Sometimes you need to step back from a favorite sound or style before it can sound fresh again. It may have taken a few decades, but Motown has been given a second life. Falling in line next to retro-artists such as Amy Winehouse and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Raphael Saadiq’s fresh spin on mid-60’s funk in his latest album is making a powerful first impression. Despite its undeniable old-school approach, Stone Rollin’ is so refreshing that we simply cannot resist the sound.
In fact, he may be doing it better. After winning a chance to appear on stage with Prince and Sheila E. just out of high school, Saadiq (then still known by his birth name, Raphael Wiggins) joined his brother Dwayne and cousin Timothy Christian and formed Tony! Toni! Tonè! Since, he’s been a behind-the-scenes player in the industry. Working steadily, he hadn’t held our attention until now.
“Stone Rollin’ ” is the blissful result of Saadiq’s unique blending of the best aspects of motown funk and early 70’s soul, but sporting the spirit of gospel and R&B — a very cool concoction he refers to as “gospedelic”. Saadiq may be a throwback artist through and through, but according to Rolling Stone Magazine,“He doesn’t just rediscover the past, he remakes it.”
As if writing and producing Stone Rollin’ himself, was not enough, Saadiq plays multiple instruments on most of the tracks, including the bass, keys, guitar, percussion, drums and mellotron. It’s easy to get lost in the warm, infectious tones of this album, especially the downright groovy “Day Dreams” where Saadiq pays homage to the late Ray Charles. We find ourselves craving the upbeat, danceable “Radio” and the redemptive “Go to Hell”, but Saadiq’s sound is so deep that most of the tracks are solid. Take our word for it, this album is what summer should sound like.
“I don’t know where the title Stone Rollin’ came from,” says Saadiq. “It just came out of my mouth one day, but it just made sense with where I’m at right now. I feel like I’m a stone rollin’, like I’m ready to rock. I’m ready to go. Throw me anywhere and I’ll make it happen. I feel really good about this album.”
And Baby, so do we.
Sarah Pytlik. Leah Spurrier. HighStreet. Cincinnati