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Stone Rollin’

Raphael Saadiq: Stone Rollin’

  • Raphael Saadiq
  • Jazz & BluesR&B & Hip-Hop...
  • Out now
  • Columbia
reviewed by
Haisam Awad
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Raphael Saadiq: Stone Rollin’

Long before r&b and hip-hop embraced the
slim-fit look, electric guitars and prescription wayfarers, Raphael Saadiq was
rocking the original geek-chic look like a pro. The completely inoffensive
neo-soul funk artiste has had a steady career, never falling too far either
side of critical opinion.

Having made his name with trio Tony! Toni! Toné!, Saadiq went on to release
his first album Instant Vintage in 2002. It wasn’t until 2008, however, that he established
his true credentials as a solo artist with the Grammy-nominated album The Way I See It. Saadiq can also boast
a host of producer credits on his CV, having worked with the likes of Whitney
Houston, Mary J. Blige, Erykah Badu and Snoop Dogg, to name a few.

Despite
the aforementioned stuck-in-the-middle anonymity that has both plagued and
blessed Saadiq, Stone Rollin’ starts
off in a blaze of glory. Opening song ‘Heart Attack’ may actually send you into
cardiac arrest. Saadiq does his best impression of James Brown, and it’s
impossible to sit still to the relentless intensity of the funk. It’s a mean
and uncompromising song to kick off to, and it sets the tone for the first
half of the album.

That
homage to the godfather of soul is followed immediately by a song that sounds
like something out of an Al Green songbook. ‘Go to Hell’ is a dramatic
head-swaying, finger-clicking number in which Saadiq’s vocals are as impressive
as the nostalgic yet fresh vibe. These aren’t toe-tapping songs;
they’re foot-stomping anthems.

It only
gets better with ‘Radio’, which shifts to a slightly different, but no less
catchy, 60s surfer rock-pop sound. Title track ‘Stone Rollin’ marks a change in
tone with its simpler and slower tempo, as does the rest of the album. Songs
like ‘Just Don’t’, ‘Good Man’ and ‘Don’t Answer’, descend into the dark and
broody territory of a tortured soul – pun totally intended.

This
album, more than anything, provokes incredibly vivid imagery; think slightly
flared trousers, thick uncompromising moustaches, and Samuel L. Jackson’s hair
in Pulp Fiction. The songs become a little self-indulgent, and there is a
definite banality to it, in that it doesn’t so much channel the 60s and 70s
Motown sound; but rather copies and pastes it. After all, no one can do Marvin
Gaye like Marvin Gaye.

Although at forty-four years of age Saadiq is no
youngster, he can certainly teach some of the young twenty-something year old r&b
stars of today a thing or two.

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