Raphael Saadiq has always had a soulful background in music, but his fourth solo album, Stone Rollin’, puts his music on an entirely different level (or era). Via ten tracks, Saadiq takes listeners on a soul-infused, R&B-inspired nostalgic journey of music reminiscent of the ’50s and ’60s—reworked with a modern twist.
The cover art alone should pretty much explain what type of tunes you’re in for. The former frontman of Tony! Toni! Tone and one-third of hip-hop/R&B supergroup Lucy Pearl is even dressing the part with his vintage wardrobe choices.
The gifted songwriter, producer and all-around instrumentalist used his various talents on bass, keyboard, guitar, mellotron, drums and percussion for the entire album, providing a more personal feel to each of its songs.
The first song, “Heart Attack,” sounds like something James Brown would have sang, with its vibrant guitar chords, jamming tambourines and a heavy bass line. The crooner’s vocals are very Motown-like, but in true Saadiq form. It perfectly sets the mood and groove for what’s to come.
The album’s titled track, “Stone Rollin’,” is very bluesy with strong harmonica melodies and thumping drums. Vocals thrive in unison with the beats, making for a very foot-tapping jam. “Day Dreams” is a more upbeat, gospel-like track with fast piano riffs and slick chords that’ll make you want to stand up and clap along to Saadiq’s rhythmic vibrations.
“Good Man” walks the line between being edgy R&B and straight out soul. Female vocals begin the track before the Oakland-based crooner comes in to lyrically charm your senses and let you know why he’s a “good man.” (Ladies, it’s the perfect slow jam to dedicate to that special man in your life!)
The album ends with “The Answer,” a very percussion-driven ballad that builds up to epic, symphony-like proportions. While still very retro-based, it’s one of the more modern-sounding tunes of Stone Rollin’ and something more typical of what Saadiq is previously known for.
In all, he’s put together a unique album that’s either way before its time or a couple of decades too late. While mature listeners familiar with Saadiq’s prior works will enjoy the revamped retroness of Stone Rollin’, younger listeners used to thumping synths, poppy chords and racy rhymes might think differently. But anyone who enjoys a bit of Curtis Mayfield, James Brown, Marvin Gaye and Chuck Berry every now in then should throw in some Stone Rollin’ into their rotation; it’ll fit right in with the “oldies but goodies” playlist!
Words: Kristie Bertucci