Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Sly & the Family Stone: Fresh [Epic, 1973]
Now that the truncated rhythms of Sly's post-dance-to-the-music have become the stomping ground of War (heavy) and Stevie Wonder (bubbling over), Sly takes the lyrics into middle-Dylan territory, exploiting his own genius for hook phrases--"in time," "thankful n' thoughtful," "babies makin' babies"--only to fasten a superabundance of elusive images to a jagged groove. Many of the songs turn in on themselves--one vaguely inspirational number ends with a derisive "cha-cha-cha"--as Sly's vocals shift in tone, texture, and volume and the extra percussion and repeating horn riffs accentuate the music's brutally staccato effect. He seems willing once more to sing of love and fun, of gratitude and the great circle of life, but he also equates his legendary tardiness with his legendary self-destructiveness and comments on his inaccessibility as decisively as is appropriate. Plus a great twist in Sly's relationship with the white power structure: a cover of "Que Sera, Sera." A