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?

7 comments

  1. misterstory

    So … we’ve just come back from a week in Wales. The album came with us. I’ve had plenty of quality time to get into it. In short I like it a considerable amount. I’d not read this intro to the album but interestingly had had the debate re: ‘pastiche’ with Stacey while listening to the album. For me, certain songs are pure pastiche (interestingly the album is sequenced so that a pastiche track appears almost every other track?) but like David says, I don’t mind. I don’t mind a bit of pastiche that subverts the original, something like the ‘Girls’ album ‘Album’? For this is played straight so differs from other examples that I like. So why do I like it? Not to sound too on-board with David (where would the fun be in that?) but I boiled it down (independently) to two things (i) bloody good songs (ii) Maturity – and I feel a wanker for saying it! However, you know you are in very experience, learned hands when listening to this album. I don’t think it will be an album that I turn to immediately but I will never be disappointed when I do and it does make for great in-car listening.

  2. nolankane706

    I too have spent a fair time with this album.

    I’m struggling with it but not perhaps in the worst way. Song for song I like this album, but over all I find it just a bit same-ish.

    High hopes are a horrible thing to have going into an album and that is what I had with this. Saadiq was all the hype about 10 years ago and his first album showed provided great expectations for his future. Since then he has released some weak albums with a couple solid tracks; this time he’s gone a bit too safe for my liking and released a 5/10 at best.

    I get that he’s trying to do a throw back album (or that’s the impression I got). The thing is about that is he has already done that on his last two albums. If then this is his sound he needs to grow. Stevie Wonder grew, so did Marvin and so on and so on.

    The stand out song for me on this album is “Over You’. I’m happy when it comes on. What a great bit of emotion to this…. and then you realise that it’s less Saadiq and more Lenny Kravitz.

    Everything that has been done on this album Saadiq has done before. There just seems to be a massive lack of evolution as an artist. The production is fantastic and the album sounds great but as and artists I’m still looking to see where he stands out.

    I will pop this on every now and then perhaps and maybe one day I’ll get it; but this month his hasn’t grabbed me.

  3. whyohwhyohwhy

    Right, having been away and still being in the process of moving house, I’ve really struggled to listen to stuff and get round to replying. So, here’s my apologies and my belated response to this.

    And indeed it’s a real homage v pastiche or old/new debate. Brother David nails it, and obviously for him, he’s a fan of the artist but for me it’s a case of launching into an album cold. And there’s nothing inherently wrong here. I love Mowtown and the whole classic sound and this reminds me of some great stuff from my childhood. I like Heart Attack, and Over You, and there’s actually a lot that makes me think of the vocals of – like Nolan – Lenny Kravitz (not in a bad way), and also shades of Alabama Shakes, in that his voice sounds quite female at times, just as their lead sounds right on the rubicon between man and woman.

    But while I like the sounds it’s just not connected with me. Some of the songs are almost too much of a pastiche – Radio especially – and while I’ve found it really pleasant I’m just not sure if it’s something I’ll still be listening to in a year. Because, when it comes down to it, I’ll likely choose Stevie Wonder instead.

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