Sly & the Family Stone
came into their own with their second album, Dance to the Music
. This is exuberant music, bursting with joy and invention. If there's a shortage of classic material, with only the title track being a genuine classic, that winds up being nearly incidental, since it's so easy to get sucked into the freewheeling spirit and cavalier virtuosity of the group. Consider this -- prior to this record no one, not even the Family Stone
, treated soul as a psychedelic sun splash, filled with bright melodies, kaleidoscopic arrangements, inextricably intertwined interplay, and deft, fast rhythms. Yes, they wound up turning "Higher" into the better "I Want to Take You Higher" and they recycle the title track in the long jam "Dance to the Medley," but there's such imagination to this jam that the similarities fade as they play. And, if these are just vamps, well, so are James Brown
's records, and those didn't have the vitality or friendliness of this. Not a perfect record, but a fine one all the same.