The years 1969 and 1970 were a period of transition for Sly Stone. Sly & the Family Stone's 1969 album Stand! was an unqualified smash that established them as leaders in both rock and soul, their electrifying appearance at Woodstock that summer was widely regarded as one of the brightest moments of the new culture's most celebrated event, and the 1970 stopgap compilation Greatest Hits was a brilliant assessment of their masterful run of hit singles. But these years of triumph also saw the group's key creative force retreating from live work and spending more time in the studio, and Sly began moving away from the crisp, eclectic funk the Family Stone created and embraced a new sound that was laid-back, introverted, and deeply idiosyncratic in its deliberately imprecise audio and use of the Maestro Rhythm King, an early electronic percussion device. It also found Sly working largely on his own, with the members of his band relegated to the status of occasional soloists. Stone's newly self-conscious approach would reach its apex on Sly & the Family Stone's 1971 album There's a Riot Goin' On, but one can hear the rough drafts of that album's trailblazing approach on I'm Just Like You: Sly's Stone Flower 1969-70. In 1969, Sly Stone and his then-manager David Kapralik launched Stone Flower Records, a label that would give Stone the opportunity to write and produce material for new acts, but one listen to these rare recordings makes it clear Sly was the auteur on these sessions. While there are strong hints of the early Family Stone sound on Joe Hicks' "Home Sweet Home" and "Somebody's Watching You" by Little Sister (led by Sly's sister Vet Stewart), by the time 6ix (a band Sly built around blues harp player Marvin Braxton) cut "Dynamite" and "I'm Just Like You," it was clear these were Sly Stone solo efforts in all but name, with the increasingly introverted artist handling everything but vocals and the occasional instrumental break. I'm Just Like You: Sly's Stone Flower 1969-70 features the five singles Stone Flower issued in its short lifetime, as well as a handful of unreleased numbers and alternate versions, including four tracks of Sly working out instrumental ideas in the studio. For the most part, this music lacks the undertow of defeat and despair that was so much a part of There's a Riot Goin' On (with the exception of Joe Hicks' spectral "Life & Death in G & A"), but otherwise the Sly solo tracks and cuts like "Dynamite" and Little Sister's "Stanga" are prescient emulations of the ghostly, narcotic tone of Riot as Stone drifted from hard funk into something new, powerful, and vaguely forbidding. I'm Just Like You: Sly's Stone Flower 1969-70 provides the missing link between Stand! and There's a Riot Goin' On, and is a fascinating overlooked chapter in the career of one of the greatest, most influential, and ultimately most tragic artists of the '60s and '70s.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming