My Favourite Soul Obsession… or … Raphael Saadiq – Stone Rollin’

rsaadiq stone rollin

Let me start by saying that all the kudos going to Leon Bridges and Nathaniel Rateliff for last year’s outstanding albums is well deserved. However, it isn’t like old-school soul music was just rediscovered in 2015 and brought forward again. Some people out there have been carrying that torch for quite a while, and have been criminally overlooked by all but the deftest of music connoisseurs.

One of the most obvious examples of this comes from Raphael Saadiq and his outstanding 2011 release Stone Rollin’. Formerly of Tony! Toni! Tone!, Saadiq has put out a series of great solo records since the early 2000’s that highlight influences from various ‘soul’ capitals from Memphis to Detroit. What makes him a little more unique is that he pulls these sounds together with his own style. However, rather than the familiar hooks of the MG’s or the layered gospel harmonies of Motown, he wears the smooth styling’s of early 70’s Stevie Wonder crossed with the understated guitar work of Funk Brothers Robert White. Saadiq is definitely churning out classic inspired R&B and using familiar themes in the process, but you can’t help feeling you want to hear more as the record concludes.

It looks to be still in its first pressing, so the bonus CD still comes with the vinyl when you find a copy. However it is likely that you’ll need to order a copy online or from your local retailer to get a physical copy, or of course, there is always the download route. Give it a listen and I’m sure it will become your favourite new music obsession.

The New Old Soul or Leon Bridges – Coming Home

leon bridges

Let’s be clear, Leon Bridges is not the second coming of Sam Cooke, Otis Redding or Wilson Pickett; he is his own singer/songwriter that has chosen to play music in a style that is familiar to fans of 60’s R&B coming out of Memphis. He’s good… really damn good, but to stand beside the Soul gods, you need more than one record of gospel inspired glory.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Bridges isn’t shooting for the stars. His music isn’t just inspired by Memphis but actually seems to embody the sound. His peer group may include contemporaries like Nick Waterhouse and Raphael Saadiq, but Bridges’ ups the game of capturing old-school R&B by pulling in music that could’ve been created by the Blues Brothers Band. He’s got the brass sounding like the legendary Memphis Horns, a deep groove reminiscent of Duck Dunn and the minimalist guitar leads that you might swear were coming off Steve Cropper. Then you mix in a style that slides in a suave 60’s Bacharach martini dance party and you get a glimpse of the power possessed in Coming Home. In essence, Bridges is the ‘new old soul.’

The title track acts as both a mission statement and anchor to the unfolding of the album. “Coming Home” rolls out as a having an influence in doo wop, gospel and a soul flavoured pop  delivered in a voice rich with southern longing. “Better Man” pulls the laundry list of things one is willing to do to access forgiveness. The themes are classic across the board. Lust (“Brown Skinned Girl” & “Smooth Sailin”), faith (“Shine”), family (“Lisa Sawyer”) love (“Flowers”) and love lost (“Pull Away”) all mingle together in a familiar Stax like setting. There is even a little nod to soul legend Sam Cooke on the song “River” which starts with a Ben E King “Stand By Me” opening before drifting off into the classic storytelling that makes one search for spiritual meaning.

Coming Home is indeed a record steeped in the traditions of past musical glories; in following that path Leon Bridges may have begun a journey towards becoming a legend himself. Time will tell.

Coming Home will be released on June 23 on all the usual formats. For vinyl fans there is a lithograph bundle that can also be picked up.

Enjoy

Musical Memories – Get The F#!K Outta My Way! Aug 18, 1993: Neil Young w/Booker T & the Mg’s / Pearl Jam / Soundgarden / Blues Traveller

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Sitting alone on the bus bound for Toronto I looked down at my feet and exclaimed “Oh shit!” louder than I should have. People turned to see this large man who looked more biker than student, wearing a pair of headphones shaking his head at his own stupidity. Sandles… I was wearing sandles to a freakin’ big ass concert at the Exhibition Stadium. Worse, it was general admission floors and I realized that I had made a huge mistake.

soundbad

I hook up with my girlfriend at the bus station, and meet with my roommate at the show as Blues Traveller put on a set that was entertaining to the few people who had arrived. I had expected a large crowd for Soundgarden who were still touring Badmotorfinger but that didn’t really materialize either. Despite low turnout for their set Cornell and co. put on a great performance. When they left the stage, that’s when things started getting weird. The crowd started filling in, but it wasn’t too bad until Pearl Jam walked on and the opening chords of “Go” rang out. Finishing the last dates supporting Ten, and having just finished the as yet unreleased VS. Pearl Jam was at the top of their popularity. Suddenly every kid who had a seat relinquished it and started breaking for the floor. Security was helpless as hundreds of people started to rush the stage.

pten

I was perhaps 50 – 60 feet from the band when this started and within just a few seconds I was thirty feet from them; except I had not taken a single step. It was a current of kids turning into rapids. My girlfriend started to stumble. At that moment a mixture of fear, anger and adrenaline took over. I grabbed my future wife, said excuse me to the first couple people, and with no other choice just started pushing through the crowd sideways. Each step I became angrier and despite the music I could hear screams of pain in the distance. Finally, the three of us came into a bit of a clearing when some poor kid, who had my height but was twig thin, ran straight into me.

BANG!

He looked down, went white and murmured, “I’m sorry.”

I didn’t have to look down to know what had happened. His Doc Marten kicked my big toe nail, and ‘pop’ my foot was now a bloody mess. All that adrenaline went straight to my chest and I bellowed “GET THE F#!K OUTTA MY WAY!!!” He disappeared in a shot. We went to a concession stand got a few napkins and then watched the rest of Pearl Jam’s set from the furthest seats of the stadium. Pearl Jam finished with a rousing rendition of the Who’s “Baba O’Riley” and left the stage. As they did so did the Pearl Jam fans. Hundreds just left.

We made our way back to the floor which was now civilized and found ourselves pretty much where we were standing before all the chaos.

Neil Young took the stage with the legendary STAX band Booker T & the MG’s and knocked through a set that pulled from both his acoustic and electric sides. The crowd was mostly in awe at the aging veterans who were putting on an awesome spectacle. For the first encore Young pulled out his harmonica and began to play the familiar whistle opening to the late Otis Redding classic “(Sittin On) The Dock Of The Bay” (Booker T &b the MG’s play on that Redding original). Unlike other covers by artists like Michael Bolton, Young didn’t use the song as some opportunity to emote through musical masturbation of vocal range, instead he stuck to the true dreamy nature of the original. Then he went electric again and broke into the Dylan stomper “All Along The Watchtower.” When the band finished everyone left the stage.

For the second encore Young & the MG’s were joined by Pearl Jam for “Rockin’ In The Free World” which delighted fans both young and old.

My girlfriend decided to drive me home when the radio started announcing several injuries due to the crush of people. I looked at my foot, considered myself lucky for only losing a toe nail, and popped Harvest Moon into the tape deck. That was the last time I ever went to Exhibition Stadium. It was torn down in 1999.

youngmoon

Remember that great classic record… that never happened – The Deepest Soul of Otis Redding: Lonely & Blue

A number of years ago I stood in front of a very large glass case. Wreckage from a plane and a name on the wall beside it was the sheer bullshit that the rock hall had displayed… as if this was some kind of legacy worthy of the talent that had been Otis Redding.

As I looked around this Cleveland cathedral there was no explanation as to who he was and why he was in the hall of fame. The man who had put the mighty Stax on his back and commanded that you listen; the soul king who had the greatest band, Booker T & the MG’s as his own personal musicians in the studio; this giant who was arguably the strongest voice to emerge out of soul music’s greatest era (that saw the height of careers such as Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett and James Brown); was reduced to a ridiculous display without context.

Message to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame…

If you are going to reflect on the legacy of a music “god”, you don’t create a display – “YOU BUILD A MOTHER FUCKIN’ ALTAR! SHRINE! & PYRAMID!”

Keeping that in mind, how would you create a new record worthy of that legacy?

Somehow the people at Stax records have managed just that… well, sort of.

otislb

http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B009A87VW8/ref=s9_simh_gw_p15_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=A3DWYIK6Y9EEQB&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=1JWAS4V7MX5GJ846RN77&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1949527442&pf_rd_i=915398

Obviously Lonely &Blue is a compilation of previously released material, but wow, it was done right. While being a new collection it looks like a record put out in 1966. This includes a back cover testimonial about the potency of Redding written by the fictional Marty Hackman at WDHG Detroit and overall cover artwork that has the appearance of  ‘record wear’ and stains.

The music itself is made up of Redding’s more ‘heart breaking’ material. Some of the songs are his more famous hits like “These Arms of Mine” and “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)”, but of far more interest (to me) was the inclusion of lesser known tracks like “Waste of Time” and “Everybody Makes A Mistake” which had not been included in the 1993 Definitive Box Set. While playing a rather sad tone throughout the entire record, it also displays the emotional depth that Redding seemed to tap with ease.

In addition to the great music, Lonely & Blue was put together with the turntable in mind. Once you open the vintage style package you find yourself looking at a beautiful piece of blue translucent vinyl.

This compilation isn’t just a great introduction into Otis Redding, but it also stands out as a wonderful exploration into his well mined theme of sorrow. So grab a glass of red wine, turn the lights low, and let a genuine soul Titan take you away to another time and place… that seems very familiar all the same.