I listen to “old people” music. If you’re walking by a room and hear some kind of jazz, some seductive Barry White song or something that would make your parents smile and reminisce over the good old days blasting through the speakers, chances are you know where I live.
One of the drawbacks of my terminal “old school disease” is that it is very hard to get me to listen to anything new. I don’t even think I’ve listened to the radio in the last seven years (Lady who? DaDa?).
To keep you young whippersnappers interested, I will share with you a beautiful blend of old and new. Raphael Saadiq’s 2008 album, “The Way I See It” provides a fresh spin on those R&B tunes that your parents got down to back in the day.
The opening track of Saadiq’s masterpiece, titled “Sure Hope You Mean It,” stylistically echoes Sam Cooke from the twangy guitar to the sensual backup singers, even down to the velvety vibraphone.
With today’s technology, these aspects of doo-wop are not altered, but enhanced. The bass drum and bass guitar, although rich and muddy, cut through the mix with an upbeat shuffle.
This lays the groundwork for Saadiq’s crunchy-yet-smooth voice to slide through phrases, in hopes that his girl means what she says about loving him. Honestly, he’s got the voice, the feel-good energy and those falsetto notes that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand on edge: That lady better mean it!
Perhaps the most energetic track on the album, ironically titled “Big Easy,” features the Rebirth Brass Band. The horns are the highlight of the song, pecking out catchy melodies over the rhythm section’s tight and constant groove.
Keep in mind that horns are not so characteristic to the doo-wop style, but Saadiq integrates them into the retro feel so masterfully that you may have thought you had missed something in the mix with those old recordings.
It would be polite and appropriate here to caution the readers who may listen to this album: I listened to nothing but this album for two months straight. Every song will get stuck in your head, and that insatiable urge to listen to them over and over again will plague you.
Your ears will thank you all the more for it. Saadiq places the catchiest riffs of his album in the bass and guitar, blending the low with the high, cutting through everything else going on and penetrating your eardrums. This is a common theme strung throughout the album, in songs like “Keep Marchin’,” “Love That Girl” and “Staying in Love.”
Raphael was very careful to make sure his album had variety. “Calling” begins with an interlude including flamenco guitar and a smooth Spanish voice, which is then interwoven with the doo-wop ballad of the album. Also, “Let’s Take a Walk” takes on a bluesy, dirty and — dare I say — raunchy attitude.
Saadiq also collaborates with some amazing personnel. “Just One Kiss” is graced by Joss Stone’s rich, soulful voice, and Stevie Wonder rips an absolutely amazing harmonica solo on “Never Give You Up.”
Jay-Z even makes an appearance on an alternate take of “Oh Girl,” though I am glad that Saadiq put his original version in as well, because I’m not sure if hip-hop and doo-wop are ready to conjoin quite yet.
Saadiq’s powerful performance and production skills are highlighted in “The Way I See It.” Let him take you through his journey of the peaks and valleys of love, and you may just be able to see it the way he does.