Raphael Saadiq is cheating. This is too easy for him. All the man has to do is write songs steeped in the key of Stax, unleash that all falls down falsetto, slather it with some bubble gum mellotron and watch NPR subscribers name their first born song after a Renaissance painter/former Tony! Toni! Tone! frontman. I suppose I’m a sucker because I fall for that shit every time. Give me something that conjures up Curtis Mayfield in muttonchops and paisley, and next thing you know, I’m raving like a Mynah Bird.

File under things I learned when writing my Times review: Raphael Saadiq’s real name is not Raphael Saadiq. It’s actually Charles Wiggins, but employing the name of the man who painted the School of Athens makes more sense. He is not a Chuck. On this latest, retro-soul excursion, he plays the bass, the Mellotron, the keyboards, guitars, percussion and drums. He probably sews his own clothes too. Show off (to be said in MOP voice).

Stone Rollin’ is an exercise in careful shading. With 1965 as his median, he flips the calendar slightly forward and slightly back, referencing Little Walter, Curtis, Marvin, Sly, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, the Rolling Stones. The originators and those who inherited the style. It’s more rock n’ roll than the last record, but still firmly in the Daptone zone. Don’t ask me what the alternative is. I have no interest in hearing Saadiq go PBR&B and contour songs to his current lifestyle of Vanilla latters and silk scarves. The man is the same age as R Kelly and if you’re fine with the latter writing Love Letters, Saadiq too has the right to retreat into his parent’s record collection. You can judge the aesthetic, but not the results. This is smoother than King Hippo’s scalp and the basslines are twice as fat; that’s not easy to do.

MP3: Raphael Saadiq-“Stone Rollin'”

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