If you've never heard of Raphael Saadiq I am very excited to be the one to introduce him to you, and I in turn have my uncle (Jeff W.- I also have an uncle Jeff S.) to thank for my own introduction. I don't have those kinds of aunts and uncles who have houses that smell funny and don't know what an iPod is. Thanks to my dad being the oldest of nine kids, some of my aunts and uncles aren't much older than I am- they're even too cool to really use the "aunt" and "uncle" titles.
I am blessed to come from good solid music stock (an appreciation for it, that is- to my knowledge none of us has any actual talent). Thanks to my aunts and uncles who migrated out to Denver, I loved The Talking Heads and R.E.M. through college. Over the years they've sent me suggestions every now and then, including Raphael Saadiq from the aforementioned Jeff W. He gave me Raphael's album "The Way I See It" last summer and it was one of those situations that filled me with a combination of panic and excitement in that I almost missed out on the exact sort of music I love.
Raphael's music is the kind that makes you want to be black in the 70's and hanging around the 'hood being groovy (I was a white kid in the western suburbs in the 70's, so I clearly don't talk "street" with much credibility). Raphael, however, was in fact just such a kid who saw his share of tragedy in the form of siblings dying/being killed during his childhood, but he overcame all that to ultimately not only put out his own awesome music but also produce songs for the likes of John Legend (swoon!) and Mary J. Blige (love!). A recent feather in his cap was playing bass guitar for Mick Jagger when he performed at the Grammys a couple months ago.
Raphael's new album, "Stone Rollin'", did not disappoint me. His music has a very upbeat feel to it, even if he's singing about something not so happy, like spending money he doesn't have (he'll borrow from "another" girlfriend if he has to). Even the song "Go To Hell" manages to not be a downer.
The other bonus? Somehow this music can actually pass for family friendly because it doesn't have profanity or graphic depictions of activities with girlfriends (aside from stealing their money, I guess). You can play this album in the kitchen while you cook dinner and simultaneously a) elevate your mood, and b) expose your kids to quality music that isn't Disney. You really can't ask for much more than that.
Last night I had Raphael on in the kitchen while various children were in and out, and my 12-year old noted that it sounded like "church music", and I started to lecture her about the fact that it was more of a gospel sound. She glazed over quite quickly, but I should note that she didn't ask me to put something else on. Victory!
This is the kind of album where I hesitate to recommend any particular songs because I think everyone should buy the whole thing. If you are a nervous and untrusting sort and want to try a song first, I love "Movin' Down the Line". Another good one is "Heart Attack", which has the exact beat of a brisk walk to or from the train, for instance (I can never decide if on my daily walks I'm more like a horse who only knows how to walk the same beaten path or if I'm more like a cow walking blindly amongst a herd. I guess I'm a farm animal either way). I always notice those songs where I can walk in exact step with the music. I defy you to walk to Raphael's music and not feel happier at the end of it!
Here is the video for the title track. Enjoy!