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.

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Barrettbites Top Ten Records of 2015

 

  1. Alvvays – eponymous

alvvayscover

Chalked full of stories about the complexities of relationships, Alvvays have constructed an album that is able to seem both introspective and dynamic. Using nonchalance and humour simultaneously, they set the scenes of emotional distress to an indie soundtrack and let the barbs fly. Go back and take another listen to “Marry Me, Archie” if you need proof of the power struggle within a relationship.

  1. Metric – Pagans In Vegas

metric pagans

Metric has never hidden their overwhelming desire to headline a fan-filled stadium show, and Pagans In Vegas has become the vehicle that drives them there. More than mere hyperbole, they seem to have found the perfect mix of Cure-like synth, 90’s indie guitar, and electro/dance rhythm. The tunes are catchy enough to get the casual fan singing along and the loyal fan seeking deeper meaning from the lyrics and, dare I say, inspiration.

  1. Best Coast – California Nights

bestcoast1

Gone is the warm washing fuzz of reverb on everything that had the words lo-fi and surf rock attached to their records, and in is a more ‘nineties-esqe’ alt-rock tone that could be slipped into a mix between the Lemonheads and Garbage. Thematically, this is also the case as Bethany Cosentino has switched gears and presented herself in a more realistic position as lyrics deal with insomnia, heartbreak and happiness in pill. The triumph of this record is that it doesn’t live in a world of manufactured dreams come true, eternal sun, and beaches. The emotions behind it are universal and hence you can relate to it. California Nights is proof positive that beauty can be found in the balanced mix of power-pop and introspection, and that’s a sunny thought all by itself.

  1. Ezra Furman – Perpetual Motion People

efurmanpmp

Like early Bowie, Furman seems to relish changes in identity, except rather than do it from album to album Perpetual Motion People is a record that does it from song to song, and sometimes, within a single song. “Haunted Head” deals with one’s own self inflicted torment. “Can I Sleep In Your Brain” seeks respite from torment with a wish to become co-dependent. In turn, “Lousy Connection” hides themes of emotional distance behind old sounds of Doo-Wop and killer saxophone leads. To a certain extent, Furman makes being screwed up sound fun in his unique version of a poetic stream of consciousness.

  1. City & Colour – If I Should Go Before You

city&colourif i should

Dallas Green may have started City and Colour as a means to introduce his ‘rootsy’ brand of song craft, but those days are now more of an ‘origin story’ than the reality of where he is. Much like Wilco, who turned from alt-country to sonic experimenters, Green took his acoustic-based leanings and is now creating expansive tunes that, at times, owe more to blues, soul and even psychedelia than the modern ‘folk rock’ he was labeled with on earlier City and Colour records.

  1. Leon Bridges – Coming Home

leon bridges

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.

  1. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nightsweats – eponymous

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It takes a special kind of musician to evoke a slew of soul greats and retain an energy and sound that is still their own. Springsteen did this by mixing Dylan, a preacher style intensity towards rock ‘n’ roll, a few soul influences, and concocted a sound all his own. Nathaniel Rateliff has taken the ’69 comeback version of Elvis, added southern rock themes and walked into a STAX studio to create a record that is instantly relatable. Of course, you would never have caught “the King” singing “son of a bitch / give me a drink” as Rateliff does on “S.O.B”. It just wouldn’t have been very, um… regal.

  1. Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color

sound&color

If Alabama Shakes debut Boys & Girls was a first shot across the bow against musical mediocrity, then Sound & Color is a full on declaration of war. Not content to merely ride the wave of being the best rock ‘n’ soul or Southern rock band to currently grace the planet, they expand and grow. It’s the kind of growth and experimentation one got from Radiohead when they leapt from The Bends to OK Computer; or in other words – WOW!

  1. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit

cb1

Sarcastic and playful in the most observational of ways, Courtney Barnett makes stinging shots sound like a musical sit-com. Characters inhabit a ‘Seinfeld-esqe’ place where nothing seems larger than life and decisions don’t necessarily lead to conclusions. However, the journey is one hell of an adventure. Barnett makes music that is fun, thought provoking, and really damn catchy. It’s a really weird moment to hear your children singing “all I want to be is an elevator operator, can you help me please.”

  1. Terra Lightfoot – Every Time My Mind Runs Wild

terralightfoot

Every so often something comes along that just smacks you in the head with something so freaking unexpected you look for a house number on the cave you’ve been sleeping in. Perhaps it’s a debut album, an opening act you had never heard of before, or, as is the case for me, you just quite plainly arrived late to the party. Whatever the case, Terra Lightfoot has just lit the light bulb above my cranium and I’m hitting my forehead with that big “a-ha” moment.

What seems most remarkable is just how many influences pop out all at once. A foot in the Chicago blues, another in Memphis soul, and then she puts a third one in Nashville. The result is a combustible and full out gritty rock ‘n’ roll album.

Five Great Albums From 2015 (so far!)

So the mid way part of the year has passed and with a bit of time to reflect, here are my top 5 of 2015 so far. It is hard to rank, as so many great records have been spinning their way into my psyche. So I reserve the right to change my mind later.

5) Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool

wolfalicecool

Built around strong guitar work and soaring vocals, Wolf Alice bridges the gap between the 90’s alt-rock revival and the more modern Brit-Rock led by the Arctic Monkeys and their recent disciples Royal Blood. It would have been fun to play Guitar Hero to their tunes.

4) Best Coast – California Nights

bestcoast1

Gone is the warm washing fuzz of reverb on everything that had the words lo-fi and surf rock attached to their records, and in is a more ‘nineties-esqe’ alt-rock tone that could be slipped into a mix between the Lemonheads and Garbage. California Nights has a way of sinking under your skin and making you want to play them over and over again.

3) Leon Bridges – Coming Home

leon bridges

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.’

2) Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit

cb1

Sarcastic and playful in the most observational of ways, Courtney Barnett makes stinging shots sound like a musical sit-com. Characters inhabit a ‘Seinfeld-esqe’ place where nothing seems larger than life and decisions don’t necessarily lead to conclusions. However, the journey is one hell of an adventure.

1) Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color

sound&color

If Alabama Shakes debut Boys & Girls was a first shot across the bow against musical mediocrity, then Sound & Color is a full on declaration of war. Not content to merely ride the wave of being the best rock ‘n’ soul or Southern rock band to currently grace the planet, they expand and grow. It’s the kind of growth and experimentation one got from Radiohead when they leapt from The Bends to OK Computer; or in other words – WOW!

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

Inspired in Part by Record Store Day – Playlist April 12/15

“Amphetamine: – Steve Wynn and the Miracle Three

Such a great frickin’ driving song if you want to get yourself a speeding ticket… by the way, I don’t recommend the ticket…

“Hoover Dam” – Sugar

I had a review half written called “the Return of Peanut Girl,” but I never finished it. Anyway, Copper Blue sounds awesome on vinyl and you can find it at your better record stores.

copperblue

“Deathly” – Aimee Mann

Any excuse to put Aimee Mann on a playlist is a good excuse. Still haven’t heard back from her… I’m guessing she doesn’t read my blog.

“Coming Home” – Leon Bridges

Soul music has a new champion and his name is Leon Bridges. Keep your eyes open folks, this guy is for real!

“Sliver” – Nirvana

Still bummed about missing my shot… maybe another will show up in 10 years.

“You Really Got Me” – The Kinks

After the disappointment of the new Van Halen live, I couldn’t even bring myself to play one of their songs. So here is something way better.

“The Lovecats” – Tanya Donelly & Dylan In Motion

Donelly is awesome and the Cure are awesome, so getting two for the price of one. Now if Robert Smith could cover “Feed The Tree” we… just kidding.

“Someplace” – Nick Waterhouse

He hasn’t put Holly out on Spotify, so I went with “Someplace” from his first record. I will be talking about Holly in the upcoming weeks. Spoiler – it is AWESOME! Buy it here!

holly

“Ain’t Messin’ Round” – Gary Clark Jr

Just because I wanted to stay in that rockin’ soul vibe.

“My Mind Is Rambling” – The Black Keys

A seven inch split is coming out in Record Store Day of the Black Keys and Junior Kimbrough, so I thought why not throw a Black Keys cover of Junior just for the hell of it. Besides – it fits.

“Touch Me I’m Sick” – Mudhoney

Turns out fictional band Citizen Dick (see movie Singles) is releasing “Touch Me I’m Dick” for RSD 2015. Can’t wait to hear it! Anyway, here is the original song that led to that play on words.

“Everyone Knows” – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts

Jett has a double album being released for RSD, so I put her in the mix… because she is a rock god and I need no other reason.

jjfb

 

“Machine Gun Blues” – Social Distortion

I am so looking forward to getting my hands on that first Social Distortion record next Saturday.

“Alex Chilton” – The Replacements

Another 7” being released this weekend is reason enough… I miss Chilton.

“Back In Your Head” – Tegan & Sara

Um are you picking up on a theme that surrounds a certain date that has rare vinyl being released.

“Runaway” – Del Shannon

I’ll be doing a review on this guy soon.

“I’d Run Away” – The Jayhawks

Read a rather depressing article on these guys recently. Awesome band that can never seem to catch a break…

“The Cuckoo” – Kristin Hersh

Leader of the Throwing Muses and incredible singer/songwriter in a varied solo career (check out Hips & Makers if you need proof) she also has a 7” of “The Cuckoo” coming out on RSD.

hips

“Brass Buttons” – The Lemonheads

Yep. A split 7” of the Lemonheads and the original Gram Parsons tune is arriving on Saturday.

“Jesus Christ” – Big Star

Only reason I put a Christmas song on a April playlist is because of RSD… irony is, the original release of this song was on a record that had nothing to do with the holiday season either.