From the Stacks: Raphael Saadiq – The Way I See It

28 Apr
From the Stacks is a weekly feature where I grab something out of the library and go more in depth than I’m usually able to. It doesn’t matter if the album is brand new or a re-release of some bygone classic, all that matters is that it be new to me.

Raphael Saadiq

The Way I See It

2008

Columbia Records

[itunes] [amazon]

Physically and, let’s face it, mentally, I am a collection of glaring weaknesses and insufficiencies. I weigh about as much as the largest member of a middle school girls basketball team, and I still confuse Ghana and Guyana on a regular basis. Musically, my weaknesses are limited to two very specific categories: girl-fronted trash-rock bands and new soul.

Raphael Saadiq’s The Way I See It is a fantastic new soul record, both borrowing from the genre and adding new flavours to it. His influences are clear, but his style is his own, which is a unique standpoint for a modern artist working in this genre.

There are soul artists in the industry right now who perform faithfully, doing wonderfully authentic new songs in the style and spirit of old Motown (Lee Fields & the Expressions, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings). These artists may be staying true to the music that inspired them, but there is an inherent quality of corniness to anything that is too faithful to the past, no matter how well made it is or how sincere the intention.

Raphael Saadiq’s music doesn’t have this problem. His arrangements are fresh, and modern. His lyrics are undoubtedly a part of the soul canon, but they don’t feel dated or recycled.

It’s dazzling how he manages to take sounds that are so familiar and turn them out as a brand new experience. The instrumental for “100 Yard Dash” could be torn straight from a Stevie Wonder track, but Saadiq’s lyrics and vocals leave no question as to the era that the music was produced in.

“Big Easy” a lament for post-Katrina New Orleans, has the doo-wop flavour of a Bobby Blue track and deftly avoids the annoying pitfalls of most songs devoted to disasters or dead celebrities.

It’s a difficult album to disagree with. It’s smooth, upbeat and there’s not even anything disagreeable in the lyrics. It’s music you could listen to with your grandmother, if she wasn’t a moderate racist who only listens to Randy Travis. Sorry Baba.

The standout track, in my opinion, is Saadiq’s collaboration with Jay-Z on “Oh Girl,” the albums last track. The instrumentals are slowed down and Hova’s lyrics work well with Saadiq’s echo-enhanced vocals.

Raphael Saadiq ft. Jay-Z – “Oh Girl”

A well deserved 4.5 coffees out of a possible 5 coffees. I really need a coffee.

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One Response to “From the Stacks: Raphael Saadiq – The Way I See It”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Playlist, May 3, 2012 « The Thursday Buzz - May 3, 2012

    […] Check out my review of the album in last week’s From the Stacks. […]

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