Posted in Album of the Month

AUGUST: Stone Rollin’ by Raphael Saadiq

Ah, the old authenticity debate. We just can’t get away from it. I wonder if that’s how we evaluate modern music. I guess it makes sense. It’s not like there are endless accessible new forms and most artists sit within a well-defined genre, whether they think they do or not.

Saadiq is an unapologetic revivalist and his latest, glorious, upbeat album is a love letter to Motown, late 60 and early 70s soul and even garage rock and psych. Why it works for me when other revivalists fail is just one of those subjective things you can’t put your finger on. But here I am trying to do so, so let’s give it a go!

I think it comes down to a few things. Firstly, he throws his heart and soul into it. This is a committed, shit-hot performance from a guy in control of his vehicle. Secondly, it’s such a rich collection of songs. He’s a songwriter who knows how to press all the buttons and drawing on a rich knowledge of soul music’s past. And finally, he’s a bloody amazing musician (check out any live performance on youtube, the guy is an astonishing guitar player). And that all comes across. There are so many lovely touches on the album – the lovely use of mellotron (that very 60s thin analogue organ sound, reminiscent of late Beatles). Crisp, clear production. I don’t know what’s not to like?

There is also an investment you make in an artist. I’ve followed him since Tony! Toni! Tone! days. I regard Lucy Pearl’s album as possibly the finest R&B album of the 90s. I think his early solo album Still Ray is an incredible, invent piece of work. So I guess me and Raphael go way back.

And that’s it really, isn’t it? Reminds me of Jack Black in a way. No one says, why’s that guy doing garage blues rock – he just is and he’s doing a better job than anyone else.

So why do I think he grabs me more than say, Jake Bugg? Well, all of the above – but really, the number one thing is the songs. They’re a lot, lot better than Bugg’s in my humble opinion. And that’s what you keep coming back for, right?