You wouldn't think a band whose last album, There's A Riot Goin' On, hit #1 needed to make a comeback record. But a lot happened in the two years between Riot and Fresh, which was released on June 30, 1973. Drug busts. Cancelled shows. Rumors of bass player Larry Graham hiring a hit man to take out Sly.
The music is often spare but the syncopated beats are always tight. Sly is playful at times. ( the Top 20 "If You Want Me to Stay" --featuring Sly on bass; "If It Were Left Up to Me") Sometimes he's preachy ( "Babies Makin' Babies"). He's often self-referential in both his lyrics ("Something could have come and taken me away /But the main man felt Sly should be here another day") and his music ("Keep on Dancin'" could be "Dance to the Music, pt 2).
The "Que Sera Sera" cover is interesting for so many reasons. Among them was yet another rumor: that there was something romantic going on between Sly and Doris Day!
Fresh remains my favorite Sly and the Family Stone album. (Constant radio airplay ruined some of the Family Stone's biggest hits for me)
It's the sound of one of our great geniuses revealing just how little instrumentation is necessary to find the funk. I agree with Rolling Stone's 1973 assessment of the album :
In its own sense, and on its own terms, it is (Sly's) masterpiece.
By the way , Mr Stone may appear to be high kicking it on the Richard Avedon shot cover, but he was actually lying on a glass table and shot from below.