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Raphael Saadiq- Stone Rollin’ (Album Review)

June 2, 2011

 

Tony! Toni! Toné! was one of the most talented and eclectic R&B groups in the ‘90s. The original lineup disbanded in 1998, leaving its members to participate in other music groups or solo projects. Most prominent is multi-instrumentalist, Raphael Saadiq. His first two solo albums, Instant Village and Ray Ray received general acclaim, but his 2008 album The Way I See It received raving reviews, making most Best of 2008 music lists.

Stone Rollin’ is an expansion of the vintage soul sound heard on The Way I See It, but instead of the smooth Motown-esque influence, Saadiq channels the more amplified side of early black pop music. What sets Saadiq apart from his contemporaries are his outstanding talents and intricate approach to composing music. He manages to perfectly produce music that is authentically retro, yet still contemporary.

While many other current artists are influenced by ‘60s and ‘70s rock and incorporate that into their music, Saadiq digs deeper and pulls from early rock and roll pioneers such as Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Little Richard, and Howlin’ Wolf. The title track is drenched in the blues, while “Over You” sounds like a Hendrix b-side. “Day Dreams” is a solid Ray Charles country and western throwback, while the powerful closing track “The Answer” is so gorgeous and robust, that it could have easily been composed by Curtis Mayfield 40 years ago. Like Mayfield, Prince, and Rick James, Raphael Saadiq is a genius in his own time- an outstanding musical prodigy who have no limitations with his approach to making music.

Stone Rollin’ isn’t just another vintage throwback album. It is America’s rock and roll and rhythm and blues history relived on record from a contemporary artist. It is a shining example of the kind of immaculate and epic songwriting that current artists have grown further and further away from. There are no big super-producers. There is no team of writers. It is just one incredibly talented and gifted man with the desire to produce quality music. Each song on the album is so impressive that it could easily be mistaken for a cover, but all 10 songs were written or co-written by Saadiq himself. Twenty-three years ago, in his youth, Saadiq released cutting-edge R&B music with his band (yes, band- Tony! Toni! Toné! played their own instruments). Today he continues to leave music-lovers in awe, getting more and more impressive with the passing of time.

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