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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Raphael Saadiq— Energizing

He is a standard bearer for what folks call ‘old school’ music, a contemporary artist continuing a time-honored tradition that goes back to the ‘60s and ‘70s. From his early days as a member of the groundbreaking ‘80s group Tony! Toni! Toné! through his work as an award-winning producer of such artists as Joss Stone, The Roots, Snoop Dogg, John Legend among many others and his own solo albums, the multi-talented Raphael Saadiq has kept the faith. “Every record I’ve ever made has had those influences…The Temptations, Al Green, The Four Tops and so on,” Raphael explains from the L.A. studio where he recorded his latest illustrious work. This album is the culmination of a lifetime of experiences informed by the music I grew up on.”

Listening to his newest release, 3-time Grammy-nominated The Way I See It, it’s immediately obvious that it could have been recorded thirty years ago. Musically cohesive in the same way that soul music albums were recorded back in the day, Raphael’s third solo album and first for Sony BMG is not merely a throwback: it is as close to the kind of record made in Detroit, Chicago, Memphis, Miami or New York by any number of super R&B hit makers to anything recorded since. While other contemporary artists may attempt to emulate the sound and flavor of ‘70s soul music, Raphael Saadiq brings real emotion, real feeling and production values that are simply, right on.

 
The inspiration for singer/songwriter/musician/producer and arranger Raphael’s follow up to 2004’s critically-acclaimed Ray Ray set came from an unlikely destination. “I was out of the country, cooling out, in Costa Rica and The Bahamas. I was surfing and ran into people from all kinds of places…and I noticed everybody was listening to this classic soul music and when I came back home and the music for this album flowed organically, naturally. Since I have my own studio, I was able to perfect it, take my time to make it right. I was able to live with it, day after day and I think that had a lot to do with how the album turned out. In all, it took about four months to put it all together.” Consequently, it should come as no surprise that Raphael Saadiq would make an album so satisfying for both old school heads and today’s hip music buyers: his background as a musician, singer and songwriter is steeped in a love for R&B married with a commitment to making his own brand of expressive soul music.

The Way I See It succeeds as a masterful collection of new material that speaks to Raphael Saadiq’s deep love for rhythm and blues. “While I was making the album, I watched videos by Gladys Knight & The Pips, Al Green, The Four Tops…and fused them all together,” Raphael says speaking of the further inspiration he found for creating the album, which truly showcases the rich diversity of funky grooves and smooth balladry that is Saadiq’s calling card.

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