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There’s a Riot Goin’ On

by Sly & the Family Stone

Released November 1, 1971 via Epic Records

Reviewed November 26, 2021

Top tracks (based on community voting)
Family Affair (60%), Just Like Baby (47%), Luv N’ Haight (40%)

When a certain talent asked What’s Going On in the midst of Spring ’71, there were plenty of folks who refused to examine the relevancy of such a question. There’s a Riot Goin’ On On boldly answered it without subtext or censor, from the immediate aspects like its title and the reincarnation of the States’ flag on the cover, to its deeper themes sewn into its minimalist lyricism. Twisted guitars warble over simple bass grooves, intertwining with gorgeous backing vocals, setting to-be historic acts such as Billy Preston, Bobby Womack and Little Sister into stone. Sly’s own silky falsettos and wild screeches apply additional flavor, as if the album wasn’t already bursting with the stuff. There’s a Riot Goin’ On On fashioned funk and the Clavs into how they’re known today, moreover permeating soul, pop, hip-hop, and progressive rock, among other genres and an immeasurable number of artists. The mixing is a bit dodgy on streaming, but even so, this is an absolute must; it has held up for fifty years, and will hold up for at least fifty more. – Cam (10/10)

Fifty years out and Sly’s frustrated and obsessive overdubbing still shimmers as a worthwhile exploration of inner turmoil in the uncertainty of the early 70s. Often fuzzy and intoxicating, Riot relishes in its blur of seductive grooves, bizarro snarls, and jubilant exclamations. This record rides on some strong highs, but the more interesting work happens in the muddier valleys. It’s hard not to feel the weight of Sly’s heavy-handed production, but moments of genuine collaboration from The Family Stone bring us back up for air just long enough to indulge in our necessary vices. Sly’s more poignant moments are delivered with a sobering edge, holding a mirror to the current social climate and making me wonder how far we’ve truly gotten in the last half-century… There’s Still A F**king Riot Goin’ On. – Henny (9.2/10)

The heart and originality that emanates throughout There’s a Riot Goin’ On is enough to speak volumes about America, even fifty years later. From its opening seconds, Riot is magnetizing, keeping the listener in tow through an ever-shifting series of moods and tones. On its surface, Riot delivers a smoky blend of funk and soul, with Sly’s blunt commentary cutting through opaque stacks of contrasting instrumentation. The album's emotions, themes, and Sly’s declarations arrive to the listener like a fever dream, in a haze of glory, shame, and solitude. No matter the style or pace of a track, the record is profoundly intimate. These overwhelmingly human aspects are what drive an incredibly unique, powerful, and influential experience, as Riot has come to be over some fifty years. – DeVán (8/10)

Ben (Synth): 10/10 | Cam: 10/10 | Jared: 10/10 | Alan: 9.2/10 | Henny: 9.2/10

Dominick: 9/10 | Pablo: 9/10 | DeVán: 8/10 | Peter: 7.5/10


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