Sly & the Family Stone

Fresh

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    8
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Fresh expands and brightens the slow grooves of There's a Riot Goin' On, turning them, for the most part, into friendly, welcoming rhythms. There are still traces of the narcotic haze of Riot, particularly on the brilliant, crawling inversion of "Que Sera, Sera," yet this never feels like an invitation into a junkie's lair. Still, this isn't necessarily lighter than Riot -- in fact, his social commentary is more explicit, and while the music doesn't telegraph his resignation the way Riot did, it comes from the same source. So, Fresh winds up more varied, musically and lyrically, which may not make it as unified, but it does result in more traditional funk that certainly is appealing in its own right. Besides, this isn't conventional funk -- it's eccentric, where even concise catchy tunes like "If You Want Me to Stay" seem as elastic as the opener, "In Time." That's the album's ultimate charm -- it finds Sly precisely at the point where he's balancing funk and pop, about to fall into the brink, but creating an utterly individual album that wound up being his last masterwork and one of the great funk albums of its era.

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