Following up on the retro sounds of his last album, The Way I See It, singer/producer/multi-instrumentalist (and former member of Tony Toni Tone and Lucy Pearl) Raphael Saadiq has decided on a similar format for his fourth solo album, Stone Rollin‘. Variously described as a ’70s tribute album/sequel to The Way I See It (which had a more ’60s vibe) or a “rock” album, Stone Rollin‘ is neither, really. While it’s instantly recognizable as a successor to The Way I See It, and although Saadiq wears his influences proudly on his sleeve, the music doesn’t put you in a particular era, really. It’s retro, but…unidentifiable? Or timeless, maybe.
The roaring guitars on “Heart Attack”, the album’s opener, may suggest rock. But they suggest more of an Ike Turner/Chuck Berry type of rock ‘n roll than what we’ve known as “rock” for the past 40 or so years. “Radio” has a similar vibe, although I don’t know that they’d have allowed kids back in the day to do the twist to lyrics about being licked on the chest (or the F-bomb, which Ray Ray also drops during the song). He goes for a more smooth, soul approach on songs like the deceptively aggressively titled “Go to Hell”. He brings up the name of legendary Motown artist/producer Leon Ware, and the string-laden song would have fit perfectly on one of Ware’s albums.
As you’d figure from a Raphael Saadiq album, there’s not much to complain about here-Stone Rollin’ is another great Saadiq record. Even though there’s not one real outstanding track, the album as a whole is quite consistent. Great musicianship, solid lyricism, and I’ll totally forgive the fact that the opening chords of “Just Don’t” are eerily identical to the opening chords of Sixpence None the Richer’s “Kiss Me”-a song that I despise with every fiber of my being. It then turns into more or less a Jackson 5 song, so that’s cool.
You know what the sad thing about Raphael Saadiq is? He’s so consistently good that I take him for granted. The first time I listened to Stone Rollin‘, I was thinking that this album might actually be one of the less satisfying albums of a career that has spanned a quarter century. However, upon further listens, I realized that you have to work a little harder when listening to Saadiq albums, because you’re so used to being impressed that you just take it as a matter of fact that he’s gonna come with the goods. Should we expect anything more?