Looking back at Raphael Saadiq’s career so far, it’s difficult not to become impressed. Not only has he made great music as a member of iconic 1990’s group Tony! Toni! Toné! and later as a solo artist, but he’s also produced and written for seemingly almost everyone in R&B and soul music, from Kelis, D’Angelo, Whitney Houston and Mary J. Blige to Erykah Badu, Jill Scott or TLC.
Stone Rollin’, his fourth solo album, shows again how much of a gifted musician Saadiq is, finding him on bass, keyboard, guitar, Mellotron, percussion and drums, while writing concise songs that channel a lot of soul music’s greatest composers, such as Marvin Gaye or Curtis Mayfield. But the biggest surprise in here is the way he gets out of his comfort zone, trading the current sounds of today’s music by something that seems to come directly from the 1960’s. And to make the surprise even bigger, the record has a very garage-like production, a raw attitude that pays off, giving its music a much-welcome rough and visceral twist that takes it apart from the current more plasticized revivalism of that decade – so hello and goodbye to the likes of Amy Winehouse, Adele, et al.
Going back and forth throughout the whole 1960’s decade and beyond, you can spot a lot of influences in here, ranging from Rolling Stones and Chuck Berry, to Stevie Wonder, Sly & The Family Stone, Earth Wind & Fire, Isley Brothers, Ray Charles or Moody Blues, plus the inevitable big orchestrations and overwhelming vocal harmonies and arrangements that take everything to new heights. But, best of all, as a true classicist, he doesn’t just recreate a pastiche – in this case, the exact moment when R&B met rock’n’roll. He actually reinvents and reclaims it as his own. (7,5/10)