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 Extended Family

Blacklight Bar

Funk prophet Sly Stone's entire catalog reappears, fresh as ever.

by Robert Christgau in Rolling Stone

Sly & The Family Stone in 1973
Sly & The Family Stone - A Whole New Thingly and the Family Stone recorded two masterpieces. Unfortunately, one of them is absent from this inevitable catalog reissue: 1970's Greatest Hits, which crystallized the band's vision of freedom -- as Greil Marcus summarized, its complexity, coherence, wild anarchy and endless affirmation -- and preserved indelible singles that, shamefully, aren't even bonus cuts here.

That vision of freedom is present in embryo on the much-sampled A Whole New Thing without generating a single song any ordinary fan need remember.

Sly & The Family Stone - Dance to the MusicSly & The Family Stone - LifeDance to the Music has one -- guess what it is. But highlighted by the twelve-minute "Dance to the Medley," the thing moves, a groove album that pits Larry Graham's athletic bass against Greg Errico's lead-foot drums, with articulate horns and multivalent vocals swirling and punching and meshing up top. On Life, Sly Stone figures out his shit -- although its its were minor, its individual tracks stick, from the dyn-o-mite guitar of "Dynamite!" and the clucking horns of "Chicken" to the no-holds-barred clinches of "M'Lady" and the erotic ennui of "Jane is a Groupee."

Sly & The Family Stone - Stand!Highlighted but not exhausted by five songs Greatest Hits would recycle, 1969's Stand! revealed the magnificence of which this band would all to briefly be capable. "Sex Machine," which precipitated James Brown's, wah-wahs on a bit, but everything else is etched in Stone, from the equally precipitous "Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey" to the Chaka Khan fave "Somebody's Watching You" to, yes you can, "You Can Make It If You Try."

Sly & The Family Stone - There's a Riot Goin' OnSly & The Family Stone - FreshSly & The Family Stone - Small TalkSly Stone had Made It. But its temptations and contradictions ate him up. The result was the prophetic 1971 There's a Riot Goin' On, recorded in anarchic, druggy torpor over a year, or was it two, Stone didn't know the difference. Its taped-over murk presaging Exile on Main St., its drum-machine beats throwing knuckleballs at Miles and JB, it was darker than the Velvet Underground and Nico and funkier than shit, yet somehow it produced two smash hits, including the stark, deep "Family Affair." With its Richard Avedon and Doris Day covers, Fresh was Riot-lite, which equated to minor funk classic. Small Talk was the beginning of an end that proceeded through many false comebacks to yesterday, today and tomorrow. A Whole New Thing (1967) * * 1/2, Dance to the Music (1968) * * *, Life (1968) * * * 1/2, Stand (1969) * * * * 1/2, There's a Riot Goin' On* * * * *, Fresh (1973) * * * *, Small Talk * * *  




 'Odd' Men In

Blacklight Bar

Nearly 40 years later, Randall and Klugman are still the perfect couple.

by Paul Katz in Entertainment Weekly

The Odd Couple
Season 1
Jack Klugman, Tony Randall
Unrated, 611 mins., 1970-71
(Paramount)

Tony Randall & Jack Klugman
t's a classic sitcom formula: Pair a fastidious priss with a slovenly bumpkin and watch the volcano of idiosyncrasies erupt. This has yielded classic shows (Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy), but The Odd Couple -- two divorced men with polar-opposite personalities share a New York apartment -- is unparalleled. Still, bringing Neil Simon's sidesplitting 1965 comedy of manners from the stage to the small screen was problematic. The Odd Couple - The First SeasonExec producer Garry Marshall reveals in his commentary track that the studio initially didn't care for the pilot: "They said it was too much like the play. That was the point!"

The excellent 1968 film starred Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon, but the TV Couple -- Jack Klugman (as gruff sportswriter Oscar Madison) and Tony Randall (neatnik Felix Unger) -- are actors forever linked to these roles. (Although producers did consider Mickey Rooney and Dean Martin.) By the end of season 1, the series superseded its prior incarnations as Klugman and Randall subtly deepened the characters' friendship, even as the bickering continued. Randall, who died in 2004, is represented on the extras in a gag reel and a clip from The Mike Douglas Show; the 84-year-old Klugman provides commentary for the "It's All Over Now, Baby Bird" episode and proves he's still full of impish humor. "The executives at the network figured two guys living alone together -- they had to be gay, and that would [hurt] the ratings," he says. "Today you can't have a successful show unless you have a gay person on it." A-  

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