There’s a Riot Goin’ On is the fifth studio album by American band Sly and the Family Stone, released on November 20, 1971, by Epic Records. It was recorded during 1970 and 1971 at Record Plant Studios in Sausalito, California.
The album embraces a more sombre and funkier sound than the group’s previous so-called “psychedelic soul”, as featured on Stand! (1969). Originally intended to be issued as Africa Talks to You, the record was retitled There’s a Riot Goin’ On in response to Marvin Gaye’s landmark album What’s Going On (1971), released five months before.
Sly and The Family Stone – Family Affair (1972):
“Not even a 24k-gold disc – the centerpiece of this new deluxe edition of Sly and the Family Stone’s 1971 touchstone, along with a stitched flower-flag cover – can fully brighten this Rosetta stone of dark funk and proto-hip-hop blues. Recorded largely in a Los Angeles home studio over two years, Riot’s tapes were overdubbed so much they lost any aural luster. But the tracks’ hissy tonality merely enhances the verité feel of the most transfixing music Sly Stone ever wrote – and his most hard-nosed lyrics, depicting, as A. Scott Galloway puts it in the booklet, “a man in a tug of war with who he has become vs. who he has always strived to be.” It’s as lowdown as music gets – and as great.”
– Rolling Stone magazine
Sly and The Family Stone – Runnin’ Away (audio):
What makes Riot so remarkable is that it’s hard not to get drawn in with him, as you’re seduced by the narcotic grooves, seductive vocals slurs, leering electric pianos, and crawling guitars. As the themes surface, it’s hard not to nod in agreement, but it’s a junkie nod, induced by the comforting coma of the music. And damn if this music isn’t funk at its deepest and most impenetrable — this is dense music, nearly impenetrable, but not from its deep grooves, but its utter weariness.
– Stephen Thomas Erlewine (allmusic)
Received with ambivalence upon its release, the album is now praised as one of the greatest and most influential recordings, ranked at or near the top of many publications’ “best album” lists in disparate genres. In 2003 it was ranked number 99 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
There’s a Riot Goin’ On by Sly and The Family Stone on Spotify: