For his third studio CD The Way I See It, Raphael Saadiq (Tony! Toni! Toné!, Lucy Pearl) has written and produced an inspired throwback? album that honors the rich musical heritage of soul giants like Motown, Stax, and Hot Wax. Backed by a ? galvanizing ensemble of musicians that would make the Funk Brothers proud, Saadiq belts out effervescent love songs with infectious vigor. Except for cameos from Joss Stone (”Just One Kiss”) and Jay-Z (the remix of ”Oh Girl”), this disc could easily be mistaken for some ?lost gem from the civil rights era.
When Raphael Saadiq, along with his partners in Tony! Toni! Toné!, wrote and recorded songs like "It Never Rains in Southern California" and "Whatever You Want," he earned himself a lifetime "Do Whatever You Want" card. One could disregard his third solo studio album for being the equivalent of a Civil War reenactment, sounding much more like "instant vintage" R&B than 2002's Instant Vintage. If you want to listen to some '60s and early-'70s soul, play some soul that came out in the '60s and early '70s, right? Save for an intrusive Jay-Z appearance on a bonus version of "Oh Girl," however, this time warp never loosens its grip, unless you cannot help but position the protagonist in "Big Easy" -- where Saadiq nails a classic tactic exemplified by the likes of Holland-Dozier-Holland, matching bliss-inducing music with saddening lyrics -- squarely within 2005 New Orleans.
Sounding like it was unearthed from some pile of confiscated reel-to-reels in Berry Gordy's attic, this album faithfully adheres to the 60s soul aesthetic, from the logos and fonts on the disc cover to the entire sequencing and sound of the Motown-inspired music. This is instant vintage. Most of these ditties will have your toes a-tappin' and your fingers a-snappin', yet a subtle soulful substance seems absent from the singing.
You can scarcely bang a tambourine without hitting a Motown celebration right now. But when younger generations of African-American artists speak of Motown, it's generally the deeper soul of 70s Marvin and Stevie, or the fizz-pop of Jackson 5, rarely the driving rhythms that defined not just a label, but Motown the genre. So for Raphael Saadiq, a leading light of neo-soul, to wind the clock back another decade is, if not original, at least brand new retro.
The former Charlie Wiggins has been around the block a few times, first as a member of 80s R&B-mongers Tony! Toni! Toné!, then as producer for D'Angelo and TLC. Given the company he's kept, it would have been a surprise if this album had been anything other than an impeccably wrought collection of retro soul. (Just so nobody can say they weren't warned about its vintage sound, he's wearing a 1960s suit and glasses in the cover photo.) You could argue that Saadiq's backward-looking take on things is safe and comfy, but it's impossible to deny that he does it beautifully.
Review Summary: A fun and timeless sounding soul album for the iPod generation.I’m too young to really care about Raphael Saadiq, and yet I do. I’ve been intrigued by the guy ever since the eerie video for “Get Involved” hit airwaves back in ’99. And I guess I’m also too young for The Way I See It to be nostalgic, and yet it is. In many ways Saadiq’s The Way I See It is an album caught in a time-lapse; the cover, the hooks, and the production just scream 60s.
How long cats can pretend it's 1965 is anyone's guess, but if the results sound this uncanny, who's complaining? Former Tony! Toni! Toné! singer Raphael Saadiq re-creates the Motown sound like no one before him, "Keep Marchin'" echoing the civil rights era message music of Sam Cooke and the Staple Singers, while Motor City monster "100 Yard Dash" demands a sprint to the dance floor. Saadiq's tenor cruises down Smokey Robinson Boulevard on the Joss Stone-guested "Just One Kiss," and Stevie Wonder blows harp on "Never Give You Up. " Despite the Jimmy Ruffin cover pose, The Way I See It offers a few subtle hints of the present.