Review: Stone Rollin’ by Raphael Saadiq

Recording artist Raphael Saadiq made his debut in the R&B group “Tony! Toni! Tone!” in the 1980’s. His career as a musician and a producer has made him one of the most critically acclaimed artists in the world of R&B. He has worked alongside such iconic names as Stevie Wonder and “A Tribe Called Quest” throughout his 28-year career. Stylistically, Saadiq is known for his “old school” R&B tendencies. His latest album, Stone Rollin’ is no exception.

Stone Rollin’ is basically a throwback to music by guys like Marvin Gaye, Al Green, and James Brown. The full orchestral arrangements mixed with seemingly improvised vocals takes listeners back to, in my opinion, the best years in R&B music. Unlike other artists who borrow elements from older R&B yet add a modern twist, Stone Rollin’ is a meticulously produced pastiche of the time period.

My favorite track is probably “Radio.” Although the music in the song isn’t particularly special, Saadiq admitted on NPR’s World Café all the lyrics were improvised. What separates “Radio” from most other freestyles is that the message is unnaturally refined. Like many of his other songs, it is about his childhood in Oakland, California. During his childhood, he lost several of his siblings including his sister, who was also a blues singer.

Another great track was “Heart Attack.” When I heard this song, I could see why it was a self-proclaimed homage to Sly Stone, one of Saadiq’s main musical inspirations. The combination of rock n’ roll with Saadiq’s retro-minded blues style creates a really engaging piece of music.

Stone Rollin’ is among my favorite releases of 2011. As a fan of old school R&B, I really appreciate what Saadiq has done here. He is one of the most genuinely talented musicians I have ever heard. Although I really didn’t know much about him until recently, Stone Rollin’ has quickly made Saadiq my favorite active R&B artist.