Various Artists

Different Strokes by Different Folks

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Different Strokes by Different Folks is a tribute album to Sly & the Family Stone, but it has strong elements of a remix album, as well. All 14 tracks here -- 12 tracks comprise the album proper, with two bonus tracks -- find the featured artists (sometimes duets or groups of artists) using the original Sly & the Family Stone recording as a basis for a new version, which is a blend of samples, drum loops, newly overdubbed instruments, and vocals. Often, these involve new, freestyle raps, but sometimes -- as when Maroon 5 or Buddy Guy and John Mayer team up -- it's just a newly sung song, albeit one sung over samples. There's an impressive, rather diverse roster here -- everybody from Aerosmith's Steven Tyler and Moby to Chuck D, OutKast's Big Boi, D'Angelo, Isaac Hayes, Joss Stone, and Black Eyed Peas' will.i.am are here -- yet the sound of Different Strokes by Different Folks is rather consistent, due as much to the through-line of Sly Stone's original material as it is to the shared aesthetic of all the artists. This keeps things groove-oriented -- thanks to the predominant loops and drum machines, it's never as loose and funky as the original recordings, but its beats are infectious, and even if some of the added flair of the performances is a little labored or silly (most notably will.i.am on "Dance to the Music," which unfortunately kicks off the album, and Tyler's jive on "I Want to Take You Higher"), Stone's songs are so strong they shine through any missteps or cluttered production. This may not be a knock-out, but Different Strokes does serve as a potent reminder of just how vital Sly & the Family Stone's best music could be.

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