These performances were recorded weeks after the release of Sly and the Family Stone's second album, Life, but just before the "Everyday People" single would vault the band to international recognition and incredible commercial success. The influence Sly and the Family Stone would soon have on the American music scene cannot be underestimated. It's safe to say they were a major force in the development of 1960s era funk and soul, but they would have equal influence on the likes of other musicians, including jazz great Miles Davis and rock guitar giant, Jimi Hendrix. The multicultural personnel of the band, as well as the inclusion of both men and women in the group, were virtually unheard of in the 1960s. The fact that these multicultural elements would blend so perfectly had far-reaching effects on both audiences and the music industry itself.
The late show
begins exactly where they left off - with the early show encore, "M'Lady." From the opening, rumbling bass line to the powerful punch of the group kicking in, you can tell this is going to be one wild ride. Unlike the early show, they rarely catch their breath on this set. From "M'Lady," they transition directly into another performance of "Life," the title track off their most recent album. One of the high points of the early show, "Are You Ready," is up next. This version begins with a little poem before the amazing rhythm section pumps the song into the stratosphere.
A James Brown-style groove begins, as Rose Stone sings lead on "It Won't Be Long," another excellent version that sounds like a precursor to the direction Aretha Franklin would soon take right up the charts. "Color Me True" gets any remaining audience members up and moving. As the group vamps along, Sly pulls out his harmonica and delivers a very tasteful solo before they bring it to a sizzling close.
A medley begins to grow softly. It gently builds until the horn section blasts the group into "Dance To The Music." This showcases the individual members before jamming into "Music Lover." The remainder of this infectious jam has Sly encouraging the audience to participate before he demands it during the count off into "Love City." At the end of "Love City," the band exits the stage with the audience whipped into a total frenzy. After plenty of "more, more, more" from the Fillmore audience, the group returns for an encore. There was a reel change prior to the encore, which consequently resumes in progress.
A strong cover of "I Can't Turn You Loose" features an a cappella vocal section, more hot jamming, and a ride out that tears on faster and faster. Before leaving the stage, they offer up some psychedelic political commentary, where they name check Hubert Humphrey and George Wallace, before ending their set.
The outstanding arrangements and the deep grooves that Sly and the Family Stone achieved in 1968 must have caught the attention of many a producer. The group's instrumental sound is echoed in many recordings that became hits the following year. This Fillmore East show captures the group at a pivotal time in the history both of American music, and of its culture in general.