Danse a la musique

The French Fries

“Danse a la musique” / “Small Fries” (1968)

 

Life

Sly & The Family Stone

Life (1968)

This is like a continuation of Dance to the Music.  “M’Lady” is quite similar to “Dance to the Music,” for instance.  But when you find a good thing, go with it.  While not as essential as some of the group’s other albums, if you like their 1960s stuff this is worth seeking out.

 Live at the Fillmore East

Sly & The Family Stone

Live at the Fillmore East (2015)

An archival live collection recorded shortly after the release of Life.  This was initially released as a 2-LP limited edition album, then as an expanded 4-CD set.

Stand!

Sly & The Family Stone

Stand! (1969)

Generally considered one of the group’s best albums.  With “Everyday People” Sly reached the pinnacle of the unbridled optimism of the 1960s, in the process coining the phrase “different strokes for different folks.”  The depth and feeling he fit into the space of a short pop song was a spectacular achievement.  Stand! established the group as one of the most important pop acts of their time.  This is not a bad place to start in their catalog.

Hot Fun in the Summertime

Sly & The Family Stone

“Hot Fun in the Summertime” / “Fun” (1969)

If ever one of Sly’s songs demonstrated both his absolution mastery of record producing and his witty, self-awareness in the world of soul music, “Hot Fun in the Summertime” was it.  It kind of pokes fun at other soul groups.  It also is a masterclass in how to make a record tailored to the talents of individual performers without losing sight of the overall effect of the group effort.  This is my personal favorite.

Woodstock
Woodstock (1970)

“Woodstock” has since become etched on the collective consciousness as a symbol of 1960s counterculture.  Sly & The Family Stone were right there for it.  The first album of material from the festival features a medley excerpted from the group’s performance.  Additional recordings from Woodstock came out on Woodstock Diary, but it was not until 2009 that the full performance was available on an album.  The original Woodstock album might help put the music in some kind of context though.

The Woodstock Experience

Sly & The Family Stone

The Woodstock Experience (2009)

Disc two of this collection features the complete performance of Sly & The Family Stone at Woodstock.  Proof that the band put on a fierce live show in their prime is here in abundance (despite a few sound equipment problems).

Life and Death in G & A

Abaco Dream

“Life and Death in G & A” / “Cat Woman” (1969)

The group released two throwaway singles (this and “Another Night of Love”) under the pseudonym “Abaco Dream”.  “Life and Death in G&A” is a straight funk number, with the largely instrumental “Cat Woman” featuring lingering, psychedelic synthesizer — both oddities unlike anything in the proper Sly & The Family Stone discography.  “Cat Woman” is the more intriguing side because it’s quite weird, for a major pop group or otherwise, while the A-side is driving but kind of simple.

Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)

Sly & The Family Stone

“Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” / “Everybody Is a Star” (1969)

The group’s all-around best non-album single.  The A-side is a hard, funky number lead by the slap bass of Larry Graham that foreshadows Sly’s next moves.  The B-side is an uplifting, motivational song rooted in what the group did throughout the Sixties (especially “You Can Make It if You Try”).

The First Great Rock Festivals of the Seventies: Isle of Wight / Atlanta Pop Festival
The First Great Rock Festivals of the Seventies: Isle of Wight / Atlanta Pop Festival (1971)

Woodstock was only one of many large rock and pop festivals held in that era.  The group appeared at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival in England.

Somebody's Watching You

Little Sister

“Somebody’s Watching You” / “Stanga” (1970)

Little Sister was, yes, Sly’s little sister Vet’s group.  This single is historically noteworthy as being the first major (non-underground) release to feature a drum machine.  Little Sister would provide backing vocals for numerous Sly & The Family Stone releases in the coming years.

There's a Riot Goin' on

Sly & The Family Stone

There’s a Riot Goin’ On (1971)

The defining Sly & The Family Stone album is without question There’s a Riot Goin’ on.  For a more complete overview of the album, read jlg4ever‘s review on RateYourMusic.  Whole books have been written about and around this album, so I will only sketch the key details.  It represented an abrupt shift from the last album.  Now dark, murky sounds dominated.  Original band members were departing.  Sly was using a drum machine, performing a lot of the music all by himself, and Bobby Womack appears somewhere in the mix.  There really isn’t another album like this.  Suffice it to say, it’s one of the all-time great rock/pop/soul albums.  An absolute essential.

Fresh

Sly & The Family Stone

Fresh (1973)

Not nearly as militant and obtuse as There’s a Riot Goin’ on, Fresh had a crisper funk sound.  It’s yet another classic.  Few groups have ever produced a series of albums as good as Sly had from the late 1960s through (at least) Fresh.  This is one of the essential Sly & The Family Stone discs.

Small Talk

Sly & The Family Stone

Small Talk (1974)

Sly took another turn with Small Talk.  It had a much quieter, mellower sound than any of the group’s previous albums.  The band was different, with a number of new members added and some old ones departed, and even boasted a violinist.  This album really is neglected.  The mature sound and lyrics dealing with raising a family and other domestic interests offer a new perspective on Sly’s music.  Despite having a few weaker moments (like “Mother Beautiful” and “Wishful Thinkin'”), this has held up pretty well.  People used to tell author Joseph Heller that his later books weren’t as good as Catch-22, to which he would respond, but what is?  To say Small Talk isn’t as good as something like There’s a Riot Goin’ on, or even Fresh, is kind of unfair.  No matter what, Sly had to go downhill at least a little as long as he kept releasing material following such magnificent previous achievements.  As long as you don’t come to this looking for more of the same, it should be a rewarding listen.  Small Talk deserves to be considered among the group’s better albums, even if it’s on a tier slightly below the all-time classics.

High on You

Sly Stone

High on You (1975)

High on You was not credited to “& The Family Stone”, which was perhaps a moot point with the original members of the band already disappearing in previous years.  This is a respectable funk/soul outing, though it’s nothing spectacular.  Sly’s popularity would decline from this point forward.  He was not really pushing himself anymore and that was starting to show.

Heard You Missed Me, Well I'm Back

Sly & The Family Stone

Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back (1976)

Perhaps due to the critical panning that Small Talk unfairly received, Sly’s next few albums tended to be merely attempts to recreate his “old” sound.  Each one was billed as his big comeback.  Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back is probably the worst album in the catalog.  It’s really embarrassing. Only bother with this if you have a morbid curiosity to hear how bad it really is — like smelling sour milk to verify the obvious consensus.

Back on the Right Track

Sly & The Family Stone

Back on the Right Track (1979)

Another lackluster “comeback” album that tries to recapture something lost.  It is a marked improvement over Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back.  Worth it for “Remember Who You Are”, a real gem from Sly’s late period.  The rest won’t win any new converts.

Ten Years Too Soon

Sly

Ten Years Too Soon (1979)

Well, for better or worse, this is one of the earliest remix albums.  It’s a bunch of old Sly & The Family Stone hits recast for disco-era dancefloors.  Profoundly unessential.

Ain't But the One Way

Sly & The Family Stone

Ain’t But the One Way (1982)

Sly all but disappeared for a while, though he briefly surfaced with Funkadelic for The Electric Spanking of War Babies.  Then along came Ain’t but the One Way in 1982.  In many ways, it marks the first time Sly actually presented a new sound since Small Talk.  Unfortunately, the performances are generally lackluster.  If the album could muster the intensity of “Underdog” in the horn section, things might have been different.  Aficionados will probably want to seek this out, particularly for “L.O.V.I.N.U.” and “Sylvester,” but it’s not essential.

 Eek-Ah-Bo Static Automatic

Sly Stone

“Eek-Ah-Bo Static Automatic” / “Love and Affection” (1986)

 

I'm Back! Family and Friends

Sly Stone

I’m Back! Family & Friends (2011)

After a very long period of inactivity, and a few brief reappearances touring, Sly released his first album under his name in decades in 2011.  What we have are mostly his old hits re-recorded, plus a few new songs.  The old songs are all performed with guest artists.  The hits are still great, and Sly has updated and modernized things in a way that needs no handicap.  Yet, the guest spots add nothing and these re-recordings are somewhat redundant.  Fans who love everything else may get a small kick out of this, but it’s nothing essential.  It is worth mentioning that due to an ongoing dispute with his (former) manager involving allegations of fraud regarding his royalty payments, Sly was living in a van in a rougher part of Los Angeles since 2009.  He has indicated that he’s now too paranoid to trust record companies to release any new material.

Recorded in San Francisco: 1964-67

Sly Stone

Recorded in San Francisco: 1964-67

Oddities collection.

Precious Stone: In the Studio With Sly Stone 1963-1965

Sly Stone

Precious Stone: In the Studio With Sly Stone 1963-1965 (1994)

A collection of early material Sly recorded for Autumn Records.

Listen to the Voices: Sly Stone in the Studio 1965-70
Listen to the Voices: Sly Stone in the Studio 1965-70 (2010)

A collection of tracks produced by Sly Stone, including those for his label Stone Flower.

The Essential Sly & The Family Stone

Sly & The Family Stone

The Essential Sly & The Family Stone (2003)

If you want a compilation of Sly & The Family Stone material, this is the one to get.  It supplanted Anthology, which had already supplanted Greatest Hits as the best one available.  Any collection will be good, but the two-CD Essential one is best because it’s longer and you will probably want the additional material.

Additional compilations that might be of interest are The Collection, which is a boxed set of the most essential albums (but is not a complete discography), and Higher!, which collects singles and oddities.