Raphael Saadiq

Way I See It

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When Raphael Saadiq, along with his partners in Tony! Toni! Toné!, wrote and recorded songs like "It Never Rains in Southern California" and "Whatever You Want," he earned himself a lifetime "Do Whatever You Want" card. One could disregard his third solo studio album for being the equivalent of a Civil War reenactment, sounding much more like "instant vintage" RB than 2002's Instant Vintage. If you want to listen to some '60s and early-'70s soul, play some soul that came out in the '60s and early '70s, right? Save for an intrusive Jay-Z appearance on a bonus version of "Oh Girl," however, this time warp never loosens its grip, unless you cannot help but position the protagonist in "Big Easy" -- where Saadiq nails a classic tactic exemplified by the likes of Holland-Dozier-Holland, matching bliss-inducing music with saddening lyrics -- squarely within 2005 New Orleans. ("They say them levees broke, and my baby's gone.") Saadiq, with the occasional assist, wrote each song, and they're all graced with the songwriting, arranging, and production touches of the recordings the man evidently cherishes and knows inside out. Here's where a modern master, backed by living and breathing session musicians (including Funk Brother Jack Ashford), masters the masters with startling accuracy. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi