Sly & the Family Stone

Greatest Hits/There's a Riot Goin' On/Fresh

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While the single-disc Greatest Hits and the double-disc Anthology function as ideal introductions to Sly & the Family Stone, this triple-disc set goes a step further. The other two best-ofs supply just the hits; this collection includes the Greatest Hits album but then gives you something that the other two didn't offer: the album experience. There's a Riot Goin' On and Fresh proved that Sly & the Family Stone were more than just a singles group. Released in 1971 and 1973, respectively, these two fully realized albums featured a genuine cohesiveness from beginning to end, characterized by spiritual, introspective funk. You miss out on this unless you sit down and play these albums all the way through; the sum of their parts is far greater than the songs on their own. For example, "Family Affair" was a fantastic hit for Sly, a wonderful moment of soul-exuding funk. But the song takes on a whole new meaning when heard as the summit of There's a Riot Goin' On's murky disorientation. The same goes for "If You Want Me to Stay," a wonderful starting point for the successive songs on Fresh. Furthermore, the inclusion of Greatest Hits in this triple-disc collection is just as vital, providing most everything else from Sly's career that is really worth bothering with in terms of singles. Granted, you can't go wrong with the single-disc Greatest Hits or the double-disc Anthology -- they're both amazing starting points for neophytes -- but they don't offer what this triple-disc set does: the album experience in addition to Sly's best singles. It might just be worth the extra money, since the other best-ofs may still leave you hungry for both There's a Riot Goin' On and Fresh in their entirety.

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