First Impressions: Raphael Saadiq Rolls Out More Vintage Sounds On 'Stone Rollin'

Thursday, April 28, 2011

It seemed you couldn't escape the latter part of the noughties without someone pulling "A Motown". Like Disco of the late 70's, everyone who was really anyone seemed to have a track that came from a time inhaling Motor City Magic fumes. Now that we are in the throws of the 2000 n' ten's a more futuristic approach to music has surfaced with the abstract electronics of James Blake, and the eclectic galactic funk of Janelle Monae taking center stage. Add in the combination of the lackluster response to Duffy's latest, Amy Winehouse's disappearing/appearing acts, and most of R&B now turning to throbbing electronic pop beats, pulling influence from a 60's standpoint has sort of lost the spark it once contained.

Raphael Saddiq didn't get that memo. 'If it ain't broke then don't fix it', is probably what tickertaped through Saddiq's mind when he sat down to craft the follow up to his finger snapping and 1960's froth, The Way I See It. Even more immersed in the old school groove, Stone Rollin' follows more of a lo-fi groove with a smattering of Sly Stone and Stevie Wonder influence to boot. It isn't ambitious considering you've heard most of this before---but in it's ten tracks, cohesiveness, and a sense of fun are embedded in, and you can't help but snap those fingers and stomp your feet. 

Stone Rollin'  is actually better than what it's first three singles have you believe. When "Radio" dropped it fell into a righteously stale state after a few listens. The title track leaps above it rocking in it's new suede shoes, but still felt a bit stilted.  The redeemer comes in the form of "Good Man" which has a harrowing and engaging video attached to it. It recalls some nice Ann Peeples and Shirley Brown-esque female response confessions, but things really begin to cook when the other tracks are wrapped around these aforementioned singles.

Robust guitars drench the delectable opener "Heart Attack"  as "Go To Hell" climaxes to a wonderful Gospel refrain, sliding nicely into a Philly state of mind. Things keep getting better when "Daydreams" gets the hands going in its 'Down South' urgency. "Moving Down The Line" spreads some glorious Marvin Gaye knowledge all over it and it's one of the album's highlights as it cruises along with impeccably arranged instrumentation.

A pleasant surprise is Little Dragon's Yukimi Nakano making her presence known in the dreamscape of "Just Don't", one of the best tracks on the album. It just dips and dives into a wonderful crevasse of Stevie Wonder style that is satisfying. Ms. Nakano's serene vocals echo ever so tenderly taking the song from Motown to electronic meditation.

Just Don't (ft. Yukimi Nakano)

Larry Graham of Family Stone and Graham Central Station fame pops up on the quiet bounce of "The Perfect Storm", where elements of Family Stone weave into a more modern tone. Another one of my favorite cuts is the soaring "The Answer", which is gorgeous on a persistent quiet march of drums and a warm wrap-around of horns.

The Answer

Some really delicious melodies and ideas are sprawled over this, making it a lofty continuation and a companion piece to The Way I See It. In fact, Stone Rollin' actually feels like Saadiq has gotten the hang of handling all these decade old sounds making them uniformly so. Stone Rollin' just feels more compact and cohesive than it's predecessor and actually more interesting.

To go vintage, or not to go vintage, that is really the question nowadays, but if you do like Saadiq, you can get away with it and make it sound like it happen just yesterday.

Release Date: May 10, 2011
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