Raphael motherlovin Saadiq is a damn musical genius.
Now, with that out of the way, I can attempt to put into my words my excitement for the man’s newest project. I had the immense pleasure of listening to Raphael Saadiq’s “The Way I See It” today. I wasn’t on top of my game, scooping up the single months in advance, and following his progress up to the release date like years ago when “Ray Ray” dropped. But it didn’t matter; I instantly fell in love with the record on first listen. It was surely worth the wait.
Raphael has invited listeners to witness his love affair with the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s for over a decade, but rather than occasional fliration from albums past, he’s declared his undying devotion, forsaken ALL modern interests and influences and shacked up with the past. The result is a soul-filled collection of songs that will undoubtedly grip even the most skeptic listeners. With most albums, I do my initial listens while trying to tackle the endless demans of everyday life–the album serving as background music. This record demands that you sit the fuck down and get into Mr. Saadiq’s head. And I did just that. As I write this, I’m en route to Virginia, and I’ve had the album on repeat the entire ride. It’s that good.
Now, in order to enjoy this record, one must open their mind to the reception of GOOD music. Think back to before a vocorder and dozens of other creative vocal masks could hide a lack of talent. Go back before producers screamed all over their records. Try to remember the days when the singer’s voice didn’t get lost in or overpowered by flashy production. At times while listening, I thought I was listening to Curtis Mayfield, The Temptations, Stevie, or maybe even Al Green. Saadiq quotes Gladys Knight, Sam Cooke and The Stylistics among his influences and I must say I feel each of them breath through his music. The Way I See It is the older, more mature, sober brother to Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black (last year’s soulful, pain-filled release from the British songstress, whose style Saadiq reportedly respects and admires).
The record has a rarely encountered level of cohesion that denotes intense inspiration and forethought. For example, one of many stand-out tracks, “Sure Hope You Mean It” clearly draws it’s old-school shuffling rhythms from The Tempations (“Beauty’s Only Skin Deep) and “It’s All Right” by the Impressions. “Let’s Take a Walk” features Saadiq cutting to the chase (“I need some sex/some sex with you”) over a dope ass, bluesy groove that’s part sped-up BB King joint, part Little Stevie Wonder groove. Other favorites: “100 Yard Dash,” “Oh Girl” and “Keep Marchin.” It’s a solid listen from beginning to end; a feel-good classic…instant vintage, if you will. And while his impressive, unique production and writing style have helped dozens of other artists achieve great commercial success (in addition to critical acclaim), this masterpiece will most likely not have the global impact that it should. Many brilliant works never do. Whatever the case, this retro journey through funk and soul deserves several listens and shall surely appeal to the most discriminating old-school head and the new school soul freak. Check him out in a city near you.
…that’s the way I see it.