Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Raphael Saadiq: Everything old is new again

Raphael Saadiq
Raphael Saadiq Raphael Saadiq Raphael Saadiq Raphael Saadiq

The first time I heard an advance copy of former Tony!Toni!Tone group member-turned Lucy Pearl creator-turned solo recording artist-turned Joss Stone producer Raphael Saadiq’s new album (“The Way I See It,” his first for Columbia Records), I was – in the words of the great Stevie Wonder (who puts in a guest appearance on one of the tracks, “Never Give You Up”) overjoyed! The reason? Quite simply, the Bay Area native had made a contemporary album that was the closest to authentically recreating the great soul music sound of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.

No doubt a student of such sounds, Raphael had managed somehow to replicate the ‘feel’ heard on classic recordings by The Temptations and brilliant harmony groups like The Stylistics and The Delfonics in 2008: cuts like “Oh Girl” (not the Chi-Lites hit but a new Saadiq song), “Sure Hope You Mean It” and “Love That Girl” sounded like they had been recorded almost forty years ago and one cut, “Keep Marching” could have been a Northern soul rarity if it had been snuck out on a white label with no name on it!

DN: How did the album begin to take form?

RS: I was in Costa Rica and The Bahamas, just chillin,’ coolin’ out, surfing. I ran into people from all kinds of places and they were all listening to this classic soul music. I came back home and the music started to flow organically, just naturally. Every record I’ve ever made has those [classic soul] influences but I felt that now having my own studio – which I’ve had for several years – I could perfect it. It’s my first album in five years and with my own studio, I was able to work on it from beginning to end. I lived with it, slept with it and I think that had a lot to do with how it turned out. I think it took about four months in all to put it all together.

DN: Let’s talk about some of the songs. “Sure Hope You Mean It”…

RS: That was a definite Temptations/David Ruffin feel to it. I pictured how it was when they were first introduced to the world. I knew all those guys - Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams from looking at a lot of the album covers. I felt like I knew the characters. That song is like vintage Motown with a Stax guitar line factored in, a melting pot of the two sounds.

DN: 100 Yard Dash?

RS: That has a Booker T groove, a juke joint kind of groove and it reflects back to my first Tony!Toni!Tone! albums when I was singing in a high tenor voice…

DN: A couple more… “Just One Kiss” and “Staying In Love”…

RS: “Just One Kiss” is like an early ‘70s soul song to me, a little bit of Smokey Robinson. I love that Joss Stone is on there – it wasn’t hard to get her to sing on it because she loves real soul music. And “Staying In Love” reminds me of a Jackson 5/ kind of track with a James Jamerson bass line. That song was written with an ex-girlfriend in mind. Some of the songs on the album are inspired by true to life situations, some fabricated…

DN: How do you feel about the album as a whole project?

RS: It was harder to make than some of my previous albums. Once I got into it, I almost got stuck ‘in character’ – those ‘characters’ from the ‘70s! I’m happy and excited it’s done. I put in a lot of work and I think I achieved something really great.

DN: Well, as a Brit, I think the music will be really well received in the UK…

RS: I can’t wait to get to Europe to perform this new music because I know how much people there appreciate real soul music!

DN: Finally, other than working on this album, what else have you been up to?

RS: After I did Joss Stone’s last record, I took a break. Since then, I’ve worked on tracks with Solange, an artist from Baltimore that I’ve been developing named CJ, Keyshia Cole, Snoop and Dave Young (who’s on Mary J. Blige’s new label)…

Raphael Saadiq plays London's Jazz Cafe on November 10th & 11th.

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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