Release Date: May 10, 2011
Record label: Columbia
Genre(s): Rap, R&B, Neo-Soul
On 2008's The Way I See It, former Tony! Toni! Toné! frontman and current Malcolm X look-alike Raphael Saadiq did a spot-on impression of Motown circa 1965, defying retro-soul's bias for Seventies babymaking mush. Some have called Stone Rollin' his Electric Ladyland, and like the Hendrix classic, it's an inspired free-for-all, moving backward and forward from his beloved mid-Sixties — from girl-crazy Chuck Berry to politicized Stevie. Saadiq holds it together with tight songwriting, and he ups the urgency with garage-rock production that suggests a White Stripes fan.
Stone Rollin’, Raphael Saadiq's second Columbia album, cuts straight to the chase. It begins with a tambourine-accented pounding groove à la Sly & the Family Stone's “Dance to the Music,” adding grinding rhythm guitar and making a plea of a different kind: one of co-dependent desperation, served up Holland-Dozier-Holland style. Indeed, Stone Rollin' is a little less clean-cut than 2008’s The Way I See It, tending to veer from pure mid-‘60s Motown for a more expansive approach that incorporates a number of late-‘60s and early-‘70s sounds, including Holland-Dozier-Holland’s grittier post-Motown work and early Philly soul, not to mention an apparent nod to Ray Charles on “Day Dreams.
Microbiologists create recombinant DNA by combining genetic sequences with special traits that may complement each other, but do not naturally occur together, to create a new and improved product. Raphael Saadiq performs an analogous task with his musical compositions. He connects tropes and strophes from classic soul and Motown to make original music that would cause its most celebrated inspirations (such as Sly Stone and Stevie Wonder) to beam with pride.
Review Summary: Saadiq introduces rock to his soul and conjures up his best material yet. It seems bizarre to me that Raphael Saadiq is 45 years old, first appeared on record in 1988 (probably before a lot of the people reading this were even born), and wrote songs it feels like I've been listening to for my whole life, like Lucy Pearl's "Don't Mess with My Man" and Tony Toni Toné's "If I Had No Loot". He just doesn't sound or feel old at all; not only because Stone Rollin' is an album filled with youthful energy, but because the difference between this and his last album, 2008's surprise break-out The Way I See It, would have made much more sense if they were his first two albums.
R&B veteran Raphael Saadiq turns it up a notch on his fourth LP, attacking his latest collection of soul-pop songs with the electrifying fervour and meticulous musicianship typical of his stage show. Two decades into his career, the former Tony! Toni! Toné! frontman is beyond revivalist. He embodies a classic soul spirit, delivering rockabilly rhythms and blistering guitar work along with sweeping strings and gospel harmonies.
After his recent Grammy showing with Mick Jagger, R&B stalwart Saadiq has the cred to do as he pleases musically. Here he continues along the ’60s soul-inspired path that spawned 2008’s The Way I See It, pairing it with elements of blithe Stonesish rock. Horns soar as he charms on ”Movin’ Down the Line,” and a bluesy harmonica wails next to a funky guitar riff throughout the lady-lauding title track.
It’s arguable that Raphael Saadiq’s fourth album, Stone Rollin’, has the capacity to take you back in time. Just one listen through the record and you may question what time period you’re living in. It’s this genuine quality that lives within Saadiq’s vocal and production choices that make him the true king of modern R&B Funk. Coming off the success of 2008’s The Way I See It, Stone Rollin’ is another refreshing record from a true soul master.
Raphael Saadiq’s solo debut, Instant Vintage, reflected the sense shared by the former Tony! Toni! Toné! member and the rest of the neo-soul brigade that their movement was about more than backward-looking Aquarian revivalism. Neo-soul was about establishing a new canon, making music that would provide the spiritually stultified denizens of Y2K-era America with the same uplift and nourishment that their parents found in the classic soul and funk of the ‘60s and ‘70s. By comparison, Stone Rollin’ is vintage in the same comforting and commercially palatable sense as faded t-shirts and period furniture.
There was nothing revelatory about mining classic soul when Raphael Saadiq dropped The Way I See It in 2008. In fact, the practice was flirting with the point of saturation, yet what made Saadiq's Motown homage special was its masterful execution. While others emulated Stax and the sound of young America, Saadiq embodied the spirit. With Stone Rollin', California's vintage soul man is doubling down on the classic R&B while drawing from a deeper well and muddying up the water.
Vintage touches and modern twists combine on an irrepressible soul record. Lloyd Bradley 2011 It’s always nice to hear a soul singer who genuinely revels in the job title, and Raphael Saadiq has taken his responsibilities seriously for some 20 years now: first as one third of the nu-soul vocal trio Tony! Toni! Toné!, then as a solo singer. Each manifestation has been hugely successful, confounding expectations to take inherent soulfulness in any direction possible.
RAPHAEL SAADIQ “Stone Rollin’ ” (Columbia) At the Grammy Awards in February, Mick Jagger appeared — performing there for the first time in the ceremony’s 53 years — to pay tribute to Solomon Burke, who died last year. He gave an electric reading of “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love,” one of Mr. Burke’s greatest songs, giving it just the sort of wattage that Grammy tributes often lack.