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Sly and the Family Stone's There's a Riot Goin' on (33 1/3) Paperback – February 25, 2006

3.3 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Miles Marshall Lewis's absolutely essential 33 1/3 on Riot tells a good part of the story―the disillusioned national mood after the Death of the Sixties, Sly's post-Woodstock ambivalence towards the fame he once craved, and his sonic turn towards introversion and quietude that manifested in muffled vocals and a restrained drum machine in place of Greg Errico's thunderous backbeat.” ―Nate Patrin, Pitchfork

About the Author

Miles Marshall Lewis is founder and editor of Bronx Biannual, the journal of hip-hop literature. He has contributed to The Believer, Dazed & Confused, The Village Voice and many other publications. Lewis is author of Scars of the Soul Are Why Kids Wear Bandages When They Don't Have Bruises, a memoir. He currently lives in Paris, at work on The Noir Album: On Life in Multicultural Paris, due next year.
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Product Details

  • Series: 33 1/3 (Book 32)
  • Paperback: 142 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic; 1 edition (February 25, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826417442
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826417442
  • Product Dimensions: 4.8 x 0.4 x 6.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #541,091 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. Lund on May 27, 2006
Format: Paperback
If not manual, then perhaps liner notes. THERE'S A RIOT GOIN' ON (1971) is one of those paradigm-shifting albums of which there is a before and after, musically speaking. Although the book has 117 pages of text -- lyrics take up the remainder of the 132 page paperback -- Miles Marshall Lewis actually doesn't begin discussing the album's tracks until page 86. That leaves a lot of space to set up the scenario for the album, mixing musical achievements, biographical info, and even gossip into a concise yet informative background study of Sly & The Family Stone. While some of the biographical details are sensationalistic (drugs blah blah blah more drugs), hopefully they won't obscure the brilliance of the group's music.

The album itself is examined in detail, including an attempt to separate fact from fiction in regard to the personnel. For one, it turns out that all or part of the Family Stone is missing from much of the album, with Sly often playing the parts himself (or using such guests as Bobby Womack). The book gets into the details, but suffice to say that the original lineup of S&TFS came to an end at this point in time. Although there's probably more to the story that is known at this time, the author does a good job of detailing the album sessions, attempting to decipher the lyrics, and pointing out many of the ways that the album influenced pop culture. Perhaps one indication of the albums' importance regarding Sly's career is that eight of the cuts were lifted for the 2-CD THE ESSENTIAL SLY & THE FAMILY STONE. The book does have a few errors, and I disagree with some of the author's opinions (for one, I think HIGH ON YOU from 1975 is an excellent, highly-underrated album). Still, this book is recommended to anyone who wants more info about Sly and the album RIOT.
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Format: Paperback
Here is a passage from this book: "Around the making of Riot things were as chaotic for Sly as they were for Dirk Diggler in the third act of Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights." I'm not kidding. This is typical of the entire book.

After reading Douglas Wolk's excellent "James Brown Live At The Apollo" in this same series I was really looking forward to this. What a disappointment! Hardly a page goes by where the author doesn't try to tie Sly's legacy with modern rap music, as if Sly's impact on hip hop was ever in question. The writing style is trendy and cute and the author never misses a chance to include himself in the text. There is nothing here that can't be found in cd liner notes or David Marsh's "For the Record" Sly and the Family Stone oral history (which I do recommend).

"There's a Riot Goin' On" is genius, and deserves a much better book. Miles Marshall Lewis' work here is thin, uninspired and ultimately soulless.
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Format: Paperback
Miles Marshall Lewis tackles the challenge of writing about Sly and the Family Stone's infamous fifth album "There's a Riot Goin' On" (1971) in a very personable way. By presenting a presumably semi-autobiographical conversation between him (nee Ploot Parsley) and his long-ago scenester father when he was fifteen about Sly and the Family Stone, we get a sense of what Sly meant to his listeners, particularly the African American community. Lewis's approach is not academically tangential, a la Greil Marcus, or one of hero-worship (like so many other rock critics), but one that is grounded in the contradictory realities that Sylvester Stewart presented to his listeners -- an optimistic musical genius whose descent into drug abuse and the whirlwind trappings of fame rendered him null and void, a gloomy reflection of the paranoid times in which he lived.

Lewis's chronology of Sly and the Family Stone is fairly boilerplate, often interrupted by references HIGHLIGHTING Afrika Bambaataa, Puff Daddy, Prince, Andre 3000 and De La Soul instead of Sly, which can get tedious. But once Lewis gets into the album, his analysis is fairly convincing. I even smiled when he redeemed one of my favorite tracks on the album, "Spaced Cowboy," which is usually dismissed as the least effective track on the album.

The only weakness of Lewis's book is that he points out the flaws of this album, but never really gets around to saying why this album is as important as it is, warts and all. Can a record be flawed and masterful at the same time? He never really tackles this question of aesthetic sensibility head on. Sure, this book doesn't shed any new light on the crazy days and nights spent making this album, but it does mostly account for it's challenging appeal after all these years.
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