Music in Brief
Since the end of Grant Lee Buffalo, Grant-Lee Phillips has been such a consistently impressive solo artist that he's become a little easy to take for granted. He's turned out three albums in the last four years, including last year's stellar covers showcase Nineteeneighties. Strangelet finds him looking even further back for inspiration on a few T. Rex-inspired tracks, but the focus remains squarely on Phillips' voice and yearning songs, and that's a good place for it to be B+
The soundtrack to Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof (Maverick) predictably includes some motorhead favorites; less predictably, it unearths gems from Joe Tex and Eddie Floyd, plus a true lost classic in Smith's 1969 cover of "Baby It's You," which suggests a whole movement of hard-edged blue-eyed soul that never quite flowered A-
The great cult soul legend Swamp Dogg once cut a song called "If It Hadn't Been For Sly" that thanked Sly And The Family Stone for their contributions to music by working through a series of sounds Sly Stone invented. It lasts four minutes. It probably could have gone on for hours. The long-overdue seven-disc set Sly And The Family Stone: The Collection (Sony/Legacy) contains all seven albums by the band's original lineup, beginning with the aptly titled A Whole New Thing, which found the band bringing psychedelic funk noises into '60s R&B. It didn't sell at first, but two years later, the group's inimitable, blissfully multiracial sound and forceful peace-and-love message sounded like the best hope not just for American music, but for America itself. The sound developed throughout Dance To The Music and Life, and by 1969's Stand!—which grooved hopeful anthems like the title track and "You Can Make It If You Try" next to the unflinching "Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey"—the band seemed untouchable. But the spare, paranoid "Somebody's Watching You" mars Stand!'s utopian vision. It was a harbinger of things to come. After developing a reputation for simply missing shows, in 1971, Sly released There's A Riot Goin' On, a haunted, hopeless masterpiece recorded in all-night sessions in Stone's gun-, drug-, and dog-filled L.A. mansion. Though they're both worthwhile in their way, its successors, Fresh and Small Talk, drove that sound into the ground. Then Stone essentially went solo before simply drifting away, leaving behind a formidable legacy of innovation and frustration. Only complaint with The Collection: The set loses three essential, non-album singles released between Stand and Riot. But it still gets an A.