Album review: Raphael Saadiq's 'Stone Rollin’'
Raphael Saadiq was born in 1966 but sounds like he entered his prime that same year. The subtlest of shape-shifters, his resume includes stints playing bass on tour for Prince, fronting New Jack swing stars Tony! Toni! Tone!, forming hip-hop and R&B supergroup Lucy Pearl, and producing for D’Angelo, TLC and Mary J. Blige.
In the last decade, he’s built a big tent for his solo soul revival, winning the undying affection of National Public Radio audiences and Grammy voters. At this year’s ceremony, the Oakland-raised crooner was tabbed to play guitar alongside semi-kindred spirit Mick Jagger, with whom he shares a love of the loud intersection between rock and rough electric blues.
It’s little surprise then that his stellar fourth solo effort nicks both Bo Diddley and Ray Charles (“Day Dreams”) and the rave-up era Rolling Stones (“Radio”). Little Walter gets love (“Stone Rollin’ “) as does Sly and the Family Stone (“Heart Attack”).
Saadiq’s timeline spans the golden era of soul music, a territory well mined in recent vintage by the likes of Amy Winehouse, Adele, Daptone Records, et. al., but few can match his range or talent.
“Stone Rollin’” finds Saadiq on bass, keyboard, guitar, Mellotron, percussion and drums. Throughout, his falsetto remains supernatural and his songwriting successfully summons the ghosts of Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye.
Dismissing it as overly familiar obscures the point. Saadiq is a classicist of the best kind — one who not only carries on tradition but expands it.
Three and a half stars (Out of four stars)
-- Jeff Weiss