Stone Rollin' (Columbia)
Reviewed by Thomas Fawcett, Fri., June 24, 2011
Raphael SaadiqStone Rollin' (Columbia)
There was nothing revelatory about mining classic soul when Raphael Saadiq dropped The Way I See It in 2008. In fact, the practice was flirting with the point of saturation, yet what made Saadiq's Motown homage special was its masterful execution. While others emulated Stax and the sound of young America, Saadiq embodied the spirit. With Stone Rollin', California's vintage soul man is doubling down on the classic R&B while drawing from a deeper well and muddying up the water. Hitsville is still part of the formula, but so now are Howlin' Wolf and Sly Stone. Rhyming over a rollicking guitar lick shaken from the tree of Chuck Berry and Little Richard, Saadiq sounds like he's never had more fun than on the sock-hop ready "Radio." The former Tony Toni Toné frontman plays nearly every instrument himself but enlists the top-shelf talent of Robert Randolph's steel guitar on "Day Dreams" and Earth, Wind & Fire keyboardist Larry Dunn on "Just Don't." From swampy roadhouse blues on the title track to soaring orchestral harmonies in "Go to Hell," Saadiq's latest filters a dizzying spectrum of black music history through his unique modern lens. Like the album opener, Stone Rollin' is serious as a "Heart Attack."