Sly & the Family Stone - There's A Riot Goin' On (1971)
Sly & the Family Stone were due to have submitted an album to Epic at least a year before Riot was released, but Sly Stone missed several recording deadlines, worrying CBS executive Clive Davis. Sly worked on Riot mostly alone in a studio that he had especially built for him at The Plant Studios in Sausalito, California, or at home in a studio located in the loft of his Bel Air mansion. The Record Plant studio included a bed and a wireless microphone system, and Sly would often simply lay down in the bed and record his vocals while in repose. According to the other Family Stone members, most of the album's instrumentation was performed by Sly alone in the studio via overdubbing. When the other band members contributed instrumentation to Riot tracks, they also did so by overdubbing alone with Sly instead of playing in unison as was usual for them. For "Family Affair" and some of the other selections on the LP, Sly enlisted several of his industry friends, including Billy Preston, Ike Turner, and Bobby Womack, to provide instrumentation on the album instead of his bandmates.
In the fall of 1971, Sly Stone personally drove the Riot masters to the CBS Records offices, relieving the worried Clive Davis. CBS issued "Family Affair" as the first single; it was the first Family Stone recording to be released in nearly two years. "Family Affair" became the fourth and final number-one pop hit for the band, but it was still a notable departure from the sound of their earlier hits. A somber, electric piano-based record, Sly and sister Rose Stone sing about the good and bad aspects of family, with Sly delivering his part in a low, depressed tone. The song's rhythm is provided by a drum machine (or rhythm box), making it one of the earliest hit recordings to feature use of such a device (the first was another Sly Stone production, Little Sister's "Somebody's Watching You"). Sly felt that the rhythm box, if used the way it was designed, made unrealistic sounds, and resorted to holding down five buttons, running the tape, then rewinding, holding down a different set of five buttons, and overdubbing.
Most of Riot features Sly alone on lead vocals – Rose is the only other member of the band who sings solo lead parts on the album. The entire record featured a dampened, dub-like sound as the result of Sly's extensive re-recording and overdubbing, which matches the burnt-out, frustrated, dred tone of Sly's lyrics and vocals. Riot finds Sly reveling in drug-induced euphoria ("Luv n' Haight"), praising himself ("Poet") and declaring that the good times and high hopes of 1960s are over, and the bad times (the 1970s) are here ("Africa Talks To You 'The Asphalt Jungle'"). This was also of the few songs to feature co-lead vocals by The Family Stone. The angry and forceful "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agian)" (included on Greatest Hits) is reincarnated as the slow, ghastly "Thank You For Talking to Me Africa."
"Runnin' Away" and "(You Caught Me) Smilin'" were Riot's other singles. The former features Rose Stone singing the lead vocals in unison with her brother Sly, and the latter was the first Family Stone recording for Gerry Gibson, who replaced Gregg Errico as the Family Stone's drummer. Errico had gradually withdrawn from the band early in 1971, as a result of Sly Stone's increased drug use and now unpredictable demeanor.
01. Luv n' Haight
02. Just Like a Baby
04. Family Affair
05. Africa Talks to You 'The Asphalt Jungle'
06. There's a Riot Goin' On
07. Brave & Strong
08. (You Caught Me) Smilin
10. Spaced Cowboy
11. Runnin' Away
12. Thank You For Talkin' to Me Africa
13. Runnin' Away (mono single version)
14. My Gorilla Is My Butler (previously unreleased instrumental)
15. Do You Know What? (previously unreleased instrumental)
16. That's Pretty Clean (previously unreleased instrumental)