Andre S. Grindle | Brewer Maine | 04/14/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"'Small Talk' represents as 180 degree turn from the sound Sly & The Family Stone presented onFresh.The overall rhythm section is far sparer and relies on live drumming rather then a rhythm machine.Also Sly adds a light string section to many of the songs which even though they are in the backround make their presense known.On the title track Sly utilizes the sound of his baby Sly Jr as a pure rhythm element,something Stevie Wonder and Prince would utilize in a similar way in the future,but Sly's vocals on it are a almost nil.On "Say You Will" and "Mother Beautiful" Sly actually concentrates on warm (almost wholesome) musings on love and family,the former even utilizing a Moog synthesizer for the first time on a Sly record.Then we are on to "Time For Livin'"-now that is what this album is usually remembered for Sly throwing Rusty Allen's bass a little more to the front and again musing on his new family other then the Family Stone.On "Can't Strain My Brain","Holdin' On","Wishful Thinkin'" and "Better Thee Then Me" the Family Stone offer up a series of sparse,crawling grooves that are sponaneous to the point that studio chatter and cues are left running.On the other hand...there's "Loose Booty".One of THE very best Sly songs ever-it's main lyrical chant coming from the biblical story of three Jewish men involved with King Neberkenezzer-the story of basically marching to your own drum and that is what the song is all about anyway;the meanest,loopable groove and horn blasts possible;funk royalty in the highest!Hip hopper after hip hopper has used it as a BASE,never mind a sample and it almost wipes the floor off of everything else here.But luckilly doesn't completely do that because "Livin' While I'm Livin'" throws a hard rocking funk at you that almost goes back to Sly's first days of success."This Is Love" is the most obvious ballad on the album and is very beautiful.As for the the bonuses each has something distinct to offer.The first is a more vocally arranged take on "Crossword Puzzle" from the forthcoming High on You.On the other hand you also get versions of "Time For Livin'" and "Loose Booty" that are far rawer and less arranged,the former of which actually features a nice extended violin solo by Sid Page.There's also the unreleased instrumental "Positive",incredibly funky and jamming.Overall 'Small Talk' is nothing like Sly's previous two albums;it's incredibly funky but at the same time the lyrics are more about turning inward and the overall sound seems much softer.It does seem like the closing of a chaper for Sly Stone (and commercially this was) but in the musical age to come there were some who were curious just as to what Sly and his Family Stone were up to."
I can see why they left this out of print for so long
finulanu | Here, there, and everywhere | 11/17/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Sly with strings? What? Now that's just plain saccharine, that is. I mean, even when they're subtle, they're not used tastefully, and when they dominate the song ("Mother Beautiful"; the small hit "Time for Livin'"; "Wishful Thinkin'"), they really bog the record down. Now to be fair, strings or no strings this is not one of Sly's better moments at all. "Loose Booty" is clever, all right, and "Say You Will" is catchy as anything else the man ever committed to tape. Still, this is a lacking release: none of the fun found on Fresh; none of the intriguing darkness of There's a Riot Goin' On, nothing half as uplifting as Stand!, and it doesn't have the variety of Life. The funk is listenable but unimaginative ("Holdin' On"; "Can't Strain My Brain", title track; "Better Thee Than Me"), I already discussed the several bad ballads, and what happened to the lyrics? In spite of that, there are little flashes of brilliance everywhere (the sax part on "Better Thee"), and there really isn't much truly pitiful stuff on this album. Proceed with caution, though: It was only recently put back in print, and for a good reason. Don't touch this unless you've heard Sly's better albums first."
Lighter funk and pop ballads.
Michael Stack | North Chelmsford, MA USA | 05/18/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Coming on the heels of several superb albums, Sly & the Family Stone's "Small Talk" is a bit of a letdown. After a pair of albums buried in dense funk (to great effect), Stone decided to loosen things up a bit-- "Small Talk" thins out the rhythmic impulses and claustophobic density of "There's a Riot Goin' On" and "Fresh". Further, he clears out the dirty sound of those records for a cleaner feel-- less distortion, less groaning and deep funk vocals, and an odd insertion of strings here and there. The resulting record isn't horrible, but it isn't fantastic either.
"Small Talk" pretty much moves from one funk piece to another, pretty much all of them fairly nondistinguished-- whether it's the uptempo sort of stuff ("Better Thee Than Me") or one of the several ballads that seem to overwhelm the album (plodding "Wishful Thinkin'"), all of which are full of schmaltzy sort of strings. Admittedly, this sometimes works out ok, as on the brief "Mother Beautiful", saved by a powerful chorus vocal by Sly Stone, but by and large, while there's not a lot to hate around here (the endless overdubs of a crying baby on the title track make that one a notable exception for me), there's not a lot to love-- it's all pretty much ok.
This reissue remasters the record, appends a handful of bonus tracks and adds a new liner notes essay. The sonic upgrade is fantastic, one thing that's for sure is that the record sounds crisp and bright.
"Small Talk" isn't a horrible record, but there's so much great stuff by Sly & the Family Stone that it's really hard to consider this one in a positive light. It's just lacking."